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Early Oscar Buzz for Denzel Washington’s ‘The Equalizer’ (Directed by Antoine Fuqua)

Early Oscar Buzz for Denzel Washington's 'The Equalizer' (Directed by Antoine Fuqua)

I hadn’t previously considered the idea, until the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) announced the film would make its world premiere there a couple of months from now.

And then I learned this morning that it’s been selected to open the San Sebastian Film Festival, also in September, a few days after it debuts at TIFF – San Sebastian being the highest-profile film festival in the Spanish-speaking world, and, of course, TIFF being one of the highest-profile film festivals in the entire world, renowned for its status as the place where top producers and distributors go with their films to generate early Oscar buzz. Indeed last season’s Best Picture Academy Award winner (“12 Years a Slave”) premiered at TIFF in the fall of 2013. And while it didn’t officially premiere at TIFF, last season’s Oscar winner for Best Directing (“Gravity”) also screened at the festival, where it began its Awards season march.

Also worth noting is that, the last time Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua worked together as actor and director (“Training Day”), Washington won an Oscar for Best Actor. And, coincidentally, that film also premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival before its official commercial release.

So, based on all of the above “evidence,” it maybe shouldn’t be a big surprise that “The Equalizer” – which tested well with test audiences earlier this year, and which is scheduled to open theatrically in the USA about a week after its TIFF and San Sebastian screenings – is already generating Oscar buzz for Mr Washington, in a role that should provide a combo character study, and action hero, based on what I know of the original TV series it’s based on.

Sony Pictures will release the movie on September 26, 2014.

Chloe Moretz, Marton Csokas and Melissa Leo, co-star with Washington in the film, which is directed by Washington’s “Training Day” helmer, Antoine Fuqua, from a script written by Richard Wenk. 

The reportedly $50 million project is said to be designed to launch the first film franchise for Mr Washington – hence, if this first film does well, expect sequels. One has already been greenlit, even though the first film hasn’t been released yet. As previously noted, it’s said to have scored particularly well with test audience.

The TV series the film is based on was set in New York, and centered on a former secret agent (played by the late Edward Woodward) with a “mysterious past” who tries to atone for past sins by offering, free of charge, his services as an investigator, aided by a diverse group of other sometimes-mysterious contacts (some of whom date back to his spying days).

In the film adaptation, Washington plays Robert McCall, a retired intelligence operator who faked his own death to live under the radar. But after finding a young woman (played by Chloe Moretz) in trouble with the Russian mob, he returns to action to use his extreme tactics for good.

If Washington is nominated, this would be his 5th Best Actor nomination (“Malcolm X,” “The Hurricane” “Training Day” – which he won – and “Flight”).

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