ANTWONE FISHER directed by Denzel Washington, written by Antwone Fisher from his book Finding Fish, produced by Washington, Todd Black and Randa Haines, with Washington, Derek Luke, Joy Bryant. 113 minutes. A Fox Searchlight production. A 20th Century Fox release. Opens Wednesday (December 25). Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
when antwone fisher first sat down to write his memoir, he didn't write a book. He wrote a screenplay. This man's story is wide-screen. And the actor Denzel Washington chose for the lead in Antwone Fisher (see review, this page) appears to be like a character out of a movie, too. But which one?Over dinner, Derek Luke is the picture of courtesy. He listens and watches like a young Denzel, but not quite. He's cagier.
Even in school, he says, he wasn't the showboat but the scared class clown.
"I'm from the projects," he laughs, "so I went to school with a lot of bullies. I would, like, imitate them... in my head."
Luke says he was 10 when he first told his mother that he wanted to be an actor.
"What did she do? Turned off the TV." He smiles. "No, she just said if you still want to pursue it when you get to be 18, I'll let you go. Well, she couldn't stop me.
"My dream," Luke explains, "was to inspire. I like to inspire and I like to change lives. And I saw that TV -- broadcasting -- was an excellent way to change lives. I loved how I felt when I watched The Cosby Show. That's why I wanted to do TV, because of Bill Cosby.
"But I wasn't locked in it. I just wanted to do material that was as important as The Cosby Show."
Now 28, Luke has scored the role coveted by every young black actor in Hollywood. He's living the dream large. But part of him is still back working on the Sony lot.
He confesses he'd like to do a romantic comedy, and it turns out we're both fans of Jerry Maguire.
"Love Jerry Maguire!" he beams, high-fiving me. "My man!
"I was working in the store where they filmed that," he boasts. "Wow. Jerry Maguire."
At 21, Luke left Jersey City for Los Angeles. He worked in the gift store on the Sony lot, where he first met Antwone Fisher. And he "took some acting classes," he recalls, "for about two years."
Then he fesses up. "A handful in those two years. I just like saying two years, you know."
Mostly, he got gigs as a TV extra.
"I hated extra work," he says. "That's like a welfare job. No offence, but they treat you bad, man. They give you all the old cookies. I respect that, but they could have given me a muffin."
Even in his outrage, Luke is unfailingly polite. He can afford to be.
"I always live my dream in my head," he says, chewing his steak with gusto. "I lived my dream in my head so much that I would never come out. For instance, if someone would say, "Are you an actor?' I would say yes, even though I'd be scared because I didn't have a resume.
"If someone asked am I in the industry, I would say yes. "Where have I seen you act?' I'd try to change the subject.
"My reality was my dream. And I didn't forfeit it."
Luke is that most delicate of creatures -- an ambitious ingenue. His innocence is no less genuine than his single-minded drive.
And the movie he's stepped out of?
All About Eve.review
Denzel Washington is a preacher's son, and his lone sin as an actor is his need for respectability. He wants to look not just good, but righteous.If that quality is limiting in an actor, in a director it's fatal. Antwone Fisher shows Washington in his directorial debut struggling mightily with his more appealing self. He adapts the true story of a young sailor (Derek Luke) whose violent outbursts bring him under the care of a Navy shrink named Davenport (Washington). Doctor and client engage in a clash of wills that, as in Ordinary People and Good Will Hunting, reaches for the young man's deep secret. Antwone Fisher is the first film in years to probe black subjectivity. Unlike the countless black genre movies that float on character types rather than specifics, this one peels back the generic skin of an angry black man to reveal something deeper roiling inside. So far, so good. But Washington protects Antwone and his film with needless sugar frosting. Every time Antwone is asked how he feels, he has a Maya Angelou simile at the ready. And his girlfriend (Joy Bryant) is too blindly supportive to be true. Overall, this movie feels too pat. But it builds to a climax that practically guarantees tears, and it features another simmering turn from Viola Davis. On the strength of her work here, in Solaris and Far From Heaven, she's this year's breakout actor.CB