NATO to fete Washington

Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington will receive actor-of-the-year honors at ShoWest ’97. The award will be presented March 6 in a live broadcast on TNT.

Simultaneous with the announcement, ShoWest organizer the National Assn. of Theatre Owners unveiled a newly designed award dubbed the ”Marquee.” The statue is described as a figure holding a crystal torch aloft, surrounded by an ”s” shaped swirl resembling film unspooling from a reel.

Washington’s most recent credits display his wide range as a performer. In the romantic comedy ”The Preacher’s Wife” he plays a cheery, guileless angel, while his dramatic turn in ”Courage Under Fire” – as an army officer investigating a deceased Congressional Medal of Honor nominee – evoked a character both driven and haunted.

The actor’s screen career got off to a slow start with the racial comedy ”Carbon Copy” in 1981. His subsequent support work in films such as ”A Soldier’s Story” was conspicuous if brief. It was his role as Stephen Biko, the slain activist in 1987’s ”Cry Freedom,” that propelled him into the starring ranks, and two years later he received his supporting actor Oscar as a taciturn ex-slave in the Union army for ”Glory.”

He was again nominated for an Academy Award for his title portrayal of ”Malcolm X” in the Spike Lee feature. His other recent films underline his seamless skill, charisma and charm in front of the lens, whether playing Tom Hanks’ ambivalent attorney in ”Philadelphia,” the naval officer at odds with Gene Hackman’s captain in ”Crimson Tide” or Don Pedro in ”Much Ado About Nothing.” He’s also segued into production, nurturing ”Devil in a Blue Dress” from the Walter Mosley novel onto the screen, and exec producing ”Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream,” a TBS documentary that was nominated for an Emmy and an Oscar in 1996.

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