Fact Check

Did Denzel Washington Criticize Meryl Streep?

Actor Denzel Washington said that making movies was a luxury, a comment that was unrelated to Meryl Streep's controversial 2017 Golden Globes speech.

Published Jan. 11, 2017

 (Photo Works / Shutterstock.com)
Image Via Photo Works / Shutterstock.com
Denzel Washington criticized Meryl Streep for making a political speech during the 2017 Golden Globes award ceremony.
What's True

Denzel Washington said that making a movie was a luxury,

What's False

Washington's comment was neither about politics nor Meryl Streep, and he made it nearly a month before Streep's controversial Golden Globes speech.

Meryl Streep's speech at the Golden Globes award ceremonies in January 2017 (in which she denounced Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric and criticized him for mocking a disabled reporter) sparked a wide range of reactions. President-elect Donald Trump criticized her on Twitter, critics circulated videos were purportedly showing the actress in unflattering moments (one real, one not), and a fake news story claimed that Streep had been fired from a major movie for "lying about Trump."

Denzel Washington was dragged into the "controversy" when several disreputable web sites published articles reporting that the actor had "SHUT DOWN" Streep and other Hollywood elites who capitalize on their celebrity for political purposes:

Hollywood’s elite just got together to pat themselves and the back and scold the rest of American for electing Donald Trump. But legendary actor Denzel Washington had a harsh dose of reality for his more entitled colleagues.

People like Meryl Streep and Jimmy Fallon like to see themselves as the pinnacle of our society. But Washington said they’re wrong. It’s average Americans who make America great.

The same average Americans who voted for Donald Trump because they are sick and tired of the elitist attitude of people like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep, etc.

At a roundtable discussion with other actors, Washington told his Hollywood colleagues to get off their high horses.

“…people say: ‘Oh, the difficulty of making a movie.’ I’m like, listen, send your son to Iraq — that’s difficult. It’s just a movie. It’s like, relax. I don’t play that precious nonsense.”

The statement attributed to Denzel Washington is real, but — contrary to misleading suggestion — it was not directed at Meryl Streep, had little to do with politics, and was made by Washington nearly a month before the 2017 Golden Globes ceremony.

This quote was taken from a video of a "Director Roundtable" published by the Hollywood Reporter on 14 December 2016. Washington was asked about his worst job and said that before becoming an actor, he had been a garbage man and a postal worker. The actor went on to declare that he was aware that making movies was a luxury and that other people had much more difficult professions:

I was a garbageman, like Troy [his character in Fences]. You get eight hours' worth of work, but you can do it in three. So you can go home as soon as you finish. Post office, you get three hours of work and you make it last eight. I did both. I liked being a garbageman better. But they weren't bad jobs.

It's like when people talk about the difficulty of making a movie — it's like, send your son to Iraq, that's difficult. It's just a movie. It's like relax. I don't play that precious nonsense. Get out of here. Your son got shot in the face. That's difficult. Making a movie is a luxury. It's a gift. It's an opportunity and most importantly it's a gift. Obviously everyone here is talented enough to do this but don't get it twisted. It's just a movie. It's not that big of deal.

Washington was talking about recognizing that he was fortunate to be in his profession, not dissing on actors who use their platform to talk politics or on Meryl Streep in particular.


Belloni, Matthew.   "Director Roundtable: Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington and 4 More on Paralyzing Fears, Cast and Crew Complaints."     The Hollywood Reporter.   8 December 2016.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.