Denzel Washington has always admired the historic achievements of Sidney Poitier. This year Washington made some history of his own by becoming the only African-African actor to land seven Oscar nominations, and is on the verge of becoming the first black actor to win three Academy Awards.
Washington has often referred to Poitier as a mentor, and said that the actor was instrumental to his own career trajectory.
In a 2010 discussion with TimesTalks, Washington credited Poitier for advising him to be prudent about his selection of movie roles, specifically referencing a offer he got in 1986 to star in film he referred to as "The N****r They Couldn't Kill."
"I called Sidney and told him 'man they are offering me $600,000 to play the 'N****r They Couldn't Kill,'" Washington recalled. "And he told me, 'I'm not going to tell you what to do. But I will tell you this, the first, two, three or four films you do in this business will dictate how you are perceived.' He didn't tell me what to do, I give him credit for that. So I turned it down and 6 months later I got 'Cry Freedom' and got an Oscar nomination."
With the help of Poitier's sage advice, Washington has evolved into one of Hollywood's most bankable actors.