Denzel Washington: “I Don’t Want Movie-Star Friends,” “I’m Not a Butt-Kisser”

D. Washington, Berlinale 2000
Denzel Washington:  “I Don’t Want Movie-Star Friends,” “I’m Not a Butt-Kisser” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actor Denzel Washington, who is up for his third Oscar award with his leading role in “Flight,” ruffled some feathers during an interview with Xan Brooks, that appeared in the U.K. Guardian, when he said “for whatever reason, I never befriended any white actors.” The problem is that it seems his complete statement was not published. One of his public relations representatives offered clarification on the interview, saying, “I sat in on this interview. The part they failed to mention was after he said ‘never befriended any white actors’ he mentioned ‘except,’ and then listed Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, etc. They cut the rest of the thought out. The rest is fine though,” Yahoo! News reports.

Denzel Washington was asked why he didn’t have many friends among his colleagues and he responded:

Washington chortles. “Because I don’t make friends! Maybe I’m not a butt-kisser, maybe I’m not a schmoozer. I’m not about to go to a party to try to get a job. And then when you have children, the other friends become other parents. We’d coach baseball or basketball. My wife and I were raised right. I don’t want movie-star friends. And,” he says, thinking it over, “being African American, there were no big movie stars to hang out with anyway, not when I was starting out, they were just the third guy from the back! For whatever reason, I never befriended any white actors.

The reality is that Denzel Washington, like Morgan Freeman, don’t go hob-nobbing with the rich and famous to be seen. You won’t see either man at every single party around Hollywood, especially the drug-fueled parties, tinged with all kind of craziness. Both men can do things on their terms. That comes from hard work and having a body of work that speaks for itself. So, no, I don’t see Denzel Washington’s comments as offensive. You don’t have to be a butt-kisser to get ahead.

UPDATE#1 (02/26/13):  The Guardian sent me a tweet saying that the story had been updated. The problem for me is that Xan Brooks edited Denzel Washington’s comments. That’s very problematic and I am surprised he’s wondering why he this “ruffled feathers.”

And here, with apologies, is the actual exchange as it took place. At this point Washington had been talking about his early years in Hollywood (“when I was starting out”):

Washington: And being African-American, we weren’t … [pause]

Me: You’re in a minority anyway.

Washington: Yeah. There were no big movie stars to hang out with anyway.

Me: They were just the guys holding open the doors.

Washington: Yeah, right. Exactly. Third guy from the back! And, and, for whatever reason, I never befriended any white actors. I mean, I worked with them. But I didn’t, I didn’t, I just didn’t … You know what? I didn’t need to do that.”Now here’s the thing. While I have no reason to doubt Washington’s friendship with Tom Hanks and the like, that is not what he said to me. Nor, for that matter, was there a public relations representative sitting in on our interview – although they may conceivably have been hiding silently in the armoire, where I couldn’t see them.

UPDATE#3: I received a tweet from Xan Brooks today along with the link for another article saying that the Yahoo story we linked to was not factual. From his article, Yahoo stands by its claims, while the Washington people are saying no-one on their end gave a statement to Yahoo. Well, I still stand by the fact that Xan Brooks paraphrased Denzel Washington’s comments. He said he “streamlined” the comments. A quote is a quote and should stand on its own merits. Not edited.

Here’s an excerpt from Xan Brooks latest column:

Yahoo! ran the story, though it did not name the rep. The story was then picked up and disseminated to millions more readers via a number of other news and gossip sites, including Us magazine and Perez Hilton, all of which ran the representative’s version as fact. Hilton went on to accuse me of “some shady-ass journalism!!”

There was just one problem: the story was demonstrably untrue. I listened back to the audio file (you can do so yourself here). Washington did not say what the representative quoted him as saying. And, even if he had, how could they have known? There had been no publicist sitting in on the interview last month. Source

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