If you are a lover of the theater like I am, you may be familiar with August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, Fences. It’s long been a classic, and it will be released as a film on December 25th. The incredibly talented, two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington both stars in and directs Fences. We had an opportunity to be part of an interview with him to discuss the film, how he got involved, and to talk about the exciting Across the Fence Campaign.
“Hey Pop, let me ask you a question. How come you don’t like me?”
That simple question opens the door to a discussion about family, our relationship to each other, what we expect from one another and how love manifests itself in ways we don’t always notice. That’s the brilliance of August Wilson’s writing. And that material in the hands of Denzel Washington becomes magical.
Fences is ultimately about a man placing a fence around his life trying to claim his humanity. It’s an incredible example of cultural blues theory. It’s about what keeps a family together, to help them know their history, and to keep their stories alive.
You may have seen a recent Tony Award winning Broadway production of Fences starring Mr. Washington along with Academy Award nominee, Viola Davis. It was so well received, and we are fortunate that it’s coming to the big screen for everyone to see. It comes at a time when we need healing conversations, and Fences gives us a great opportunity for self-examination and to start conversations.
Take a look at the trailer, and then we’ll chat with Denzel Washington… You may want to have a tissue handy- the trailer is better than most movies.
A Conversation with Denzel Washington about Fences
Q: What has the work of August Wilson meant to you?
Denzel Washington: I was first introduced to August Wilson in the 80s when Charles Dutton did Ma Rainey and James Earl Jones and Courtney Vance did Fences. I’ve long considered August Wilson to be one of the five greatest playwrights in American history.
Q: Why is it important to bring Fences to the screen now?
Denzel Washington: It’s just a great play to bring to the screen. It just happened that we did it seven years ago on Broadway. Scott Rudin brought me August Wilson’s original screenplay for it, and I realized I hadn’t read the play. So I read it. Then I realized that Troy (my character) was 53 — and I was 55 at the time. I realized I better hurry up! I might be too old! Here we are seven years later…
It more than holds up today. We have had a tremendous response at the screenings.
Q: Did you have any challenges moving Fences from the stage to the screen?
Denzel Washington: We just had to stay out-of-the-way. He already wrote a masterpiece. And you really don’t know how it’s going to work until you get it in front of an audience.
Q: What has collaborating with Viola Davis meant to you?
Denzel Washington: Viola is one of the great actors of her generation. She has one of these moments in the theater that I don’t even know how to describe. I’m just happy to share it with her.
Q: Anything you think the audience will take away from the film?
Denzel Washington: I never tell anyone what to take away from a movie. But you’ll see some great performances. And I’m not just saying that because I directed it either! You’ll see!
Community Involvement: Across the Fence
The Across the Fence campaign celebrates Fences and provides opportunities for families to come closer together. Healing conversations are so needed at this time.
There are several ways you can get involved to share the message presented in Fences. Visit www.acrossthefence.co (notice that it is .co and not .com). When you’re there, you’ll find several resources. You can arrange for groups to see the film together, you can become a partner to provide opportunities for others to see the film, and you’ll be able to participate in art and history recording projects to share your family’s story.
I hope that you will join me in joining the #AcrossTheFence movement. When you do, you’ll receive an email that will tell you how to participate to share your art or story.
You can also learn more about the work done by the Boys and Girls Club of America. Denzel Washington is their national spokesperson. There is no better time than now to get involved with the underserved and underrepresented communities.
As you get involved, hold this story close to your heart as a reminder. Whenever August Wilson was called upon to sign autographs, he always signed them, “may all of your fences have gates.” Indeed.
Fences has received several awards and nominations
Congratulations to the cast and crew for receiving the following awards and nominations. We will update this space should additional awards and nominations be received. You can find a running list of the awards and nominations for Fences on their IMDB page.
The Academy Awards
- Won, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Viola Davis
- Nominated, Best Motion Picture of the Year
- Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Denzel Washington
- Nominated, Best Adapted Screenplay, August Wilson (posthumous nomination
- Won, Best Supporting Actress, Viola Davis
- Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, Denzel Washington, Nominated
- Won, Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, Viola Davis
- Nominated, Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
- Denzel Washington, Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
- Won, Viola Davis, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
- Won, AFI Award, Movie of the Year
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards
- Best Supporting Actress, Viola Davis, Won, Critics Choice Award
- Best Picture, Won, Critics Choice Award
- Won, Critics Choice Award, Best Actor, Denzel Washington
- Best Acting Ensemble, Nominated, Critics Choice Award
- Denzel Washington, Nominated, Critics Choice Award, Best Director
- August Wilson, Nominated, Critics Choice Award, Best Adapted Screenplay
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
- Nominated, Denzel Washington, Best Actor
Santa Barbara International Film Festival
- Won, Virtuoso Award, Stephen Henderson
- Denzel Washington, Nominated, Best Actor in a Motion Picture
- Viola Davis, Nominated, Best Actress in a Supporting Role
- Best Picture, Nominated
- Denzel Washington, Best Director
Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards
- Viola Davis, Won, Best Supporting Actress
- Denzel Washington, Won, Best Actor
- Best Acting Ensemble, Nominated
- Best Adapted Screenplay, August Wilson, Nominated