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Denzel Washington played a cruel prank on Tom Hanks, but it paid off

Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks are two of the best actors of their generation and, when working together on one movie, Washington played a pretty harsh prank.

Denzel Washington in Training Day

Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks are two of the best actors of all time. They’ve each starred in more classics than you can count, having a hand in some of the best movies ever made.


Back in the ’90s, the duo worked together on the best drama movie of its year, Philadelphia. The movie centred on Hanks’s character, Andrew Beckett, who seeks help from lawyer Joe Miller played by Washington. Miller aims to sue his former employers for firing him upon the discovering that he had been diagnosed with AIDS.

Though Hanks now believes his role should have been played by a gay actor, the movie is a classic and the pair’s collaboration paid dividends. However, that doesn’t always mean it was easy and, while Hanks was losing weight for his role, Washington played a rather cruel prank.

“It was extreme. He was eating only 800 calories a day and he went way down [in weight],” said Washington, speaking on The Graham Norton Show. “He was really really skinny in the scenes in the courtroom. So I would leave candy bars, and I would sneeze and 500 almond joys would fly out. I was having pizzas delivered to him.”

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On a restricted diet, having to watch Washington flaunt his food must have been torture for Hanks. Thankfully, as Washington recalls, it all paid off in the end, because “he thanked me when he won the Oscar”.

Hanks’s win for Philadelphia was the first of two back to back Oscars, as he’d go on to win the next year for Forrest Gump. Partly, his win was helped by his physical transformation and his commitment, and the fact that he had to deal with Washington’s cheeky prank makes it all the more impressive.

Really, the moral of the story is: don’t go on a diet when you’re around Denzel Washington. For more cinema history, check out our picks for the best directors of all time, as well as the best Tom Hanks movies and best Denzel Washington movies.