Denzel Washington uses his gifts not just for good, but for big bucks.
Denzel Washington's net worth is that of an A-list, bona fide movie star, but the two-time Oscar winner doesn't really consider himself a celebrity: He eschews social media, and you essentially never see him in tabloids or paparazzi snaps. That's by design.
"Sidney Poitier told me this years ago: 'If they see you for free all week, they won't pay to see you on the weekend, because they feel like they've seen you. If you walk by the magazine section in the supermarket and they've known you all their life, there's no mystery. They can't take the ride,'" he told GQ about his decision to stay out of the spotlight outside of his stage and screen offerings. "My professional work is being a better actor. I don't know how to be a celebrity."
Be that as it may, Washington is one of the few stars on the planet with first-name recognition, critical acclaim, commercial appeal and a level of humility that's complemented by an easy confidence. He knows he's good, but doesn't need to rub it in your face—in part because even now, he isn't quite sure if acting is even his true calling.
As he previously told Parade. "I remember sitting in my mother's beauty parlor in Mount Vernon, N.Y., on March 27, 1975, and in the mirror, I kept seeing this woman looking at me. I was doing so bad [sic] in school, and this woman said, 'Somebody give me a piece of stationery! I'm having a prophecy!' I still have that piece of paper. 'You’re going to speak to millions of people,' she said to me. 'You're going to do great things!' And I thought, 'Yeah, right. When's that going to start? On Monday? I'm flunking out of school.' Later on, I asked my mother, 'Who was that woman?' She said, 'It's Ruth Green, one of the elder sisters in the church, who's been known to have the gift of prophecy.' That fall I started acting."
He continued, "A part of me, and I'm being real honest with you, still says, 'Maybe, Denzel, you're supposed to preach. Maybe you're still compromising.' Well, right now, since I’ve been given this ability to act, this must be what Ruth Green was talking about. So then I say to myself, 'Okay, you've been blessed. What are you going to do with it?' I've had an opportunity to play great men and, through their words, to preach. I take what talent I've been given seriously, and I want to use it for good."
Washington uses his gifts not just for good, but for big bucks. Find out Denzel Washington's net worth and how he earned it.
How did Denzel Washington become famous?
Washington first began acting as a child in a local Boys & Girls Club talent show, but it wasn't until he was a student at Fordham University that he considered seriously pursuing the craft—something he largely attributes to his faith.
He graduated with degrees in drama and journalism and attended graduate school before moving to New York City to pursue acting full-time. Washington worked as an actor in the Shakespeare in the Park ensemble, as well as in numerous other stage productions, winning an Obie Award for his role in a 1981 off-Broadway production of A Soldier's Play. He appeared in several TV movies as well as the feature film Carbon Copy in 1981, but it wasn't until 1982 when he nabbed a starring role on St. Elsewhere—one of the only people of color in the entire series' six-season run—that he became a certified star and household name.
What is Denzel Washington's net worth in 2022?
Washington's net worth is estimated at a cool $280 million.
What was Denzel Washington's first big movie?
Washington's first major movie role was as Pfc. Peterson in the 1984 World War II murder mystery film A Soldier's Story, in which he starred alongside heavy-hitters from stage and screen, including David Alan Grier, Howard E. Rollins, Adolph Caesar and Patti LaBelle. The film was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, with Caesar nabbing a Best Supporting Actor nod as well, and raked in more than $21.8 million on a $6 million budget.
How much did Denzel Washington make for Equalizer?
Washington reportedly pocketed $20 million for The Equalizer in 2015. The film grossed more than $192 million worldwide on a $55 million budget. Washington didn't just star in the film—he was also credited as a producer on the project, which was successful enough to get a sequel.
Antoine Fuqua directed the film, and he and Washington famously work quite well together, with Washington getting a Best Actor Oscar for his lead role in Fuqua's Training Day 12 years prior. Washington joked to The Aquarian of their on-set reunion, "Yes, we have the 'brother' meeting every weekend, at the Brotherhood of Black Directors and Black Actors' meeting. No, Antoine is obviously very talented, and we've had some success in the past, and I also look forward to our next opportunity."
How much did Denzel Washington make for Training Day?
Training Day earned Washington his second acting Oscar, as well as a $12 million paycheck.
Director Fuquarevealed to Vanity Fair that one of Washington's most memorable moments in the movie, a speech in which his corrupt cop character says, "King Kong ain't got s**t on me," was improvised.
“The King Kong moment came out of Denzel. I remember that moment because we were doing the scene, and he just started going off," Fuqua recalled. "I remember looking at the cameraman and saying, 'I hope you got that because I don't think we're going to get that again.’ Denzel came over to me and goes, 'Whoo, I don't know where that came from.' It was exhausting for him. You saw him just go there in that place. It was one of those moments where it gave you chills."
Co-star Ethan Hawke, who was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role, said working with Washington was one of the greatest highlights of his career.
"It was like playing music with Miles Davis or baseball with Babe Ruth," Hawke told The New York Times. "Denzel changed my life. To be 30 and get to work with one of the greats of all time? I've never seen anybody be a flat-out better storyteller. He knows what the audience is thinking. He knows how to surprise them. His imagination is so thorough." He added, "The greats can play offense and defense, and most people can't. Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman and Denzel manage to be equally compelling as protagonist and antagonist."
How much did Denzel Washington make for The Equalizer 2?
The Equalizer 2 was Washington's first-ever sequel, and it was a successful outing, grossing $190 million worldwide on a $60 million budget. His exact salary hasn't been reported, but we can assume it was at least around the same $20 million he earned for the first Equalizer installment.
Washington explained to Entertainment Weekly that he reprised his role of Robert McCall because the sequel saw growth and more depth to the character. "For me, that’s the only reason. The only reason is there is a reason. Not just to go blow up some more stuff and run and jump around. There's got to be some kind of story. The actor in me is hopeful there's a good story."
He added of director Fuqua, "We just work well together, and we've had great success together. I know he's a wonderful filmmaker. We've had good success creatively and financially, business-wise. I enjoy working with Antoine. I've worked with three or four directors now three or four times: the late, great Tony Scott, Spike Lee and Ed Zwick. It's cliché, but it is about relationships, and the people you like working with, who you get along with. Life's too short."
How much did Denzel Washington make for American Gangster?
Washington signed on to star in American Gangsterback in 2004 for $20 million, and his contract required him to be paid whether or not the film got made. Due to reported studio differences with Fuqua, who was originally slated to direct the movie, American Gangster got canned—but Washington still got his paycheck. However, Universal later decided to make the film after all with director Ridley Scott—and they had to pay Washington another $20 million, as his original contract was voided once the movie was canceled the first time. The movie's budget ballooned to $100 million, and it grossed more than $269 million worldwide.
Washington said kingpin Frank Lucas, who he played in the film, warned him not to play him as too soft.
"As he said to me over and over, he said, 'Denzel, it's a dirty business and if you choose to be in it you've got to be dirty. There are no nice heroin dealers, they don't make it, and they end up on the sidewalk. You're dealing with crooks all the time; it's just a den of thieves,'" he recalled to Rotten Tomatoes. "As he said to me many a time, he said, 'I would tell you once.' I said, 'What if they just slipped up?' He said, 'I would tell you once.' That was his reputation. You just didn't cross Frank Lucas; you didn't get the opportunity to cross him."
How much did Denzel Washington make for Fences?
It's unknown exactly how much Washington took home for 2016's Fences, but it was a passion project for the star, who acted in, directed, and produced the film adaptation of the August Wilson classic play, for which he previously won a Tony Award.
Washington told NPR of the Pulitzer-winning playwright, "I spent one day with him in 2005 and flew up to Seattle. He wanted to meet... It was just a great day I got to spend with him and ask him questions about how he worked. It had nothing to do with Fences—just ask him his process and just spent the day with him. I had no idea it was the first and the last time I was going to see him, but it was just a lovely, lovely day."
Co-star Viola Davis won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as his Washington's onscreen wife, while he won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor.
"I am a God-fearing man," a shocked Washington said in his acceptance speech. "I'm supposed to have faith but I didn't have faith."
How much did Denzel Washington make for Man on Fire?
Washington reportedly made $20 million for 2004's Man on Fire. The film made $130.8 million on a $70 million budget and grew a cult following.
Washington said of his role as former CIA agent-turned-bodyguard John W. Creasy, "I think that this film was closer to me in some ways. We all struggle with whatever we struggle with. We all have our demons, so maybe it was easier for me to think about that as it relates to me personally, you know, and say, 'Hey, I have this in common with that character or that,' we are all struggling with something in life, or trying to get better or more spiritually strong, or whatever your struggle is. This guy had a tremendous amount of guilt and depression about his job and it led him to drink and led him to this darker and darker place. I haven't been to the depths he’d been to but, but I can relate."
How much Denzel Washington make for The Little Things?
Washington made $40 million for The Little Things, one of his highest salaries ever for a single film. The psychological crime thriller, which co-starred fellow Oscar winners Rami Malek and Jared Leto, premiered during the COVID-19 pandemic and was simultaneously released in theaters and on HBO Max in January 2021. It grossed over $29 million globally, which for a normal year would be dismal—but the film was released when 44 percent of American theaters were still closed and still debuted at No. 1 during its premiere week; HBO Max told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement that the film quickly shot to No. 1 on the platform as well.
In a case of art imitating life, Washington told USA Today that he and Leto gave one another a wide berth during filming as a means of method acting—and like his own character, Washington tailed Leto, sometimes without Leto being aware of it.
"I stayed away from [Leto]. He stayed away from me, respectfully so. We'd bow or nod from across the highway. Literally, one day we nodded across the highway from each other," he said. "I'd follow him around. I was outside of his apartment sometimes and he didn't know. I won't say anything more about it. I'll put it this way, he didn't know."
How much did Denzel Washington make for Malcolm X?
Washington's payday for Malcolm X isn't publicly known, but the 1992 film had a relatively small budget of $33 million, making $48.1 million worldwide. The film was one of Washington's breakout roles, earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. However, he admitted he didn't want to win the Academy Award for Best Actor that year, as he was up against Al Pacino.
"There have been times when I didn't want to win," Washington said previously. "When Pacino won for Scent of a Woman, I was up for Malcolm X. I didn't want to win that time. I would have felt badly. It was Pacino's time."
How much did Denzel Washington make for The Tragedy of Macbeth?
Washington's salary for The Tragedy of Macbeth, hitting theaters on Christmas and Apple TV+ on Jan. 14, 2022, isn't publicly known—but it's fair to assume the megastar didn't come cheap. That said, The Tragedy of Macbeth is shaping up to earn Washington another Oscar nod. His co-star, fellow Oscar winner Frances McDormand, gushed of Washington and Oscar-winning director (and her hubby!) Joel Coen to The New York Times, "The three of us are at the top of our game. Denzel's 66. I'm 64. Joel is 67. We're still taking risks. We're still willing to fall flat on our faces. Working with Denzel was delicious because of all those things."
Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel revealed to The New York Times that Washington would get to the set before dawn to rehearse and go over his title role of the doomed lord who'd become the king of Scotland.
"Denzel was there, always. It was a competition between him and me. He tried to beat me, because he was rehearsing alone for an hour or so on set with no light," Delbonnel recalled. "Just himself walking on set and trying to have a feeling of what he could do."
How much does Denzel Washington make per movie?
Washington reportedly earns an average of $20 million per movie.
How many Oscars does Denzel Washington have?
Washington currently has two Oscars. His first was for Best Supporting Actor in Glory in 1990, when he delivered a moving acceptance speech that included gratitude for the soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment of the Civil War, one of which he portrayed in the film.
Washington's second Oscar was for Best Actor for Training Day in 2002. When presenting the award to Washington, a downright giddy Julia Roberts quipped, "I love my life!"
During his acceptance speech, motioning to screen legend Sidney Poitier, who'd been honored with an Honorary Award (his own second Oscar), Washington joked, "Forty years I've been chasing Sidney, they finally give it to me, and what do they do? They give it to him the same night!" Poitier guffawed and held up his Oscar, to which Washington said, "I'll always be chasing you, Sidney. I'll always be following in your footsteps. There's nothing I would rather do, sir. Nothing I would rather do. God bless you!"
How many movies has Denzel Washington been in?
Heading into the release of The Tragedy of Macbeth, Washington has a total, so far, of 57 film credits for acting.
How many Tony Awards does Denzel Washington have?
Washington won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play for Fences.
"I knew I should have written something down, darn it," he joked. He added a quote from his mother: "Man gives the award, God gives the reward... I guess I got both tonight."
He was nominated for the same honor a second time in 2018 for The Iceman Cometh.