By Brent Lang
His name above the title guarantees a film will open to solid numbers, something few actors in Hollywood can credibly claim to deliver. He did it again last weekend, when his gritty R-rated thriller The Equalizer bowed to a sterling $35 million.
“He’s a name people trust,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “He is a brand. Really, it’s no different than Marvel or Pixar. People hear Denzel Washington and they show up.”
Over three decades in the film business, Washington’s films have generated north of $3 billion at the global box office, but he’s put up those lofty numbers in a unique way. At the age of 59, he is launching his first franchise with The Equalizer, an adaptation of the CBS action series that Sony, the studio behind the film, hopes will inspire a sequel.
That’s a long time to go without starring in a film that has a numeral in the title. Consider Washington’s fellow A-listers — George Clooney has the Oceans 11 films, Tom Cruise anchors the Mission: Impossible series, Robert Downey Jr. has two franchises with Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man and Johnny Depp has one in Pirates of the Caribbean and is trying to kick off another when the sequel to Alice in Wonderland hits theaters in 2016.
Washington has also been able to outlast actors from his generation, including past co-stars such as Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, who have seen their box office powers wane over the past 10 years. Contrino says the only actor with a similar appeal has been Adam Sandler, who had a torrid run throughout much of the aughts, but lately has been striking out as often as scoring with audiences.
Consistency has been the hallmark of Washington’s career. His movies have never been billion dollar grossers, and only four have topped $100 million stateside. Instead of being crafted to sell toy lines or comicbooks, they’ve encapsulated a range of genres, many of them geared at adults, a demographic studios often ignore. Some, such as Deja Vu or The Book of Eli, are formulaic and instantly forgettable, but most are profitable. Through it all, Washington’s movies have relied on his name as the guarantor of a good time.Tags: actor, car, movie, show