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Oprah: Is it true that, at one point during the financial negotiations for this movie, your mother stepped in?

Denzel: I was out of my mind, going back and forth with Harvey Weinstein [The Weinstein Company coproduced The Great Debaters with Harpo Films]. I finally said, "Harvey, what's your mother's phone number? I'm going to ask our mothers to work this out." So they talked, and afterward Harvey said to me, "I don't know what you did, but everything's settled."

Oprah: What did your mother say?

Denzel: I didn't even ask her.

Oprah: Are you proud of what you've done with this movie?

Denzel: I don't go there, Oprah. I don't even know what that means.

Oprah: Well, I'm so proud of you, Denzel.

Denzel: I'm pleased that you're pleased. That's why I asked whether you liked it.

Oprah: The fact that I went through three tissues and smeared my makeup didn't give it away?

Denzel: I just wanted an answer, and now I can move on. I don't read reviews. It's enough for me that you like it.

Oprah: You won't look at the reviews?

Denzel: Well...I might sneak a peek.

Oprah: What do you most want people to get out of the movie?

Denzel: That depends on what they bring to it. As I watched it with you today, I cried—and I haven't cried over this movie in a while. Even the energy of other people in a room can impact the way we see things.

Oprah: After winning two Academy Awards, how important is the whole Oscar® thing to you?

Denzel: I'm about the process.

Oprah: You've been nominated many times—

Denzel: Five.

Oprah: Every time your name is read, even if you don't care about it—

Denzel: I didn't say I didn't care! [Laughs] Every young actor wants to win an Oscar. Years ago I was in a parking lot across the street from Spago, and I could see the stars with their Oscars going into the after party. I said to myself, "I want to do that one day." When I was at Fordham, I recall looking at Avery Fisher Hall and the New York State Theater and saying, "I'm going to work in those theaters." I've had those dreams.

Oprah: What was it like to win the first time?

Denzel: Kevin Kline was in the wings. He'd won the year before [1988] for A Fish Called Wanda. After I got the Oscar and walked offstage, I said to Kevin, "Did that just happen?" It felt like I fell asleep in the mail room and I was going to wake up and find out it was all a dream.

Oprah: Okay, I have to ask you this: In 1996 you were the first black man to be named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive. At that point, did the sex symbol thing intensify for you?

Denzel: Nothing changed. It still hasn't. I don't walk around like I'm the sexiest man alive. Then what happens—do you stop being sexy 365 days later? Don't get me wrong: It's nice. But I don't buy into it. It's another label.


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