Passing the Torch?
Denzel Washington vs. Terrence Howard
Ever since Sidney Poitier broke down barriers for black leading men in Hollywood during the 1950s, each decade has brought new and talented actors following in his footsteps, shattering stereotypes and creating opportunities in a business where African-Americans were once given little chance.
There were Richard Roundtree and ex-football pro Jim Brown, who became a new kind of action hero, while actors like James Earl Jones and Billy Dee Williams played it straight. As the years went on, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Wesley Snipes, Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Don Cheadle and many others were among the most popular and respected thesps of their generation. But perhaps no black actor since Poitier has had the impact of Denzel Washington, whose amazing acting chops and a knack for choosing socially conscious projects that also have wide commercial appeal.
Now comes "Crash" and "Hustle & Flow" star Terrence Howard, with a commanding screen presence and a career that, although he's still young, appears to be taking a Denzel-like turn toward movies with something meaningful on the agenda. Is he the new Denzel Washington, or is the real deal (now in his 50s) not yet ready to pass the torch to the next generation?
Pix of Denzel
Pix of Terrence
Hometown: Mount Vernon, NY
Born: December 28, 1954
| ||Terrence Howard|
Hometown: Chicago, Ill
Born: March 11, 1969
|Beginnings: Earned a journalism degree from Fordham University, but after graduation he decided to study acting in San Francisco instead of becoming a reporter. After a year with the American Conservatory Theater he went pro, and got his first movie part a few years later, in "Carbon Copy" (1981) with George Segal.|| ||Beginnings: Studied chemical engineering at Pratt Institute, but after a casting director spotted him on a New York street he soon ditched the laboratory for the cameras, appearing on "Living Single," "NYPD Blue" and numerous other shows in the early 90s. |
|Family: Dad was a Pentecostal minister and mom was a beautician. He and his wife Paulette have two sons and two daughters ranging in age from 14 to 20.|| ||Family: The son of mixed-race parents and grandson of stage and movie actress Minnie Gentry. Howard and his ex-wife, Lori McCommas-Howard, were married 14 years and have 3 children. |
| Breakthrough: In 1982 he won the career-making role of Dr. Philip Chandler on "St. Elsewhere," a character he played for six years. || ||Breakthrough: First caught the attention of the masses in 1995's "Mr. Holland's Opus." He played the rhythmically challenged kid who played the bass drum (and not very well) in the high school band.|
|Controversy: Doesn't shy away from edgy subjects. He's played a lawyer fighting AIDS discrimination ("Philadelphia"), a defiant civil rights crusader ("Malcolm X"), a persecuted opponent of Apartheid ("Cry Freedom"), and a real-life boxer falsely imprisoned on a bogus murder rap ("The Hurricane").|| ||Controversy: Was arrested in 2000 and spent a night in jail after he allegedly grabbed a flight attendant by the wrist and yelled at her when she told him to fasten his seat belt. The charges against him were dropped by the authorities. |
|Six Degrees of Dillon: Matt Dillon played a disc jockey at a Harlem night spot opposite Washington in "Malcolm X." || ||Six Degrees of Dillon: His "Crash" character is humiliated when a racist cop (played by Dillon) feels up his wife during a traffic stop. |
|Understudy: Has made four films with Spike Lee, the most influential modern African-American director, whom Washington credits with helping him learn how to improvise before the camera. || ||Understudy: Made two films with John Singleton, the second most influential modern African-American filmmaker. When the studios wouldn't finance "Hustle & Flow" unless Singleton (who produced it) replaced Howard with a name rapper, Singleton mortgaged his house and financed the film himself.|| |
|Oscar gold: He's had five Academy Award nominations and two wins. The first was for Best Supporting Actor in "Glory" (1989) and then Best Actor in "Training Day" (2002). || ||Oscar gold: Got a best actor nod for playing the pimp-turned-MC in "Hustle & Flow," and theoretically he deserves a chunk of the "Crash" best picture award.|
|Keepin' it real: Has an affinity for stories about real-life people. He's played Steve Biko, Malcolm X, and Reuben "Hurricane" Carter; he's directed the story of writer Antwone Fisher; and he's producing an upcoming biopic on Sammy Davis, Jr. and directing the real-life story of a debate team at a black college in the 1930s. || ||Keepin' it real: Played a young Muhammad Ali in a 2000 TV biopic; stars as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in the upcoming film "The Crusaders." |
|He's so money: Joined the $20 million club for "Man on Fire," "Out of Time," and "The Manchurian Candidate." || ||He's so busted: He was reportedly paid $12,000 for "Hustle & Flow" and a whopping $9,000 for "Crash." Such is the wallet of an indie-minded actor.|
|Quotable: "People say congratulations, you finally got the Oscar, and I have to correct them. Actually, it's my second one. I won for Glory in 1989. Some people say, 'Yeah, but that was for a supporting actor role.' But for me, it's the same thing." || ||Quotable: "I am an engineer, but what I find important and necessary is that you just learn things as you go along. You know, one day I'll go and get my masters in physics and go and do all that stuff, but right now, I got deviated into this artistic world …I feel like the alchemist that's supposed to be a shepherd with sheep and now I'm in this caravan learning to be an alchemist." |Syndicated Columnists
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