Denzel Washington on Oscar unfairness, lack of diversity: ‘I’ve lived it’


Denzel Washington is generally believed to be one of America’s greatest actors, if not one of the greatest actors of all time. He already has two Oscars, a Supporting Actor Oscar for Glory and a Best Actor Oscar for Training Day. He also got four other Oscar nominations, for roles in the films The Hurricane, Malcolm X, Flight and Cry Freedom. Most people believe that Denzel will probably get nominated for another Oscar for Fences, which he directed and stars in, although I’m not sure if he’ll be nominated for Best Director. I think there’s a good chance he’ll be nominated for Best Actor though, considering he already won a Tony for playing the same role.

What’s my point? I don’t even know. Like, I think Denzel has been well-rewarded during his Hollywood career, although I do believe he probably could have and should have won more awards along the way. Is that a racial issue? Again, I don’t know. During the Sony Hack, we learned that studio executives believed that Denzel’s movies don’t sell overseas because of his race, and that perception affects the kinds of films he’s offered, which of course affects which awards he’s up for. That being said, Denzel has never really participated in the #OscarsSoWhite conversations so we don’t know how he really feels about all of this. Until now? Denzel sat down for an interview with 60 Minutes to promote Fences and he was asked about #OscarsSoWhite and diversity.

Denzel Washington doesn’t have to think about whether the Oscars are unfair when recognizing diverse talent — because he’s lived it.

“I don’t have to think about it, I’ve lived it. I’ve been the guy at the Oscars without my name being called… when my name is called… when everybody thought they was going to call my name and they didn’t,” Washington said to CBS’ Bill Whitaker during an interview on Sunday night’s 60 Minutes.

The 61-year-old Oscar winner, who won for his roles in Training Day and Glory, addressed those who think the Academy’s selection process is unfair.

“Yeah, and so what? You going to give up? If you’re looking for an excuse, you’ll find one,” he responded, adding that you can find excuses “wherever you like. Can’t live like that. Just do the best you can do.”

[From People]

Looking at Denzel’s Oscar-nomination history provided me with some clues to what he’s referencing – I think when he was up for Malcolm X, a lot of people thought he was going to win? But he didn’t – he lost to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. He was probably told that he was going to win for The Hurricane too, but that Oscar went to Kevin Spacey for American Beauty. So, yeah, he’s lost to white actors. But he also beat white actors when he did pick up his two Oscars. So I still don’t know. I think it’s too simplistic to go with the message of “just keep your head down and worry about your own work,” because actors of color have tried doing that and we still had two years in a row of #OscarsSoWhite. So I would love to hear more from Denzel about the state of Hollywood today, but then again… maybe he’s too busy working to comment, which is great.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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37 Responses to “Denzel Washington on Oscar unfairness, lack of diversity: ‘I’ve lived it’”

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  1. juice says:

    anybody should have won over al pacino in scent of a woman.

    i can see what he’s saying about not not giving up, even if the message may be simplistic.

    • milla says:

      I love that movie. I love both actors and they are both legends.

      Also, Denzel is 61??? He still looks yummy.

    • Ramona says:

      I take it you werent feeling Pacinos “Huuhaa!”. Honestly if that movie was released today, Pacino would be an internet meme, the kind you can never take seriously again. A laughable performance in a predictable cliche film. I thought it said something about the Academy that they decided that was his year. First, Malcolm X, both the character and the real human being scared them witless and secondly, they had ignored Pacino in his more “ethnic roles” and waited for him to pop up in an anglicized role. Both Denzel and Pacino were screwed that day.

    • shura says:

      Of all the films Pacino has done, he won for Scent of a Women. Insanity. But the thing is , that was his first Oscar win. He lost for Serpico and The Godfather II. The general impression at the time was, the Scent Oscar was a token, “sorry we screwed up” win. Funny thing is, Denzel’s Training Day was thought to be the same. I remember the Malcom X loss. People were pissed. He deserved that in spades.

      • Rico Shew says:

        I’m not a fan of those square up awards for undeserving work. If they want to acknowledge someone who has been consistently good but hasn’t received an Oscar they should give them the Honorary Award. What do you think?

  2. Anon says:

    I think an interesting aspect of the issue that isn’t discussed as often is the types of roles for which he won Oscars versus the types of roles that he did not. He can be perceived as winning playing only negative stereotypes…the slave for “Glory” and the thug for “Training Day.” However, he was overlooked for portrayals that play against a typical, negative archetypes (“The Hurricane”, “Cry Freedom”, “Malcom X”).

    • AG-UK says:

      He should have won for The Hurricane but I think they figured oooh missed that so gave it to him for Training Day, he was good but the other was better in my opinion. Scent of a Woman was sorry awful if he did ooohaaa one more f…g time I was going to scream I almost walked out but not sure who I was with but suffered on.

      • SusanneToo says:

        I have never watched Scent because the ads that ran were so excruciatingly bad with that hoohaw or whatever it was. Pacino should have won best actor for Godfather-Brando was supporting, not lead.

      • DeniseMich says:

        There was an award where it should have been Denzel but Russell crowe got best actor and when it should have been Russell Crowe, Denzel got the Oscar.

        But Denzel has also said that he doesn’t have any White actor friends.

        They should get his views when it isn’t awards season and he doesn’t have a movie in the contest.

      • tegteg says:

        Like @DeniseMich and others have said, it often seems when actors’ win Oscars, they aren’t particularly deserving of it that year. The Oscars seems to always be a few years off – they award it to someone who should have already received it. It’s pretty annoying.

    • AnotherDirtyMartini says:

      Great point @anon.

    • Scal says:

      Part of the reason he didn’t win for the hurricane was because that was Russell Crowes make up oscar year. He should have won for the insider and didn’t-so they nominated him the next go round and screwed over Denzel for his amazing role on the hurricane. Which meant the academy had to give HIM a make up oscar-hence training day.

      It’s sort of like how Scorsese wom for gangs of New York when it really isn’t his best work-but the academy knew he should have won for other movies that he’d done e.g. Raging bull. Those people keep score and def do make up awards.

      • SusanneToo says:

        It’s always been that way. James Stewart won Best Actor for Philadelphia Story when he should have won for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington the previous year.

      • K says:

        Yep beautiful mind and training day were oops we messed up the year before here we are going to correct Oscars. Now that isn’t to say that both performances weren’t Oscar worthy they were but they weren’t the performances the academy knew they were suppose to win for.

        Also Denzel wanted it for Hurricane, I remember he said it on the red carpet he was like I’m not suppose to say this but yeah I want to win. I was sad for him, I just love him.

      • manta says:

        Scorsese won for The Departed not for Gangs of New York, that was superior and not a remake.

      • tegteg says:

        @Scal, shoot I commented above before I read your post. I HATE that the Oscars is forever stuck in handing out “make up” Oscars. Actors rarely receive them for the roles that were deserving, but instead a few years later. It’s so annoying. Part of the reason I don’t watch the Oscars anymore.

  3. AnotherDirtyMartini says:

    Pacino definitely shouldn’t have won. Hoo-yah. Blah.

    I love Denzel. He’s def one of the great actors. That’s all I’ve got. Oh, and he’s hot. Please forgive me for being shallow. Blaming it on lack of sleep.

    • SusanneToo says:

      No blame at all. I was watching Denzel on 60 Minutes last night thinking what a class act and attractive man he’s been for thirty plus years.

      • Kitten says:

        Really handsome, talented, smart guy but not sure I agree with the “class act” part after all the cheating rumors.

      • SusanneToo says:

        Hmmm, never followed his personal life, just his career life. I’ve missed out on the negative stuff several posters have mentioned here.

      • Rico Shew says:

        We all have feet of clay. I doubt any of us would want our more regrettable moments covered by CNN.

  4. Aiobhan Targaryen says:

    He should have won for Malcom X. Yes, he won for Training Day but he was playing a stereotypical role of thug. He may have been a cop, but he was not one of the good ones, nor did he have layers to him.

    I thought he was saying that don’t get defeated when you are confronted with racism. You don’t need white validation to prove you are amazing or just to exist; just believe in yourself and continue to fight for what you want. After the last few weeks, I agree. Engaging with people who don’t want to listen is draining and time-consuming. It is sometimes just best to focus on being the best person you can be and bettering your community. He does it all the time with his work with the Boys and Girls club.

    • ash says:


      as a POC this is a philosophy….. white validation is for the birds… who in the hell should stress about it. Better your community, and make strides for your people while still being a productive member of society and just a good human being.

      • Rico Shew says:

        True. Personally i’m less interested in glass ceilings and more interested in the sticky floors, where the majority of oppressed people are stuck.

  5. Lalu says:

    I really like Denzel. I think he sees these awards as being what they are… Based more on politics than on true talent. I can’t even watch the award shows because they seem so ridiculous.
    Pretty sure he knows he will go down in history as one of the greats.
    On a superficial note… He’s still really hot. I would break all my usual age rules for him.

  6. serena says:

    I love Denzel and most of the movies he’s in, so does a lot of people, so no I don’t agree with those ignorant studio executives at all.

    • vbv says:

      And I do not agree with his anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-secular pov, but what you gonna do?

      Powerful people love to discriminate and eliminate, even if they are technically of a minority.

  7. shura says:

    I guess you could say easy for him to talk because he’s hurdled over the obstacles. On the other hand, experience. Either way, Denzel is universally loved and respected. He could make shit movies or no movies for the rest of his days and his name would still be locked in as one of the all time greats. At least in the US apparently. Interesting the HW powers that be don’t believe him capable of drawing a dependable crowd overseas. Overseas in Europe or Asia?

  8. Crumpet says:

    He is a great actor, but just like with Morgan Freeman, I have a hard time getting behind him because he has shown himself to be a deplorable human being.

  9. QQ says:


  10. vbv says:

    lol, you’ve won for that imbecilic ‘Training Day’ for the worst piece of acting you did in your entire career. It was truly embarrassing to sit through. Yet you are still complaining about the academy?

    Good grief. Some people have no tact. They just like to complain.

    This far-right black male should not complain about how he has been discriminated against by Hollywood, b/c god knows there is not one other black politically far-right conservative who works in show-biz.

    I do not know one single other.

    • neelyo says:

      So glad i’m not the only one who can’t stand him. Can’t point to sources but there have been enough drips of information about him for me to decide a long time ago that I’m not a fan.

      And that quote sounds like sour grapes to me.

      • vbv says:

        He is anti-choice even if it is a case of rape. It is on record. He is a dimwitted bigoted monster that life has been far too kind toward. My opinion.

    • Beau Kitty says:

      Wow. I didn’t know he was such a far right winger. I do know, however, he’s rumored to be a bit of a “jack the lad” and has impregnated a few younger women outside of his marriage. Also knew he was a bit of a jerk, but not nearly as much as a jerk as Morgan Freeman. Morgan Freeman’s mother worked her fingers to the bone to send him to school and make a better life for him, and when she died, he refused to pay his final respects because he simply “didn’t do God, even with funerals”. Aside from the sexual molestation and cheating on his wife, Freeman holds my number one stomach turning spot. But hearing this about Denzel has earned him a spot on the list.

  11. neelyo says:

    I just can’t get behind ‘Oscars so White’ because it’s bullshit. This year the Academy will give Viola Davis her Oscar, maybe an original screenplay to MOONLIGHT and pat themselves on the back for their diversity. Next year it will be back to business as usual until a few years down the road someone again notices how white the Oscars are.

    Fighting the Oscars is like fighting the Miss America pageant or The Lawrence Welk Show. It’s an old, dated institution and no one cares besides the winners. I already forgot who won for last year.