By Madeleine Marr
The Miami Herald
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Denzel Washington is all smiles when talking about his starring role in “The Equalizer,” spun loosely from the 1980s private eye TV series.
Dressed casually in a black T-shirt and slacks at the Soho Beach House Hotel in Miami Beach, Fla., the 59-year-old (believe it, folks) is light, jovial, playful — in other words, polar opposite of the bad ass seen in “The Equalizer,” a former black ops commando who is attempting to live a quiet life in Boston working for a Home Depot-esque store. The gentlemanly Bob McCall is called to extreme action when a female acquaintance (Chloe Grace Moretz) is beaten up by Russian mafia thugs.
Oh, you so don’t want to mess with this dude, who is part-knight in shining armor, part-vigilante. In one gruesome scene, McCall takes out a room of bad guys with anything he can find at his disposal. Let’s put it this way: You won’t look at your wine bottle the same way after you see the damage a single corkscrew can inflict.
And McCall likes to time himself with a stopwatch while on particularly efficient murderous rampages.
“Sick man!” Washington says of the antihero. “He was pissed off if he couldn’t kill everyone in 18 seconds!”
There’s that twinkle again.
In all seriousness, “Equalizer” director Antoine Fuqua wanted viewers to understand the laser-focused mentality of McCall, a onetime covert agent who faked his own death in order to settle into society.
“These type of men train day in and day out,” said Fuqua (Olympus Has Fallen). “They see things a certain way. I wanted you to know what was going on inside his head. When he walked in the room he already figured out what he was going to do.”
But Washington isn’t just a killing machine in this movie. His character has depth — plus a few idiosyncrasies that are hard to shake. To top it off, insomnia drives McCall to the streets nightly.
“He was trying to be as quote-unquote ‘normal’ as a man who gets up at 3 a.m. to go to a diner, read books, drink tea — just one bag — folded up in his napkin, creased just right.”
OK, so McCall was more than just a little bit of a neatnik. Unlike Washington, who off-set “ain’t that!” he says with a healthy guffaw.
“We had more OCD stuff that got cut; like him closing and opening and closing the door,” remembers the married father of four who nabbed his first Oscar in 1990 as Best Supporting Actor in war weeper “Glory.” “I did research on [obsessive compulsive disorder]. It’s interesting.”
Also interesting is the chemistry between the director and star, who last teamed up 13 years ago on “Training Day,” for which Washington, as a crooked cop, won a Academy Award for Best Actor.
The two share an unspoken language.
“Well, you know, we’re both prepared,” says Washington, who grew up in the New York area but ended up attending high school in Daytona Beach for a year. “Antoine knows I’m coming in ready. And I know he’s ready. So we just hit it. There’s not a lot of chin-scratching and 97 cameras lined up everywhere.”
At the end of the day, the men want audiences to see “The Equalizer” as pure entertainment.
“When we screened the film for the first time, I said, ‘Well, you need two things: popcorn and a Coke,” says Washington. “It’s just one of those kind of movies.”
Word of a sequel is out there. You may see more of this maniacally organized man who wants to make things right.
“That’s why you call it show business,” says Washington, who has that infectious grin going again. “No business, no show.”