Ethan Hawke has defended Denzel Washington’s Oscar-Winning Role In Training Day.
The actor starred opposite Washington in the critically acclaimed 2001 crime movie, which also earned Hawke an Academy Award nod for his supporting role in the film.
Washington portrayed Detective Alonzo, a senior narcotics officer who takes newcomer Jake Hoyt (Hawke) under his wing. Hoyt, however, soon discovers that Alonzo’s methods are far from ethical.
During an interview with The Guardian, the point was raised that Washington’s crooked detective character is the film’s villain and that all of the movie’s characters of colour are criminals. Meanwhile, Hawke a white man assumes the role of the “good guy”.
The actor defended the casting, claiming that having Washington play “a bad guy at that moment was radical”.
The 49-year-old said: “Sidney Poitier was shackled with having to be a hero all the time. So there was something liberating about what Denzel was doing.
“So, if you simplify it optically, you take out what was radical about what Denzel was doing.”
When asked whether he still believed it was radical for a Black actor to play a corrupt detective, Hawke said that “you can’t just call Denzel ‘a Black actor’.”
He went on: “He’s a great actor with that Tom Cruise glow and Paul Newman charisma, and him playing a bad guy at that moment was radical.”
Hawke said in the same interview that he distanced himself from mainstream movies in his early career after seeing Hollywood “chew up” River Phoenix. Phoenix died in 1993 at age 23 of a drug overdose outside a Los Angeles nightclub.