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The Truth About Will Smith’s Relationship With Denzel Washington

On February 27, actor Will Smith took home a 2022 SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Richard Williams in “King Richard,” according to People. This is the first SAG Award for Smith, despite the fact he was nominated in the category prior to his big win. “King Richard” follows the early careers of tennis professionals Serena and Venus Williams, and showcases how their father helped them reach stardom.

“The combination of working on ‘King Richard’ and the work I had to do as an actor, I was doing it while I was working on the book,” Smith shared, referencing his 2021 memoir “Will,” per People. “So I was mining my childhood, I was, you know, really trying to understand my relationship with my father as I was trying to understand Richard Williams and then my parenting with my kids. It’s been a time of deep personal reflection, and it is resulting in an artistic comprehension and a growth as a man, growth as an artist, that I’ve never had this kind of growth spurt in my life.” Per The Hollywood Reporter, Smith beat out actors Andrew Garfield, Benedict Cumberbatch, Javier Bardem, and Denzel Washington to secure his SAG Award. But despite vying for the same award, Washington’s celebration of Smith’s win displayed the strength of their enduring friendship.

Denzel Washington encouraged Will Smith ahead of his SAG Awards win

As Will Smith walked on stage to accept his SAG Award on February 27, his longtime friend and mentor, Denzel Washington, gave Smith a standing ovation. Following the win, Smith spoke to People about his enduring friendship with Washington, and of how much the fellow actor’s support has meant to him over the years. “We’ve spent a lot of time together. So we’ve been talking, he’s always been a mentor for me and he grabbed me and he said, ‘This is your year,'” Smith told People. “He just hugged me and he said, ‘I’m so happy for you. Just love who you’re becoming.’ He knew me years ago, I would go to Denzel for advice so he’s seen me through the years and he was just telling me how proud he is of who I’ve become and what I’ve become. He was saying that he felt like a weight was lifted off of his shoulders somehow.”

In the months leading up to their face-off at the 2022 SAG Awards, many had compared the two actors’ careers, despite the fact that Washington and Smith had taken decidedly different paths. When asked about this “Will versus Denzel” debate during an interview for Two Bees TV, Washington joked that Smith would win the battle between the pair. “He has a lot more money than me,” Washington said.

Denzel Washington helped Will Smith through a rough patch

Denzel Washington didn’t just support his friend Will Smith at the 2022 SAG Awards, but he was there for the entertainer when Smith was going through a rough patch. As “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” star told GQ in September 2021, he felt a bit lost towards the end of his forties. Despite his international acclaim and large support system, Smith was still unhappy. Thankfully, a phone call with his friend, Denzel Washington, helped him find the inspiration that he needed to pursue a different kind of happiness.

“Throughout the years, I would always call Denzel,” Smith told GQ. “He’s a real sage. I was probably 48 or something like that and I called Denzel. He said, ‘Listen. You’ve got to think of it as the funky 40. Everybody’s 40s are funky.’ He said, ‘But just wait till you hit the f***-it 50s.’ He said, ‘Just bear with your 40s.’ I stopped and I was like, ‘The funky 40s and the f***-it 50s.’ And that’s exactly what happened. It just became the f***-it 50s, and I gave myself the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do.” After receiving this advice from Washington, Smith set out to find happiness by renting a house in Utah by himself for two weeks, traveling to Peru, and even doing some stand-up comedy while opening for Dave Chappelle, according to the outlet.

Denzel Washington has said that he doesn’t want to be friends with other celebrities

Despite the fact that Denzel Washington has a few high-profile friends (including Will Smith), the “Fences” star told The Guardian that he has avoided making friends with other actors and celebrities. “I don’t have any actor friends,” Washington told the outlet. “My friends are old friends. One’s an ex-music guy, the other’s a restaurant owner and the other’s an ex-pro ballplayer. … Maybe I’m not a butt-kisser, maybe I’m not a schmoozer. I’m not about to go to a party to try to get a job. And then when you have kids, the other friends become other parents. My wife [Pauletta Washington] and I were raised right. I don’t want movie-star friends. And being African American, there were no big movie stars to hang out with anyway, not when I was starting out, they were just the third guy from the back! For whatever reason, I never befriended white actors.”

Per People, Smith and Denzel have not yet starred in any films together. Despite Washington’s aforementioned attitude when it comes to befriending A-listers, it seems that Smith has still felt compelled to reach out to Washington for advice, support, and encouragement. Perhaps it’s a good thing for both men that Washington has thus far obliged.



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