Denzel’s Profane Preaching: A Religious Movie for the Rest of Us
November 14, 2012
By Sean S. O'Neil
Flight—a gripping film in which Denzel Washington plays a pilot who miraculously lands a broken plane while drunk and high—opens with a scene of a naked woman smoking a joint. But even amid the sex and drugs, this film makes perfect sense as the latest installment of an acting career birthed in Pentecostal spirit.
Ever since a woman with the “gift of prophecy” signaled a young Denzel out for future preaching prowess, he has been serious about his spiritual contribution to Hollywood film. In 2007 he explained:
"When I was about 20 years old, when I first started acting, I was sitting in my mother’s beauty shop. And a woman just kept looking at me… and she said, 'Someone give me a piece of paper.' And she wrote down a prophecy. She said that I would speak to millions of people, and I would travel the world and preach to millions of people. And I didn’t know what she was talking about. But this was March 27, 1975, 32 years ago now, almost 33 years ago. So my work has been my ministry. In fact, I asked my pastor, years ago, 'Do you think I should become a minister or a preacher?' And he says, 'Well, that’s what you’re doing already.' And he felt, as I feel, that that’s what she was talking about back then."
It is fitting, then, that when Whitaker’s careening plane mercifully settles for a moment into a glide, the wasted pilot clips the wing of a Pentecostal church—sailing over the heads of a white-robed gathering—on his way to a lurching belly-flop in an adjoining field.