The world is slowly reacting to the news that Sir Sidney Poitier, a trailblazer for Hollywood diversity and a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, is no longer with us.
Poitier died Thursday, Jan. 6, in his homeland of the Bahamas, according to the acting director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Eugene Torchon-Newry, who confirmed word to the Associated Press.
Actor Denzel Washington, in 2001, 38 years after Poitier's pioneering Oscars win, became just the second Black American to receive the award for Best Actor for his role in Training Day. On that same night, Poitier accepted an honorary Oscar for his contributions to the film industry.
“Forty years, I've been chasing Sidney – what do they do? They give [an award] to him the same night. I'll always be chasing you, Sidney,” Washington said during his acceptance speech as the two saluted each other with their respective trophies. “I'll always be following in your footsteps. There's nothing I'd rather do, sir.”
Now, in a cover story interview for Variety, Washington, who looked up to James Earl Jones and Harry Belafonte as he came up in the game, shared his thoughts about the groundwork done by the late actor. Poitier, who broke barriers, winning an acting Oscar for Lilies of the Field, paved the way for the box office milestones Washington and others were able to achieve.
According to the Clayton Davis-written piece, Washington says that he wishes he could have co-starred in a film with Poitier, who, at 94, was fully retired from acting. “God bless him,” he said. “But yeah, I missed that opportunity.”
Throughout a 50-plus-year career, where Poitier performed as an actor, led films as a director, and even appeared in television movies, the trailblazing talent was one of the last surviving major stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood Cinema.
And after the death of Kirk Douglas, the Bahamas-born ambassador became the oldest living and earliest surviving male Academy Award winner until his death.
In related news, Washington’s next entry into his growing filmography will be The Tragedy of Macbeth, which will be available to stream on Apple TV+ on Jan. 14.