Antoine Fuqua always knew that Training Day would be a success. Before the 2001 crime drama, Fuqua mostly was known for directing music videos for artists like Toni Braxton and Coolio. With Training Day, his sophomore feature, his career as a filmmaker was made.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the director recalls the moment during filming that he knew the movie would be "something special." Training Day stars Denzel Washington as a corrupt Los Angeles narcotics detective, Alonzo, who takes a rookie cop (Ethan Hawke) under his wing. For Fuqua, the epiphany came while shooting the now-iconic "this s—t's chess, it ain't checkers" scene.
"I remember making a note on the script that if I can seduce the audience into agreeing with Alonzo, even a little bit, that was going to be something special," he explains. "And when Denzel started telling Ethan, 'Roger sold dope to children,' he had tears in his eyes. He was so sincere. I said to Ethan, 'You guys are getting nominated if you get this scene right.'"
He was right. Training Day was a critical and commercial success and earned both Washington and Hawke Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively, at the 74th Oscars. Washington won, marking his first Oscar win.
In the same interview, Fuqua also shares his regrets over "the one that got away": 2007's Mafia drama, American Gangster. "And that will always break my heart," he says. "That was a chance for me to work with Denzel again in the genre that I grew up loving."
Fuqua left the project over creative differences and Ridley Scott stepped in to direct Washington in it. (The film would go on to earn two nominations at the 2008 Oscars, for Best Art Direction and Ruby Dee for Best Supporting Actress.) "I didn't know enough then. I don't think I navigated it the way I should have, or had a full perspective and understanding of the business," Fuqua reflects. "You do have to pause and take in the big picture."
Fuqua's latest project is the 10-part docuseries, Legacy: The True Story of the L.A. Lakers, which debuts on Hulu on Aug. 15.