Born in New York in 1954 to a church minister and a beauty-parlour owner. Denzel was banned by his parents from watching movies. When his parents split up Denzel went through a rebellious stage, and several of his friends went to prison after getting into trouble. His mother reacted to this and sent him away to prep school, and later to Fordham University where he discovered acting.
He landed his first film role in the 1975 TV movie Wilma most notable for the fact that he met actress Pauletta Pearson now his wife. His big break came when he starred in the popular TV hospital drama St Elsewhere[?].
Washington turned down several offers of well-paid action films, and instead looked for more challenging roles. In 1987 he starred as South African anti-apartheid campaigner Steve Biko in Richard Attenborough’s Cry Freedom[?]. In 1989 Denzel won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, after playing a defiant self-possessed slave in the film Glory.
Malcolm X transformed Denzel’s career, turning him overnight into one of Hollywood’s most respected actors. He turned down offers of several similar roles such as the chance to play Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.[?] because he didn’t want to be typecast by subject matter.