A lot of movie fans say that, when Denzel Washington's good, he's great. But when he's bad, he's better! Critics seem to agree.
Washington won his second Academy Award in 2002 for playing a corrupt cop in "Training Day," and now he's getting great reviews for his role as real-life Vietnam War-era Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas in the new movie, "American Gangster."
Washington chuckled as he admitted to Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith Friday that he likes being called "bad."
"Bad guy has all the fun," Washington said. "He can say anything, get away with anything."
Washington explained that his character, Frank Lucas, was an apprentice to Bumpy Johnson, one of the inner-city's leading black crime bosses. But when Johnson suddenly dies, Lucas exploits the opening to build his own empire.
Lucas filled the post-"French Connection" vacuum in area heroin supplies, eclipsing the Mafia as he did.
To see photos from the premiere of "American Gangster," click here.
Hard-nosed cop Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe, was Lucas' opposite.
Both shared a unique, strict code of ethics, setting them apart from other players on both sides of the law in their day.
"It's interesting," Washington says. "These two guys are actually still friends."
Smith described Lucas as "powerful, ruthless, sociopathic.
Washington observed that Lucas explained it to him by saying, " 'Denzel, I was in a dirty business. You know, it was no place for nice guys,' and he learned early on you told people things once. He said, 'I told them once.' He sed, 'I didn't tell you twice. I told you once.' I was like, what does that mean, Frank?
"Then again," laughed Washington, "don't -- he (had) told me once!
"But he's a ... complex man, very, very bright, no formal education. He's been out (of prison) 20-30 years or something. ... He did about 15 years. He gave up a bunch of corrupt cops and got a reduced sentence as a result."
Washington says he had to persuade venerable actress Ruby Dee, who played Lucas' mother, to slap him in a scene in which she tried ti dissuade Lucas from going afoul of the law.
To see photos highlighting Washington's careerr, click here.
"She steals the movie!" Washington marveled. "She steals the movie."
When Smith suggested Washington's performance could earn him a sixth Oscar nomination, he laughed, saying, "Six is good. Six is a nice number!"