When Denzel Washington refused to kiss Julia Roberts in 'The Pelican Brief' to honor 'core audience'

When Denzel Washington refused to kiss Julia Roberts in 'The Pelican Brief' to honor 'core audience'
Denzel Washington once refused to kiss his close pal Julia Roberts on-screen (Michael Loccisano, Bryan Bedder/Getty Images, IMDb)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Finding two actors who have chemistry on-screen, especially for intimate scenes, is one of the most challenging parts of making a movie or TV show. Around 30 years ago, Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts worked together in 'The Pelican Brief,' one of the most celebrated legal thrillers ever.

Washington and Roberts, who co-starred in the 1993 thriller still speak highly of one another. However, Washington reportedly denied a steamy kissing scene between them for the movie as he is said to be very sensitive to how his fans respond to him in interracial scenes.


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Why did Denzel Washington refused to kiss Julia Roberts?

Denzel Washington made his Hollywood debut in the early 1980s, and his breakthrough performance in 'A Soldier's Story' brought him widespread fame. He is said to be so powerful in Hollywood that any production team he is working with usually complies with his requests. In particular, Washington, 68, repeatedly avoided kissing some on-screen ladies, including Hollywood diva Roberts.


Washington's resistance to these scenes isn't the result of any feuds with other people or a subdued distaste; rather, it stems from the criticism he received for a movie he appeared in almost 30 years ago. Washington seems worried about how audiences might react to an interracial kiss. He had previously faced criticism from Black women during a test screening of the 1989 film 'The Mighty Quinn' and had made the decision not to conform to Hollywood's standards of beauty, as per Newsweek.

Washington played a famous British soldier in 'The Mighty Quinn' but his performance divided his fan base. In one scene, Washington and his co-star Mimi Rogers shared a passionate kiss. Reportedly, Washington asked to have the kissing sequence deleted from the movie after noticing several Black women booing it at the screening. "Black women are not often seen as objects of desire on film. They have always been my core audience," Washington told Newsweek in 2002. 


Denzel Washington attends
Denzel Washington denied doing a steamy kissing scene with Julia Roberts on 'The Pelican Brief' (Ivan Romano/Getty Images)

'Of course I wanted to kiss Denzel'

People initially thought that Roberts had decided to remove any love scenes. But she told Newsweek that was untrue by saying, "I have taken so much s**t over the years about not kissing Denzel in that film. Don’t I have a pulse? Of course I wanted to kiss Denzel. It was his idea to take the damn scenes out."


Julia Roberts attends the premiere of Universal Pictures'
Julia Roberts said it was Denzel Washington's idea to take the kissing scenes out of 'The Pelican Brief' (Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)

According to speculations, Washington also fought to have scenes starring him and Australian actress Radha Mitchell from the movie 'Man on Fire' deleted for similar reasons, but the star's agent denied it to Today. However, by the time 'Flight' was released in theaters, it appeared that Washington changed his mind about on-screen interracial love scenes when he didn’t refuse to kiss the English beauty, Kelly Reilley.

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 When Denzel Washington refused to kiss Julia Roberts in 'The Pelican Brief' to honor 'core audience'