The two African American actors are known for their skill and ability to portray all sorts of characters, reasons for which they were both rewarded by the American Academy. But who do you think is best?
Born June 1937 in Memphis, Tennesse (USA), Morgan Freeman is a well-known American actor, director and producer.
Morgan Freeman graduated from high school in Greenwood, Mississippi. At eighteen, he enters US Air Force and, once his military service is completed, he moves to California to study dance and drama at Los Angeles Community College.
He makes his debut as an actor in 1967 on Broadway in the revival of “Hello Dolly!” The same year he is noted for his performance in “The Nigger Lovers”. On television, it is by playing popular characters in “Easy Reader”, “Mel Mounds” and “Count Dracula” on the show “The Electric Company” (1971) that he became known to the American public.
It is only later that Morgan Freeman is successful in the film industry. In 1987, his role as a merciless hoodlum in Street Smart (1987) won him many awards (Best Supporting Actor presented by the New York Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics), as well as a nomination for a Golden Globe.
“Driving Miss Daisy” (1989) won him a Golden Globe in 1990, a Silver Bear and an Oscar nomination. From then on, he continued having commercial success with his roles in “Glory” (1989), “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991) and “The Unforgiven” (1992)
Morgan Freeman’s characters are often renowned for their wisdom and determination: in 1991, he is a model prisoner in “The Shawshank Redemption”, a lucid and experienced detective facing the impetuous Brad Pitt in “Se7en” (1995), the United States President facing Armageddon from above in “Deep Impact” (1998), Ben Affleck’s CIA director in “The Sum of All Fears” or detective Alex Cross in “Along Came a Spider”.
By the choices he has made, Morgan Freeman has also evidenced a political commitment. Taking up the cause of the black American population, he played Malcolm X in television “Death of a prophet” (1981), an abolitionist in “Amistad” (1997), and denounced the horrors of apartheid in “Bopha!” (1993), his first film as a director.
Now highly popular, he was much in demand with cinema audiences, and he co-starred in the terrorist drama “The Sum of All Fears” (2002), was a military officer in the Stephen King-inspired “Dreamcatcher” (2003), gave divine guidance as “God” to Jim Carrey in the very funny “Bruce Almighty” (2003), and played a minor role in the uneven comedy “The Big Bounce” (2004).
In 2005, at the age of 68, he finally got the recognition he deserved by winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as a former boxer in “Million Dollar Baby”, directed by his faithful friend Clint Eastwood.
Very eclectic, the popular Morgan Freeman appeared in the blockbuster “Batman Begins” (2004) and its sequel “The Dark Knight” (2008), where he plays Lucius Fox. In this supercharged generic “Wanted”, he also shares his experience to novice filmmakers, including Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone”.
In 2009, he played Nelson Mandela in front of the camera in Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus” and Bruce Willis’ mentor in the action-comedy film inspired by a comic book, “Red”.
In addition to his film work, his commanding yet mellifluous voice has also led Freeman to be cast to narrate or host dozens of first-rate television specials covering topics from the American Civil War, the American Film Institute, blues music, the White House and many commemorative events involving the US film industry, most recently as the narrator of the American version of “March of the Penguins” (2005).
Recently, Morgan Freeman has denied the allegations of a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives, who claims that the Oscar-winning actor had recorded an advertisement in his favor.
Born in December 1954 in New York (USA), Denzel Washington is a popular American actor, director and producer.
He was the middle child of the 3 children of a Pentecostal minister father and a beautician mother. Denzel began studying biology at Fordham University, then turned to theater. He spent two years of training at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and played both classic and contemporary plays, such as “When the chickens come home to roost”, where he embodies Malcolm X.
He made his debut on television in 1977 in Bud Greenspan’s “Wilma”. After a film debut in “Carbon Copy” (1981), he shoots “A Soldier’s Story” (1984). The character of Steve Biko, the martyr in the anti-apartheid struggle in “Cry Freedom” (1987) earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
He will finally be awarded the Oscar two years later for his portrayal of “Tripp”, the runaway slave in Edward Zwick’s powerful historical masterpiece Glory (1989).
In 1990, he began a fruitful collaboration with Spike Lee, who assigned him the main character in “Mo ‘Better Blues”. “Malcolm X” follows in 1992, for which Denzel Washington is nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor, and thirteen years later the movie “Inside Man” (2005).
In 1993 he returned to Shakespeare with “Much Ado About Nothing” by Kenneth Branagh. The same year, Jonathan Demme directs turns him into a civil lawyer in Philadelphia. Denzel Washington later plays an investigative reporter in “The Pelican Brief” alongside Julia Roberts (1993) and Gene Hackman’s second in “Crimson Tide” by Tony Scott (1995).
As he becomes successful in Hollywood, he starts landing roles as diverse as “The Devil in a Blue Dress” and “The Bone Collector” (1998). With “Hurricane Carter” (1999), he won the Berlin Silver Bear for Best Actor and was nominated for an Oscar.
In 2002, he became the second American black actor to win an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as a corrupt cop in “Training Day”.
After the success he had with the drama “Antwone Fisher” (2003), Denzel Washington takes the lead as a director, working with notable people such as the Tony brothers (“Man on Fire”, “Déjà-vu”, “Unstoppable”) and Ridley Scott for the movie “American Gangster” (2007).
Most recently, Denzel Washington has revealed that he would like to portray Nelson Mandela in a movie about the life of the former South African president.