Oscar-winner Denzel Washington teams up with his Crimson Tide and Man on Fire director, Tony Scott, for the dramatic thriller, Déjà Vu. Washington stars as an ATF agent investigating the bombing of a ferry loaded with military personnel and their families. Although he's used to working on high profile cases and coordinating with other government agencies, this particular incident is something completely out of the ordinary. His hunt for the bomber takes him on an extraordinary journey unlike anything he's previously encountered.
Reuniting with Tony Scott: This is Washington’s third time working with director Tony Scott and his third time with producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “Needless to say, we've had tremendous success," said Washington. "I like working with Tony. I hope to do more movies with him. I must be the first person in the business to work with Tony Scott and Ridley Scott in the same year. Obviously Tony and Jerry know what they're doing. When they call me and say, ‘Hey, we've got this idea and this is what we want to do,’ then I listen.”
How do the two Scott brothers compare? “I don't know. Tony likes to draw. He's an artist, so he draws a lot of storyboards and all that stuff. Maybe Ridley does too, but I don't see them. It feels like he's more seeing what happens on the moment and adjusting. But I don't know what type of preparation… I know Tony more because I've done three films with him. As [to how] it will all turn out, we'll see. Obviously Ridley knows what he's doing. He's made some good pictures. It’s good working with him.”
Chemistry and Working with Paula Patton: There’s more of a romantic storyline in Déjà Vu than what audiences may pick up in the film’s trailer. Washington’s character is drawn to a woman he first views on a slab in the morgue. Asked about the onscreen chemistry between he and Paula Patton, Washington explained. “You know, Tony Scott said, ‘I've got this girl. You don't know her. She hasn't done anything, but she's right for the part.’ I read with her and I was not nervous, but just like…well, she hasn't done anything. But she's a wonderful person. …[She has] a lot of energy! But she's a lovely girl. She’s a sweetheart. He was right. She has this quality that you want to care about. You want to take care of her.”
Washington said he doesn’t know going in when the chemistry is going to work. “No, you don't. I mean, you know if you like the person. You don't know how it's all going to work together. No, to answer your question, you don't know. You know, when it really hit home was - and we didn't get to shoot it until the last month when we came back to L.A. - which was when we shot all the laboratory stuff. The love story really evolves or develops with me looking at her onscreen, seeing her in her private life. So we actually shot all the scenes when I'm actually with her in New Orleans, and then I got to see why I’m supposed to be feeling the way I feel in the scenes we shot in New Orleans when we were in L.A. But the camera sure likes her, that's for sure.”
Shooting Out of Sequence and Character Motivation: Washington admits that shooting the scene where he first looks at Paula Patton’s character’s dead body earlier on during filming might have helped him understand why his character so needs to help her out. “You know, yeah, he’s got a job to do. It would have been interesting to see had we shot all these scenes of me looking at her first before. I don’t know if that would have changed things, but I already kind of got to know her anyway, the woman, the actress, but it may have been different or better or something, or more interesting had I actually shot those other scenes first.
When I finally saw those scenes, I had never seen them, when I saw them I was like, ‘Whoa,’ especially that one shot where she looks like she’s looking right in my face, with her big face up there. I was like, ‘Okay…,’ because I wasn’t so sure. The producers or somebody kept talking about, ‘Well, it’s a love story,’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know if it’s all that,’ but that was before those scenes. Then once we did those scenes I was like, ‘Okay, it’s a little strange.’ But that’s what’s unique about it, this film, is that he meets someone who’s not alive and then he gets to spend four days watching someone. Well, maybe there are people who do that actually. I didn’t think of that, that the government does do that...”
Getting Into the Character of an ATF Agent: “Tony, like myself, likes research. He always tracks down real guys who do [the job]. You know, we did it with Man on Fire. We did it with Crimson Tide and we did it with Déjà Vu.
Jerry was an ATF guy who was instrumental in figuring out the Oklahoma City bombing. We used his methods and applied it directly to this film. They found small pieces of plastic in the destruction of the Federal Building, they identified it, tracked it, found out it came from barrels, found out where they were made, found out where they were purchased and worked their way back. They already had McVeigh at that time, but they were able to connect him to those things. We took that directly and applied it to our story. When he would get very tired working twenty, thirty, hours at a time, he said, ‘If you brush your teeth it’s like getting an hour’s sleep.’ I put that in the movie. I brushed my teeth in the scene, so I like as Tony likes, finding real people.”
That Feeling of Déjà Vu: Yes, Washington has experienced it before. Yes, Washington has experienced it before. “You know what? I had one today. I'm going to get the mail out of the mailbox and I'm walking around. I'm out on the street by my front gate and I've got a feeling somebody's going to drive by, so I just stood out there. A white truck comes by and it stops, and it backs up, and it's Eddie Murphy. I just had a feeling somebody was — I'll just stand here another second. And it wasn't 10 seconds he drove by and gave me the whole scoop on Dreamgirls. He said [Jennifer Hudson] is stealing the movie.”