Denzel Washington had great respect for the trailblazing Sidney Poitier. Washington, who considered Poitier a mentor, recalled asking the legendary actor for advice in the early stages of his career. Washington opened up in an interview with TimesTalks about reaching out to Poitier about accepting a role he found to be racially offensive. “He told me, ‘I’m not going to tell you what to do. But I will tell you this, the first, two, three or four films you do in this business will dictate how you are perceived,'” he said. “He didn’t tell me what to do, I give him credit for that.” From Poitier’s advice, Washington said he turned down the role he was skeptical about, turning him to star in “Cry Freedom,” for which he received an Oscar nomination.

While Washington showed appreciation for Poitier throughout his career, Poitier’s respect for the rising star was mutual. The “Lilies of the Field” actor recalled winning an honorary award at the Oscars the same night as Washington’s “Training Day” win a moment of progress for actors of color in Hollywood. Portier praised Washington for continuing the legacy he began years before. “[Washington] had taken the concept of African-Americans in films to a place where I couldn’t, I didn’t,” he said in an Oscars interview. “And he has taken it there with the same kind of integrity that I tried to articulate. So I thank him for that.”

As of this writing, Washington has yet to issue a public statement on Poitier’s death.

Source: Nicki Swift

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