Skip to main content

Actor Denzel Washington found himself collaborating for the first time with Dark Knight star Gary Oldman. As much as Washington admired his work, however, he felt it was in his best interest to maintain distance from his co-star.

Denzel Washington opened up about working with Gary Oldman in ‘Book of Eli’

Denzel Washington sitting next to Gary Oldman at Comic-Con International: San Diego 2009.
Gary Oldman and Denzel Washington | Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

Book of Eli was a new type of movie for Washington. The actor played the titular character in the film, who was the survivor of an apocalypse. What was also new about the feature was working with Gary Oldman for the first time. However, Washington asserted that he rehearsed very little with his Eli co-star.

“We didn’t rehearse a lot,” Washington said in a resurfaced interview with Collider. “You know, he and I got together a couple of times for lunch before we started working, and then we just, I mean, [Gary] is obviously a great actor. And he knows what he’s doing and he’s real meticulous and he gets into [everything]; he’s very specific with clothes and looks and accents and all that stuff.”

Washington and Oldman didn’t completely give each other the silent treatment. But the Oscar-winner felt keeping them apart only helped serve their characters.

“So he and I talked a bit. You know, there’s something to be said for us not wanting to get too close because we’re too strangers who come together in the story, and we didn’t work out a whole lot in advance,” he said.

Likewise, Oldman also confided that he and Washington had few rehearsals together. But the Harry Potter star felt he preferred doing rehearsals more than his co-star did.

“He would get somewhere and go, ‘No, ok, let’s not overcook it, let’s save something,’” Oldman once said in an interview with Tribute Movies. “Or that’s a good idea, let’s do that when the cameras are rolling.’”

Gary Oldman was very impressed by Denzel Washington’s youthful vigor in ‘The Book of Eli’

Oldman and Washington were both in their older ages when they did the Book of Eli. They were in their 50s, with Oldman being a tad younger than his Eli co-star. But Washington dedicated an enormous amount of time getting in fighting shape for the action feature, which took Oldman by surprise.


Denzel Washington Refuses to Compete With Other Actors for Film Roles

You have to admire the commitment to the work,” Oldman said. “Because we’re not twenty. I’m not Tobey Maguire. He just strikes me as someone with such kind of….he’s got energy.”

Oldman couldn’t believe the amount of training he was able to do to get into the role of Eli, especially at his age.

“He had to do six months of all that kung-fu and working on all that choreography. It’s admirable to watch someone sort of do that at that age for a part. Because he’s not a kid anymore,” Oldman added.

But Washington gave a lot of credit to his team for making both him and his fight scenes look good. It also helped that the actor had background in boxing that further benefited his physicality.

“I’m fortunate number one to work with some of the top not only stunt fight guys [like Jeff Amata], but also who has trained under one of the true masters in martial arts, Danny Inosanto. Danny Inosanto and Bruce Lee came up together and [Jeff] was a discipline of Danny Inosanto so we started working a good, I don’t know, five or six months ago. [But] I box; I’ve been boxing for 15 years so I was able to bring my boxing skills to the martial arts, swordplay skills so it was intense, but it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it,” Washington said.