British actor Cary Elwes: It was ‘beautiful' to work with Denzel Washington

Washington has been honoured with a lifetime achievement award by the American Film Institute.

British actor Cary Elwes said working with Denzel Washington on an Oscar-winning film was “beautiful” as the US star was honoured with a lifetime achievement award.

Washington, 64, was presented with the award by the American Film Institute (AFI) in recognition of a Hollywood career spanning more than four decades.

Elwes starred alongside the actor in the 1989 American Civil War movie Glory, which earned Washington his first Academy Award, and said he and his co-stars knew they were seeing something special.

Cary Elwes
British actor Cary Elwes said he knew he was seeing something special when starring alongside Denzel Washington in Glory (Ian West/PA)

Speaking ahead of the AFI ceremony in Los Angeles, he told the Press Association: “I remember how beautiful it was to watch him, just the first day of rehearsal. I ended up going to watch him at work every day I was available.

“Whenever I was not working I’d go and watch him and Morgan (Freeman) just hoping that something of their genius would rub off on me because I’ve been big fans of their work for a long time.

“They were so sweet and Denzel, of course, the part he played was so brilliant, absolutely brilliant. We all knew, I don’t want to sound like we’re all know-it-alls, but we did kind of know, watching him work, this guy is going to get some kind of accolade for this performance.

“He was so brilliant.”

47th AFI Life Achievement Award – Show
Actor Denzel Washington bows to the audience as he arrives for the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Washington starred as Private Silas Trip in Glory, which tells the story of a predominantly African American military unit during the civil war.

He won an Oscar for best supporting actor for the portrayal, and won his second Oscar, this time for best actor, for 2001’s Training Day in which he played corrupt police officer Alonzo Harris.

His other films include Malcolm X, Remember The Titans and American Gangster.

Elwes, known for starring in The Princess Bride, said his favourite Washington performance came in 1999’s The Hurricane, which saw him play the wrongly jailed boxer Rubin Carter.

47th AFI Life Achievement Award – Arrivals
Honoree Denzel Washington, right, with (from left) Malcolm Washington, Katia Washington and Pauletta Washington arrive at the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Elwes said: “I really love that one. I love seeing him play characters when he’s the underdog trying to win over the day. Hurricane Rubin Carter, that performance was just phenomenal.”

“The guy’s never made a bad movie, he’s fascinating to watch in everything he does,” he added.

Washington’s career was honoured during a ceremony at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, with director Spike Lee and Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan among a star-studded audience.

Washington was the 47th actor to receive the accolade and previous winners include George Clooney, Jane Fonda and Tom Hanks.

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