In 2002, we had Russell Crowe at SXSW for a screening of his band’s documentary, Texas. This was also back when the Oscars took place after SXSW, and Crowe was neck-and-neck in the predictions to win Best Actor (for A Beautiful Mind) against Denzel Washington (for Training Day). During the Q&A, an audience member asked Crowe about the Oscar race (especially since this was shortly after Crowe’s controversial win at the BAFTAs). In his response, Crowe mused about what good friends he and Washington were, and in a very diplomatic way, urged that there was no real race between the two men. After all, they both already had Oscars anyway. Ultimately, Washington would win. Not only was there no bad blood, but the two have reunited for next week’s highly-anticipated crime epic, American Gangster.
What I wondered during that Q&A in 2002 was, who else in the crowd remembered that the two actors have actually worked together before? It was a crappy virtual-reality crime film called Virtuosity. In that 1995 film, the roles were reversed, with Washington as the cop and a then-unknown Crowe as the gangster. This forgettable collaboration is one of many points addressed in Entertainment Weekly‘s new cover story interview with the two heavyweight actors. Among the revelations in the article:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In all the years between Virtuosity and American Gangster, had the possibility of you two working together ever come up before?
WASHINGTON: Not that I know of. It’s harder than you think, you know, especially the way this guy took off. Everything’s got to line up: schedules, material, this, that.
CROWE: That’s one of the funniest things about this business. You get a bit of success and the next day there’s 50 projects, and everybody is connected to you somehow because they met you somewhere, at a bar. And you’re only ever going to pick one. So now you’ve got 49 whole productions who hate your guts. It’s a funny thing you’ve got to negotiate your way through.
WASHINGTON: And you’ve got to be comfortable. It’s no coincidence Russell has worked with Ridley now three or four times, I’ve worked with Tony Scott three or four times and Spike Lee three or four times — because there’s a comfort zone, you know. I tell people, the time to worry about flying is when you’re on the ground. There’s no point in worrying about it when you’re up in the air. You’d better make sure the pilot is someone you trust. It’s too hard, takes too much time, for it not to be a creative joy. We’ve all been on movies where you’re like, ”Oh, shoot, what have I done? How many more days we got?” ”Eighty-nine, Denzel. This is Day 2.” [Laughs]