Training Day director Antoine Fuqua says he knew the scene from the film that would get Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke nominated for an Oscar. In the film, Washington plays seasoned-but-dirty cop Alonzo Harris, tasked with evaluating Ethan Hawke’s Jake Hoyt for promotion into the undercover unit, though his trainee soon realizes the job is much more than he bargained for. The cast also includes Eva Mendes, Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger, Cliff Curtis, Raymond Cruz, Raymond J. Barry, and Dr. Dre, with a script by Suicide Squad‘s David Ayer.
Washington was nominated for (and won) Best Actor while Hawke was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 2002 Oscars. Hawke would be nominated again for his performance in Richard Linklater’s boyhoodwhile Washington has been nominated a total of nine times for his acting work, winning for both Training Day and 1990’s Glory. Fuqua directed both actors again in the remake of the classic western The Magnificent Seven, and is preparing to direct Washington again in The Equalizer 3.
while talking to THRFuqua reveals he knew Training Day would be a success while filming, particularly during a scene between Washington and Hawke just after they killed the drug dealer played by Scott Glenn. It’s an intense scene, which involves Washington’s Alonzo justifying his actions to Hawke, which Fuqua recognized would be a pivotal moment for both characters. Washington sold the performance, and Fuqua told Hawke that if the two actors nailed that particular scene, then they’d both get Oscar nominations. Here’s Fuqua’s full recollection:
I did, actually. It’s a weird feeling. when [Washington’s] Alonzo and his crew killed [drug dealer] Roger [Scott Glenn]in the car Denzel is saying to [Hawke’s] Jake, “This is chess, not checkers.” I remember making a note on the script that if I can seduce the audience into agreeing with Alonzo, even a little bit, that was going to be something special. And when Denzel started telling Ethan, ‘Roger sold dope to children’ he had tears in his eyes. He was so sincere. I said to Ethan — I’ll never forget it, and Ethan can tell you this story — I said: ‘You guys are getting nominated if you get this scene right.’ Ethan came up to me after filming, he put his arm around me, and goes, ‘I really thought you were losing your mind. I thought, “Antoine’s completely losing his mind.”’ But I was right.
talk of a Training Day sequel lasted for a short while after the film was released, since the original pulled in $104 million globally, a good take for the small budget. While a sequel never happened, Training Day was instead spun off into a TV series, which starred the late Bill Paxton and Justin Cornwell, using the same concept, but changing everything else (it lasted only one season). Fuqua’s next project due for release is Emancipation starring Will Smith, which has yet to get a release date, especially after Smith’s antics at the 2022 Oscars.
Training Day remains an outstanding film by all involved, particularly Ayer, Fuqua, Washington, and Hawke. Washington undoubtedly earned his Oscar as Alonzo, and Hawke made his first venture into action-thriller territory with an amazing performance as well. While a sequel with the two actors would be impossible, given Alonso’s fate at the end, Training Day endures as a modern classic, due largely to the performances that the two key actors deliver, creating a gritty, provoking, and exciting thriller that ranks among the best in the cop genre.