We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Denzel Washington learned this lesson from directing his first movie

Even the great Denzel Washington has lessons to learn, and he certainly took plenty away from his debut as a director with the drama movie Antwone Fisher.

Denzel Washington made his debut as a director with Antwone Fisher

You probably don’t think of Denzel Washington as a man who has to learn a lot of lessons. But there’s someone who’d disagree with you on that, and their name is Denzel Washington. You don’t become one of the best actors on the planet without learning all the time, with each of your new movies.

That’s exactly what Washington does, with each of the best Denzel Washington movies paving the way for him to come back better and with more knowledge the next time around. Take, for example, his 2002 directorial debut Antwone Fisher.

The movie, about a troubled navy man and his interactions with a psychiatrist, did perfectly reasonable money at the box office, but it quickly became a forgotten part of Washington’s formidable filmography. Given its critical acclaim, it could have been more popular.

Washington knows this, too, telling First Showing in 2007 that he learned something significant from that movie to take into promoting his sophomore directorial effort, The Great Debaters.

“To be quite frank with you, one of the things I’ve learned from that first go-round is that I’m popular, so if you do the Oprah Winfrey show or the Today Show or the Tonight Show, and you tell people the film’s coming out on Friday, but in fact it’s platformed and only coming out in two theaters, it’s a mistake.”

YouTube Thumbnail

Washington said he would correct that for The Great Debaters, which ultimately opened much wider and ended up earning more than Antone Fisher, though it still wasn’t a box office explosion. Nonetheless, Washington said he’d learned a lesson about releasing from his first film.

He said: “Not to knock the marketing guys or whoever, because I was as much a part of that as they were, I think that’s something we’ll do differently this time. Because my mother was calling me, everybody’s calling me, ‘you said the movie’s coming out, well where is it?’ Well it’s in New York and one theater in LA… so folks don’t understand that.”

Washington’s third directorial effort, Fences, doubled the box office total of The Great Debaters and became the biggest success of his career behind the camera. That’s the importance of learning lessons, even when you’re Denzel Washington.

YouTube Thumbnail

For more of the great man, find out why Denzel Washington says Clint Eastwood is his hero and why he had a sex scene cut from The Pelican Brief.