Actor Denzel Washington wanted to take the villainy of his Training Day role to extreme lengths. In doing so, he recommended a scene that showed just how low his character Alonzo Harris was willing to go.
But the studio initially pushed back against the scene, concerned it would make Alonzo too evil.
Denzel Washington’s son helped convince him to play a bad guy in ‘Training Day’
Washington had been known for playing noble characters who, at worse, were morally flexible. Despite years of being in the film industry prior, Training Day was the first film Washington tapped into a full-fledged villainous character.
In a resurfaced interview at the Toronto Film Festival (via Female), Washington confided that he’d always wanted to play a bad guy. Hollywood just didn’t see him in that type of a role.
“It’s not for want of trying. It’s just that no one has ever asked me to play a bad guy before. That’s not how Hollywood perceives me,” Washington said.
Being a villain also offered The Equalizer actor a different kind of experience than what he could get from portraying positive characters.
“It’s a huge honour and privilege to play real-life heroes, but there is a different kind of excitement and reward for an actor in playing a villain. I have to admit I had a lot of fun playing Harris in Training Day,” he said.
Before accepting the role, however, one of his kids also played a part in Washington’s turn to villainy.
“My son talked me into doing that movie. He was like, ‘Dad, you’ve never done anything like this.’ I just hadn’t been asked before. The only film that was sort of dark that I’d turned down was Seven. They offered me the Brad Pitt part, but I was like, ‘This is so dark and evil.’ Then when I saw the movie, I was like, ‘Oh, shoot,'” he once told Entertainment Weekly.
Denzel Washington once suggested this ‘Training Day’ scene that the studio felt went way too far
As dirty cop Alonzo Harris, Washington was well aware he was playing a character with very little redeeming qualities. Because of how heinous Alonzo is, Washington wanted the character to receive as gruesome of an outcome as possible.
Washington also wanted to see Alonzo get his comeuppance by his co-star Ethan Hawke’s more heroic character. During the conflict with Hawke, Washington saw an opportunity to show audiences just how vile Alonzo could be.
“Having Ethan punch him silly was the only way I could justify being as evil and wicked as I was. Knowing his fate freed me to go further and further -I suggested a scene where he puts his own son in the line of fire to save his neck,” Washington recalled.
But he was met with some resistance regarding this idea.
“This made the studio a little nervous. They said, ‘It’ll make people hate him,’ and, well, that was the whole point. Once you buy into this, nothing is sacred. You don’t want to sanitize. And I quickly put a stop to any idea of having him get away with it in the end,” he said.
Ethan Hawke couldn’t believe Denzel Washington had the guts to play Alonzo Harris in ‘Training Day’
Hawke also had much praise for his co-star and his performance. Like many younger actors, Washington was a star Hawke had looked up to from an early age.
“I’ve always admired Denzel because he’s one of the few really big movie stars who’s also a great actor,” Hawke once said according to The Morning Call. “I think his work in Malcolm X is every bit as good as De Niro’s in Raging Bull.”
Still, however, Hawke was surprised Washington did a film like Training Day.
“But I still couldn’t believe Denzel had the guts to play this role because he’s so often pushed into being a role model for his community. But he did it, and he did it like he does everything else — incredibly well,” Hawke said.