He’s also someone who has managed his fame impeccably, keeping his private life largely private. As reporter Michael Hainey says in a new GQ profile of Washington, he is, indeed, a cipher in many ways.
But Washington — who will soon be seen in the movie ”Flight” and, believe it or not, turns 58 in December — does divulge a few personal facts in that GQ story, including some thoughts about Whitney Houston, President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage and his feelings about celebrity.
Here are the five choice, personal tidbits from the interview, teased on the cover of GQ’s October issue.
When Washington made his first appearance onstage , he did so with Ludacris’s dad.
It was during a Boys Club talent show with the elder Chris Bridges, when Washington was 7 or 8.
Washington still spoke somewhat regularly with Whitney Houston, his co-star in “The Preacher’s Wife,” prior to her death.
We were not “‘talk every month’ friends,” he says, “but I talked to her from time to time. And that was a monster drug that got ahold of her, it was a mean one. You can’t go back to that one.”
He adds: “You know, they made her this thing. She had a voice, obviously, but they packaged her into this whole whatever, but she was really just this humble, sweet girl. Me and Lenny [Kravitz], we were talking about her yesterday, and it's more of an example to me or the rest of us to keep it together.”
When asked how he feels about Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage, Washington avoids taking a stance.
At first he responds with, “What did he say about it?” Then, when told what the president said, he asks, “What does that mean?” Ultimately, Washington opts to stay out of the fray on the subject: “You know, I think people have the right to believe what they want to believe. And people have the right to disagree with it.”
Speaking of politics, Washington defines himself as an independent.
“In some ways I'm liberal, and other ways I'm conservative,” he says. “We get so locked in on ‘you have to be this or that.’ It's ridiculous.”
And back to Washington’s approach to celebrity:
“That's not my job to put stuff out there,” says the movie star who plays his life close to the vest. “Sidney Poitier told me this years ago: ‘If they see you for free all week, they won't pay to see you on the weekend, because they feel like they've seen you. If you walk by the magazine section in the supermarket and they've known you all their life, there’s no mystery. They can't take the ride.’ My professional work is being a better actor. I don't know how to be a celebrity.”