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Deja Vu - Denzel Washington interview

Denzel Washington in Deja Vu

Interview by Rob Carnevale

DENZEL Washington unites with director Tony Scott for the third time in Deja Vu, a slick time-travelling thriller.

In this interview, he talks about experiencing deja vu in real life, conquering his fear of heights and what he learned from his experience of researching the part.

Q. It’s an obvious question but have you ever experienced deja vu yourself?
A: A couple of times actually. I don’t know if it’s deja vu but I’ve had a recurring dream about going sideways in an elevator. And we had dinner the other night in The Eiffel Tower and there I was in an elevator going sideways… In my dream things didn’t work out so well, so I was a bit nervous! [laughs] But I’d also imagined this place in Brooklyn, a street. I don’t know if it was a dream or because I’d been there as a child but it was very vivid in my mind. Then one day I was shooting the movie The Siege in Brooklyn and there I was on that street. It looked like I had imagined it. Maybe my aunt lived there when I was a two-year-old or something.

But that’s the thing, every time I ask someone what deja vu is I get as many answers as there are people.

Q. Did you attempt to make sense of the science of the film as part of your research?
A: No, I didn’t want to know. My character doesn’t know, so I didn’t want to know. In some respects, I guess I’m the eyes and ears of the audience.

Q. Were you at any time apprehensive about any of the physical scenes you were required to do?
A: I don’t like heights so it was a tricky day being underneath that bridge. But I do have an ego so I couldn’t let anybody know. In fact, when we got there Tony [Scott] was saying: “Do you want to sit down with somebody and talk about it?” And I was like: “No, let’s get on with it. We’ll talk when we get underneath.”

We were also shooting on the other side of the river a lot, so every day I had to go across that bridge and I actually had my driver pull over one day and looked over the side. I said to myself: “I’ve got to climb over the side of this bridge? Tony’s insane!”

Q. I believe you spent some time with some real ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) agents. What did they tell you that you didn’t know before you met them?
A: [Real life ATF agent] Jerry Rudden was great. He had a real sense of humour. But I found it fascinating that when he started to get into the subject, he’s seen all kinds of death and destruction as part of his job but he didn’t like talking about the children.

I also love research and being educated. It’s a great job being able to step into all kinds of professions and into other people’s shoes. For example, Jerry said that a lot of times on your first few days [in the job] you don’t get much sleep, so instead he would brush his teeth to keep himself awake. That was something I put right into the movie.

Q. Why is the notion of time travel something that continues to capture so many people’s imagination? Is it because of the theory that if we can control time we can ultimately control our destiny?
A: Yeah, I guess that’s part of our fascination with it. Probably now more than ever there’s a desire to control what’s going on in our lives because we obviously can’t seem to control what’s going on in our world.

Q. Are you in life a fatalist or, in terms of your career, do you believe that fate plays a hand or just follow your hunches?
A. Well, the Bible says “faith without works is nothing” so destiny is great, fate is great, faith is great – but you still have to work at it. I don’t just sit at home and wait for it all to unfold.

Q. But have there been moments in your career where, just by a twist of fate, you might have taken a different path?
A. I would imagine. This might even be one of them. But it is what it is. I like it the way it’s turned out.

Q. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give the younger you?
A: I don’t know. I wouldn’t go back and I wouldn’t change anything. I think the movie sort of suggests that: be careful what you ask for because when you pray for rain, you have to deal with the mud as well. So I guess that’s the advice I’d give myself [laughs].

Read our review of Deja Vu

Read our interview with Paula Patton