Denzel Washington Proves as Elusive as His Character at ‘The Equalizer’ Premiere

A veritable who’s-who of cinema’s tough guys in 2014 – including Ethan Hawke, Luis Guzman, Michael K. Williams and filmmaker J.C. Chandor – came out to the Lincoln Square AMC Imax for the premiere of Antoine Fuqua’s “The Equalizer” on Monday night.

Among the stars, the mood was jubilant, a celebration in and of itself of Fuqua’s first collaboration with Denzel Washington since their vaunted “Training Day.” On the red carpet, Washington winced playfully as “Saturday Night Live’s” Jay Pharoah teasingly hollered out: “KING KONG AIN’T GOT S— ON ME!” – an unmistakable reference to Washington’s 2001 performance (which won him the Academy Award for Best Actor.)

The Equalizer” is Fuqua’s first formal test run into Imax, according to Imax’s Greg Foster. “We’re pitching him actively to shoot his next movie with our cameras. His style of filmmaking very much aligns itself to who and what we are: they’re moody, they’re dynamic, sound is a critical part of it and it creates an experience you can’t get anywhere else,” he said. Foster also teased that “this will be the last movie I talk about until Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar.'”

Of his task of reupholstering the cult-classic TV drama for the modern era, screenwriter Richard Wenk mused, “I like the genres when they’re character-driven. I think we’ve come a long way in the action genre, chewed up a lot of it; what engages us now is gonna be specific characters who we root for. In this case, it’s a man hiding from his past, wanting to find a place for himself, and slowly realizing both what he is and where he should be. That’s the journey.”

“It’s a guy who has an innate sense of justice, who worked in the covert world somewhere, doing some things he probably didn’t like to do, and got out – as you’ll see, it’s a lot of mystery and a lot unanswered. He’s just this sort of ronin, this nomadic sort of guy; if something didn’t happen in this movie, he’d keep moving, onto another city and another city after that.”

Wenk – no devotee of the 80s show — claimed the “Equalizer” property was bought first, then he was brought on to deliver a draft, and Washington offered to attach himself if Wenk’s script was deemed worthy. (Apparently the script, and Washington’s involvement, were agreed upon on the same day.)

“It sounds crazy, I know,” Wenk said. “I was on-set every day, and every day was hard. More than anything else, what I’ll take away from the whole experience was how prepared and how hardworking Denzel was. I’ve never seen such a team player as he was.”

On the red carpet, Spike Lee, one of the filmmakers who helped turn Washington into a household name, waved off a question about reteaming with Washington for the much-whispered-about sequel to their 2006 box office smash “Inside Man.” “Talk to Universal Studios!”

Hawke – who co-starred with Washington in “Training Day” – dodged the press on the carpet, flashing a million-dollar smile as he ascended the escalator after hearing the words “Boyhood” and “Oscar” in the same question.

Indeed, despite the bloody solemnity of Fuqua’s film, Washington was all smiles on the red carpet.

The megastar fielded a handful of questions from the press. He claimed Fuqua showed up to set every day “knowing what he’s doing, so I gotta know what I’m doing.” There was the one about the extent of his research into OCD for his role as former CIA agent McCall; he called it “deep,” but teased a nervous journalist that it wasn’t as obsessive-compulsive as hers. Queried on whether his recently-announced campaign to be the next James Bond was serious or a joke, Washington offered no comment.

Then, following Hawke’s example, he bounded up the escalator to the Imax screening, apparently managing to disappear into the night – appropriate to his new character — between the end of the film and the afterparty at Columbus Circle’s Stone Rose Lounge. (The featured cocktail was called, naturally, “The Equalizer.”)

(Pictured: Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington at the New York premiere of “The Equalizer”)

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