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‘Debaters’ premieres in New York

Washington, Weinstein roll out the red carpet

NEW YORK — While it wasn’t hard to persuade Denzel Washington to direct “The Great Debaters,” getting him to act in the pic was a different story.

“The acting took a higher order of intervention,” Harvey Weinstein said prior to pic’s  Ziegfeld premiere Dec. 19. “At one point (Denzel) got so frustrated he said why don’t you talk to my mom. So I called her and said I love this project but Denzel has got to play Tolson.”

Finally they found a solution. “What happened was that Denzel wanted more money to make the movie. We were originally going to make it for $20 million so I gave him $4 million more and he acted in the film for free,” he said.

Pic’s Forest Whitaker said he understood Washington’s hesitancy about taking on two major roles.

“I haven’t done it in the past because I wasn’t confident about it,” he said. “One day … maybe.”

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