Incredible $327M Thriller Role Was Denzel Washington's Biggest Mistake

Incredible $327M Thriller Role Was Denzel Washington's Biggest Mistake
Image credit: TriStar Pictures

What's in the box?! …regret.


  • Denzel Washington hasn't made many wrong choices in his illustrious career.
  • However, there is one major role that he regrets turning down.
  • In hindsight, Washington has admitted he was wrong in his assessment of this crime thriller.

Denzel Washington has had an incredible range of roles throughout his career. From a crooked cop in Training Day to a Shakespearean prince in Much Ado About Nothing to a historical activist in Malcolm X, there's no character he can't pull off.

However, as a Hollywood A-Lister Washington is offered more movies than he could possibly say yes to, and he's been asked more than once if he has regrets about any of the roles he's turned down.

Washington could have named any number of characters. After all, he said no to the lead in I, Robot (eventually played by Will Smith ), the part of Curtis Taylor Jr. in Dreamgirls (Jamie Foxx ended up with the part, and got nominated for an Oscar), and the role of Joseph Cinqué in Steven Spielberg 's Amistad (Washington had no desire to play a slave onscreen; the role went to a then-unknown Djimon Hounsou in his breakout performance.)

But the one movie that Washington regrets not being a part of is an iconic crime thriller.

'Too Dark'

Washington freely admits that when he was given the script for David Fincher's 1995 movie Se7en, he thought the script was too dark – or, as he later said in an interview for Grey Goose Vodka – 'too demonic'. Washington turned down the role of Detective David Mills, which then went to Brad Pitt.

Se7evn made nearly 10x its budget back at the box office, and remains one of the most beloved thrillers of all time. It also solidified David Fincher as a major Hollywood talent: although Fincher was entrusted with Alien 3 in 1992, that film was a flop with audiences, and he was otherwise only known for directing Madonna music videos.

After watching Se7en and recognizing the movie as a masterpiece, Washington regretted turning down the part of Mills. However, he has been graceful about the way things turned out, praising the movie and Brad Pitt's performance.

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What's It About?

Morgan Freeman plays Detective William Somerset, a cop nearing retirement but with one more case to solve. He is sent to investigate an elaborately staged and grisly homicide, and gets paired up with the hot headed Detective Mills (Pitt).

When another gruesome murder takes place, the detectives realize that the cases are connected, and that they are on the trail of a serial killer.

Interestingly, the studio that bought the script for Se7en actually agreed with Denzel Washington's analysis: they thought it was much too dark, and insisted on a rewrite with a more upbeat ending.

Luckily David Fincher was sent the original script by mistake, and refused to direct the movie unless he could stick with the darker version. Today it is considered one of the greatest crime thrillers ever made.

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Small Regrets, Big Career

The only other role that Denzel Washington has spoken of regretting is Michael Clayton. That movie, about a professional 'fixer' for a corporate law firm, tempted Washington: he said that the script was one of the best he had ever read, but he was reluctant to commit to a movie being helmed by a first time director (Tony Gilroy).

Once again Washington has been gracious when asked about this choice, saying that he knew he was wrong to doubt Gilroy when he watched the final cut of the movie. Michael Clayton was nominated for seven Oscars in 2007.

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Still, these are small regrets in a stellar track record. Denzel Washington will always be famous for his work in the movies, and not appearing in Se7en or Michael Clayton hasn't done any harm to an illustrious and wide-ranging career.

Sources: OFF SCRIPT, Larry King.