US actor Denzel Washington attends the Sony Pictures Entertainment presentation of "The Equalizer 3" during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 24, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by VALERIE MACON / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)
VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images


Denzel Abides: Why The Age-Defying Star’s Unique Bond With Audiences Endures

Few stars remain box office attractions into their golden years. Clint Eastwood, 93, rushes to mind, and 61-year-old Tom Cruise may likely join him over the next decade. Harrison Ford, at 81, also draws a crowd but it’s mostly via established franchises like “Star Wars” and “Blade Runner.”

Then there’s Oscar winner Denzel Washington, whose star has yet to dim. In fact, it may be as bright as ever. 

Washington’s latest film, “The Equalizer 3,” snagged an impressive $42.8 million over Labor Day Weekend, a time of the year when few films rock the box office. The franchise isn’t as big as the “Fast & Furious” saga, nor as heavily hyped as your average superhero chapter.

Washington was the main attraction, again, and that’s all audiences needed to know. The actor wasn’t able to promote the film due to the dueling Hollywood strikes, but when audiences saw his face on the poster, they reacted accordingly.

ATRANI, ITALY - OCTOBER 19: Antoine Fuqua, Gaia Scodellaro, Dakota Fanning and Denzel Washington attends "The Equalizer 3" photocall on October 19, 2022 in Atrani, Amalfi, Italy. (Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images)

ATRANI, ITALY – OCTOBER 19: Antoine Fuqua, Gaia Scodellaro, Dakota Fanning and Denzel Washington attends “The Equalizer 3” photocall on October 19, 2022 in Atrani, Amalfi, Italy. (Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images)

Washington’s presence doesn’t guarantee box office success, but his bond with the American movie-going public remains as strong as ever. It’s no accident as to why.

Let’s start with talent.

Washington’s range lets him play rough-and-tumble heroes (“Safe House,” “Man on Fire”) as well as broken souls hungry for redemption (“Flight,” “Fences”). He’s a two-time Oscar winner, and chances are he could snag a third before he calls it a career.

The word gravitas is over-used in Hollywood, but Washington has it in abundance. That face, that steely gaze can say plenty without a screenwriter tapping his or her keyboard.

The Movie Star Era is all but over, but the 68-year-old is one of the few, stubborn holdouts.

Washington stays within his brand, generally playing flawed but fascinating heroes (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.” “Unstoppable” “The Equalizer” franchise). He earned his Best Actor honor for 2001’s “Training Day,” one of the few times he played a deeply corrupt soul. (He previously earned a Best Supporting Actor trophy for 1989’s “Glory.”)

402720 240: Winner Of The Best Actor Academy Award For His Performance In "Training Day," Denzel Washington Poses For A Photograph At The Govenor's Ball After The 74Th Annual Academy Awards March 24, 2002 At The Kodak Theater In Hollywood, Ca. (Photo By Getty Images)

Photo By Getty Images

Many A-list actors work, and work, sometimes starring in multiple films a year. Not Washington.

He takes matters more slowly, choosing his projects with care. That means he’s never over-exposed in the public eye.

He also isn’t a steady presence on social media and steers clear of political in-fighting. That alone sets him apart from his peers, ensuring audiences see him as an actor first and rarely an activist.

That doesn’t mean he’s the strong and silent type.

The star took umbrage with a fake news article suggesting he had switched his support from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election cycle. He lashed out at the press for spreading the false information.

“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read it, you’re misinformed.”

He even took the high road immediately after fellow superstar Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock during the 2022 Oscars ceremony. Washington chose to pray with Smith rather than join those eager to smite the “Fresh Prince” alum.

“Who are we to condemn? I don’t know all the ins and outs of the situation, but I know the only solution was prayer.”

Many Hollywood stars use their celebrity clout to promote Democratic politicians or causes. Washington flexes his fame to promote the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, a relationship that began back in the late 1990s. He leaned on the group as a lad and knows the value the organization brings to the next generation.

He’s also shared his wealth for other worthy causes, including scholarships to medical students, establishing the Denzel Washington Endowed Chair in Theatre at his alma mater, Fordham University and supporting historically black Wiley College in Marshall, Texas.

That charity streak, combined with his oft-heroic roles, forged a unique bond between actor and audience.

Washington has risked that relationship with one part of his belief system. The actor is an unabashed Christian and he often evokes God during his interviews. That can be “problematic” in show business circles. It helps that Washington shares his spiritual side with grace and delicacy, never proselytizing when he can uplift those around him.

Still, comments like this could spell trouble for lesser stars.

“One of the most important lessons in life that you should know is to remember to have an attitude of gratitude, of humility, understand where the gift comes from. It’s not mine, it’s been given to me by the grace of God.”

Not Washington. Even the faith-averse press gives him a pass.

His “Magnificent Seven” co-star, avowed Christian Chris Pratt, isn’t so fortunate. That’s no knock on the “Guardians of the Galaxy” star, but few actors enjoy the goodwill generated by Washington.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: (L-R) Pauletta Washington and Denzel Washington attend the 94th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on March 27, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Washington has been both famous and scandal-free for decades. That’s no easy feat given the temptations of fame. He’s even been married to the same woman, Pauletta Washington, for 40 years. They have four children, including rising star John David Washington of “Tenet” fame.

Staying married in Hollywood that long is an achievement unto itself. For Washington, it’s just one more reason audiences haven’t tired of his superstar presence.

Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.


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