Denzel Washington: "I Don't Know How to Be a Celebrity"

The Flight Plan star talks Whitney, fame and his career regrets.

Posted: 09/19/2012 09:00 AM EDT

(Photo: GQ Magazine)

Denzel Washington may be one of the most recognizable actors on the planet, but you'll never find him hamming it up for the paparazzi. The two-time Oscar winner opens up to GQ about the down side of fame and crediting another cinema icon for giving him advice early in his career. 

"Sidney Poitier told me this years ago: 'If they see you for free all week, they won't pay to see you on the weekend, because they feel like they've seen you. If you walk by the magazine section in the supermarket and they've known you all their life, there's no mystery. They can't take the ride,'" the Flight Plan star tells the men's magazine. "My professional work is being a better actor. I don't know how to be a celebrity."

Washington also reveals the roles he regrets turning down. "Seven and Michael Clayton. With Clayton, it was the best material I had read in a long time, but I was nervous about a first-time director, and I was wrong. It happens," he says. 

The actor lost two of his closest friends in Hollywood this year, director Tony Scott, with whom he collaborated on Unstoppable and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, and his Preacher's Wife co-star Whitney Houston. "Whitney was my girl," he says fondly. "She had done so well in recovery. And that is the toughest part about addiction.... That was a monster drug that got a hold of her, it was a mean one. You can't go back to that one. Nobody beats that."

He recalls other Hollywood stars who battled addiction as being cautionary tales. "I look at people, and I don't think I'm speaking out of line, [Samuel L.] Jackson, I've known for thirty-some-odd years, he was down at the bottom. And he came all the way back. And when he cleaned up, he never looked back. But he can't have that beer, because it might lead to the tough thing."

As for his own code of living, Washington credits the man upstairs for keeping him out of trouble. "I read from the Bible every day...I read something great yesterday. It said, 'Don't aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference.'"

Forty-two films into his career, it's hard to deny that he has. 


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