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Denzel Washington got complaints about one of his most violent scenes

One of the best Denzel Washington movies features a scene of torture that had some test audiences reaching for their sick bags, but the star defended it.

Denzel Washington got complaints for this violent scene in Man on Fire

When you think of Denzel Washington now, you think of pure gravitas. You think of one of the best actors in Hollywood history. You think of Oscars. You probably don’t think about hardcore scenes of torture. But that’s something Denzel Washington definitely has in his locker.


The star’s best movies have their fair share of nasty moments. Training Day, for example, gave Washington a plum role as one of the best movie villains of all time – and it won him enough awards to fill a whole room of trophy cabinets. The best Denzel Washington movies tend to bring the silverware in a big way.

And in one of his best 2000s movies, Man on Fire, Washington went to extreme lengths as CIA agent turned mercenary and bodyguard John W. Creasy. Tony Scott’s film follows him on a journey of revenge after a nine-year-old girl in his care gets abducted.

During one particularly tough scene, Creasy tortures corrupt cop and kidnapper Jorge Gonzalez (Mario Zaragoza) by targeting his fingers. It gets very intense, to say the least. Creasy cuts off some of Jorge’s fingers and cauterizes the wounds with the car’s cigarette lighter. Some viewers couldn’t handle it.

Washington told Phase 9 Entertainment: “Well, at test screenings, a lot of men complained about the scene with the fingers being chopped off, but surprisingly almost no women complained at all.”

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In fact, Washington revealed that the scene in one of his best thriller movies was toned down in the final edit, which is hard to believe given how grotesque and violent it is.

“That scene was originally much longer and more gruesome,” said Washington. “I think that the subject matter of the film makes it unavoidable. It is a ‘what would you do if that happened to you?’ kind of movie. He is the most heroic character that I have ever portrayed.”

Critics were understandably divided on the movie’s violence and embrace of vigilante justice. Man on Fire doubled its budget at the box office, but earned some critical raspberries. Almost 20 years on, it feels like the time might be right for a reappraisal.

For more of Denzel’s dark side, check out the cruel prank he played on Tom Hanks and the reason he learned brutal tricks from Navy Seals for a movie. You can also find out about his new movies with our guides to the Gladiator 2 release date.