Unstoppable is the fifth film that Denzel Washington has made with director Tony Scott. Washington tells us the secret to that magnetic relationship that began with Crimson Tide and continued brilliantly with their work on Deja Vu, Man on Fire and The Taking of Pelham 123.
When tackling the story of a runaway train heading towards certain destruction, Washington is quick to credit the real people who averted what would have been Pennsylvania’s worst disaster ever. “I’m the regular guy,” Washington said, when asked about playing regular men who do extraordinary things.
“Most people in the world are average guys,” Washington said and laughed.
In person, Washington is equally inviting and intimidating. He commands a room and there is little question when he walks in a space, the double Oscar winner has your full attention. But, Denzel Washington is also a person who relishes in the joy of laughter and to hear his hilarious howl is also one of life’s gifts.
Washington’s director Scott clearly has a favorite actor in Denzel Washington. “Denzel reaches back inside and finds aspects of his character’s personality that is just impressive. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him do it five times now,” Scott said. From the director of Spy Game, True Romance, Enemy of the State and Days of Thunder, that is saying something quite profound.
The star of Unstoppable is with us to discuss his latest film, but what strikes most profoundly is how Washington is Hollywood royalty. Any project that Denzel Washington attaches his name to has to command your attention and Unstoppable is no different. So sit back and enjoy the runaway train of talent that is Denzel Washington.
SheKnows: What is it about the average guys you play who meet challenge and triumph? In Unstoppable, Frank is based on a real man who went outside himself to become a hero.
Denzel Washington: What’s a not average guy [laughs]? The guy I’m playing, now he’s not an average guy. He’s not now with this movie coming out [laughs]. I don’t know what that means. I don’t worry about that. There’s nothing average about someone who can control a 100,000-ton machine or make it stop or risk his life to make it do it. So, I’m the average guy, definitely. What he did is not average. But, I don’t look at it that way. I don’t put the character in a slot.
SheKnows: How much time did you get with the real railroad workers and what aspect meant the most to you in your performance in Unstoppable?
Denzel Washington: It was great to get to drive the trains. Everything on them hurts, you know? Just working on those trains, you hit your knee, bang your head, it was dangerous all the time. It was great to be able to do that. I can’t imagine making this movie without that experience. It wouldn’t have worked with green screens and all that.
SheKnows: Did you get to do your own stunts? It sure looked like you atop those trains going 50 miles per hour.
Denzel Washington: I had seven stuntmen — one for every day of the week [laughs]. I was looking at these scenes asking Tony [Scott], why do the other guys get to jump on the moving train? I want to be the guy. After seeing it in action, I changed my mind. Maybe I shouldn’t be that guy [laughs]. We had very experienced stuntmen. They were the same crew that did Casino Royale. They knew how to jump from thing to thing.
Denzel & Tony: Movie magic
SheKnows: You’ve worked with Tony now five times. I was curious if on the set you almost speak each other’s language without having to say a word. And what have you learned from the master that you yourself incorporate into your directing?
Denzel Washington: I have learned and know that I cannot do what he does. What he does is make films. I’ve directed a couple of movies. I’m nowhere near being able to do what he’s doing. I’ve learned so much from him. I think there’s shorthand. He knows how I like to work. I know what he likes to do. He knows I like research, so he’s going to have a ton of stuff for me long before we start filming.