The major headlines coming out of Hollywood these days have many condemning it as a modern-day Sodom, but unabashed Christian Denzel Washington shined like a beacon of hope when he revealed that he prayed every day while shooting Roman J. Israel, Esq.
The soon-to-be released feature film recounts the trials and tribulations of attorney Roman J. Israel. The hyper-idealistic defense lawyer’s life gets turned upside down when his civil rights activist and mentor, William Henry Jackson, passes away unexpectedly.
Attorney Israel is scooped up by an ambitious law firm spearheaded by one of Jackson’s former students, George Pierce. Israel’s civil rights commitment and spiritual beliefs comes under fire when he defends accused killer Langston Bailey.
The 62-year-old Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington recently spoke about prayer and his views about the moral underpinning of the movie. He and Dan Gilroy, who wrote and produced the movie, reportedly prayed and conducted Bible readings every day while making the film.
“God put us together,” Washington said. “We prayed every day, we read the daily Word every day. Dan and I have been prayer partners in this whole collaboration…We were on the same page from day one. We know Who we work for, and we’re just trying to do our best work.”
Although the Hollywood film is not necessarily a Christian-based undertaking, it explores themes such as sacrifice, faith and makes numerous subtle Biblical references. In many ways, it’s a faith-based movie working through issues in a commonly secular justice system.
While this project tests the main protagonist’s moral fabric, Gilroy also wrote and directed the nihilistic drama Nightcrawler starring Jake Gyllenhaal. That picture takes a dark turn that leaves immoral and unethical behavior in the TV news industry grossly unchecked. The pair of movies stand in sharp contrast to each other. However, Gilroy pens similar character quirkiness in this project, but with a moral compass that Denzel Washington was able to relate to on a Biblical level.
“He is Old Testament, he knows the law, but, not to say he doesn’t have faith, but he has faith in the law,” Washington reportedly said in a wide-ranging interview about the project. “His conviction was through the law.”
This isn’t Mr. Washington’s first rodeo when it comes to faith in film. He held down the lead in The Book of Eli that showcased the tribulations and ultimate sacrifice of a blind man delivering a Bible in a post-apocalyptic future, The Preacher’s Wife and the spiritual transformation on political and religious leader Malcom X. The subject matter and themes in “Roman” are intimately familiar professionally and personally for the household name performer. And like Roman J. Israel, Esq., the critically acclaimed actor says he has a calling that stretches back more than three decades and has been reinforced through family.
“My mother said to me when I was 59, she said, ‘Denzel, you do a lot of good. You have to do good the right way and you know what I’m talking about.’ I don’t drink anymore, I don’t do any of those things. I’m all about the message, to the degree that I know it, and I’m unashamed and unafraid to share it.”
Mr. Washington stands as one of a few, strong-willed Hollywood insiders who wear faith on their sleeves and has spoken about the challenges the Social Media Age has on millennials and others.
“It is so difficult to trust that Jesus died for our sins because the mind never shuts off. We know, we know, we know, but we forget, moment by moment,” he said. “What is the long, if not short-term effect of too much information?
“It’s accelerated now. It’s on steroids. It’s moving so fast that it’s almost impossible to keep up. What happens to the part of the brain that figures things out? We better understand that we are addicted to this,” he reportedly said holding up a cell phone. “It’s not its fault, it’s a magnification and a reflection of our own free will.”
In his own way of ministry, Mr. Washington has urged Millennials to also be unapologetic about their Faith and conviction in a similar fashion to this character in the upcoming film.
It has been more than 30 years since Mr. Washington experienced a profound spiritual rebirth and his advice over the years as included putting your slippers under the bed at night, so you have to get down on your knees every morning.
~ 1776 Christian