Denzel Washington to direct and star in drama Fences

Denzel Washington

by Owen Williams |
Published on

Back in 2013, just as Flight was being released, Denzel Washington told the Empire Podcast that he had plans to direct an adaptation of August Wilson's play Fences for the screen. Three years on, it's finally up and running. Washington will direct the film as well as appearing in front of the camera, along with his stage co-star Viola Davis. Both won Tony Awards for the Broadway Fences revival in 2010.

Wilson's play tackles the story of Troy Maxon (Washington), a Pittsburgh sanitation employee who once dreamed of a baseball career only to be left facing down daily discrimination in a more menial line of work, while grappling with his lost ambitions. Davis plays Troy's wife, Rose.

Troy is a role first made famous by James Earl Jones during Fences' original run in 1987. "It reawakened me about the work, and my commitment to the work," Washington told us about his own take. "I said to myself: 'I've got to dig deeper'. Scott Rudin sent me the script August Wilson wrote - the only one of his plays that he wrote as a screenplay - to act and direct. I really do want to direct this."

Fences is actually the sixth play in Wilson's ten-part Pittsburgh Cycle, and there'd been talk in recent months of Washington producing all ten for HBO over the next decade. Whether any vestiges of that plan remain is unclear, but Fences itself has come together at Paramount.

"This important and beloved play has been a passion of Denzel’s for many years" says Brad Grey, Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, "and it is with great excitement that we embark together to bring his dream project to the big screen."

Washington and Rudin are producing along with Todd Black, and Washington is also bringing back Stephen Henderson, Russell Hornsby and Mykelti Williamson from the 2010 Broadway cast. In fact, the only missing player at this point is Chris Chalk, who played Troy's son Cory. It's likely that his commitments to TV's Gotham have made him unavailable. Or maybe he's an announcement that'll follow.

Fences will be Washington's third film as director following The Great Debaters and Antwone Fisher. He starts shooting in Pittsburgh shortly.

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