The 61-year-old actor directs and stars as former professional baseball player Troy Maxson in the upcoming drama movie, and says that despite the feature’s primarily black casting, the film features subject matters that are universal to anyone, regardless of their ethnicity.
Asked by The Hollywood Reporter what insights into black lives ‘Fences’ gives to white Americans, Denzel said: “It could be that it’s not that different. Circumstances, no matter what the colour is, could be similar. Troy’s whole [resentment of his lack of success as a baseball player] … was it his colour or was he just too old? I think he was just too old regardless of his colour. Or, as his friends said, ‘He just come along too early.'”
‘Fences’ – which was adapted from a play written by August Wilson that premiered in 1985 – tells the story of Troy when he creates tension in family after denying his teenage son’s dream of playing football and comes home with the baby he had through an affair, and Denzel says the story is still relevant 30 years later as “it could happen to anyone”.
He said: “The circumstances, again, are universal. It could happen to anyone. I don’t know if it’s more political now given the election or whatever, but it’s a long way from Troy to now because now we’re post-Obama even.”
Previously, Hollywood attempted to get ‘Fences’ made with a white director, but playwright August refused as he said the director needed to have an understanding of black culture, something which Denzel agrees with.
He added: “[Martin] Scorsese probably could have directed ‘Schindler’s List’ and [Steven] Spielberg probably could have directed ‘Goodfellas’.
“But it’s as much to do with the difference in culture as it is with race. We know what hair smells like when a hot comb hits it. That’s a cultural thing.
“We know what that smells like on Sunday mornings, usually church-related or something. In my house, it was getting ready for church and your sister was getting her hair fried.”