Actor, director. Born Denzel Jermaine Washington, Jr. on December 28, 1954, in Mount Vernon, New York, where the Boys & Girls Club would help keep him out of trouble. When he was 14, his parents’ marriage broke down and he and his older sister were sent away to boarding school.
Washington went to Fordham University to study journalism. But when he got the acting bug, Washington won a scholarship to the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, and afterwards worked with the Shakespeare in the Park ensemble.
Washington made his feature film debut in the comedy A Carbon Copy (1981). He also appeared in a number of off-Broadway productions and in television movies before being cast in a starring role in the hit television medical drama St Elsewhere (1982–88).
Washington grabbed his first of five Oscar nominations for Cry Freedom (1987) as real-life South African apartheid martyr Steve Biko. He won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Glory (1989).
Washington proved time and again he could disappear into a role and mesmerize audiences.
He appeared in several notable films throughout the 1990s, including his first of four Spike Lee collaborations Mo’ Better Blues (1990), Malcolm X (1992) in another Oscar-nominated performance, Philadelphia (1993), Crimson Tide (1995), Courage Under Fire (1996) and The Hurricane (1999), for which he received a Golden Globe for Best Actor and another Oscar nomination.
In 2001, he received his second Oscar (this time in a leading role) for the cop thriller Training Day. The following year, he directed his first film, the drama Antwone Fisher, in which he also co-starred.
Several blockbusters followed, including Man on Fire (2004), The Manchurian Candidate (2004) and Spike Lee’s Inside Man (2006). He also starred as Frank Lucas, a real-life heroin kingpin from Harlem, in the 2007 film American Gangster, opposite Russell Crowe. In 2009, Washington starred as MTA Dispatcher Walter Garber in the remake of the classic film The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.
Denzel Washington married actress Pauletta Pearson in 1983; they have four children. Their oldest son, John David, was drafted in 2006 by the NFL’s St. Louis Rams. Their other children are daughter Katia, who attends Yale University and twins Olivia and Malcolm.