In the new film Antwone Fisher, everybody endures, prevails and wins in their own individual way. That applies to acclaimed actor Denzel Washington’s directorial debut, to the cast of … In the new film Antwone Fisher, everybody endures, prevails and wins in their own individual way. That applies to acclaimed actor Denzel Washington’s directorial debut, to the cast of mostly young actors performing in their first major film, to the actual subject of the movie. The screenplay is written by Fisher himself.
Antwone Fisher, is the name of a man, his real-life story and a movie with its own real-life adventure, full of an amazing interweaving of people. It all comes together for a moving and heartwarming story about personal triumph and the institution of family. The film opened in selected theatres December 20 and elsewhere Christmas Day.
Although inspiring enough for Washington to make it his first directorial, a healthy fear still set in for what became a sharp learning curve.
“It was the most frightening thing I had ever done in my life,” said Washington. “I was so scared. But once I got going, I was fine.”
For one thing, Washington learned that directors don’t get a lot of sleep.
“I talked to other directors and asked them: ‘Do you get any sleep while directing,’” he said. “You jump up in the middle of the night and realize that you didn’t get a shot, then you start working on the next day.”
But the two-time Academy Award winner also said: “I had a lot of fun, I would definitely do it again.”
Washington further pointed out that, in spite of a mostly Black cast, the story behind the movie is easily powerful enough to transcend all races.
“Abuse is color blind,” said Washington. “It didn’t just happen to (Fisher) because he’s Black. Hopefully, the film will have a universal appeal.”
From jump street, Fisher’s life took a horrible turn. He was born in Cleveland, Oh. to a prison inmate, never knowing his father. That was followed by 14 years with a foster family at whose hand he suffered severe adverse conditions. The young Fisher was abused verbally and emotionally, constantly beaten, tied in the basement and ultimately sexually abused.
His foster parents made good on their threats and sent him back to the Child Welfare Agency, resulting in him living in a school for troubled boys. He had enough self-discipline to graduate from high school, but did so while homeless. Within a short time afterwards, he joined the Navy.
The movie picks up Fisher’s saga with his volatile temper leading to continuing fights and on the verge of a dishonorable discharge. As a last resort, he is assigned to psychiatrist Jerome Davenport, played by Washington, who acts as Fisher’s father figure and counsels him into meeting with his past, taking him away from the direction of fighting and on the course of healing.
Fisher’s next chapter comes with his decision to return to Cleveland and find his real family. Shooting the film on location at Fisher’s old neighborhood in Cleveland and using actual people from the community makes for emotional scenes about family values. One possible strong factor to the success of Antwone Fisher is that everyone involved eventually developed deep attachments to the project. Joy Bryant, who played Cheryl, Fisher’s love interest, was no exception.
“When I read the script, I cried three times,” said Bryant, who at first was a model while enrolled at Yale University. “Because I know people like Antwone who has been through, if not the same, then worse, it really, really touched me.”
In an amazing crossing of paths, Derek Luke, who played Fisher, actually had become friends with the real Antwone Fisher while he wrote the screenplay. They met while he was a gift shop employee at the Sony Pictures studio, where Fisher was employed as a security guard. Outside of that, he never really studied for the role, but being raised in the inner city in New Jersey, he related very well with Fisher’s background.