Denzel on His New Film 'Antwone Fisher'

ByABC News
December 18, 2002, 6:21 PM

Dec. 19 -- Denzel Washington's new movie, Antwone Fisher, tells the amazing story of a young Navy sailor who conquers the psychological demons from his troubled childhood with the help of a Navy psychiatrist.

Washington found the tale irresistible. "I just couldn't believe this story," he told Primetime. "I mean, it was such an amazing story. And then I got the opportunity to meet Antwone. I was hooked."

"Antwone" is Antwone Fisher, the man whose life inspired the movie. After meeting him, Washington signed on as director his first directing project ever.

The movie tells the tale of a sailor who is sent to see a Navy psychiatrist because he is prone to violent outbursts. The psychiatrist helps him confront the physical and sexual abuse he suffered during a childhood spent in foster care.

Washington, whose normal fee is reported to be $20 million, took a huge pay cut to work on Antwone Fisher, which ended up costing $13 million overall. In addition to directing, he agreed to play the role of the psychiatrist, which would help the film attract financing. He learned on the set that it is hard to direct a movie you are acting in too. "It's enough just to direct the first time out, you know. And to have to act and direct that was very difficult," he said.

During filming, he insisted that the focus not be on him. "It's about the boy. That's what I kept telling the crew. That's what I kept telling myself. That's what I tell everyone. It's about Antwone. It's not about me," he said.

Working as a Security Guard on the Sony Lot

The story the film tells is amazing enough. But what it does not cover the story of how Fisher's life made it to the big screen is perhaps just as incredible.

After leaving the Navy, Fisher, who is now 43, eventually got a job as a security guard on the Sony Pictures lot. He decided to write a screenplay about his life, and took a free screenwriting class in a church in South Central.

The teacher of the class was impressed with Fisher and set up a meeting for him with Todd Black, a powerful producer who is co-head of the Sony-based Escape Artists production company. Fisher's story was so moving that it left Black and his partner Jason Blumenthal in tears, according to Fisher.