Denzel Washington Wishes He Had Made a Film with Sidney Poitier: 'I Missed That Opportunity'

Sidney Poitier, who made history in his decades-long film career, died at age 94

Denzel Washington, Sidney Poitier
Photo: Kristy Sparow/WireImage; Michael Kovac/WireImage

Denzel Washington has worked with countless A-list talent over the course of his career, but he regrets that he never collaborated with the late Sidney Poitier before his death.

Washington, 67, told Variety he wished he could have shared the screen with Poitier, who died at age 94 Thursday. Washington's Variety cover dropped Thursday, the day before the news of Poitier's death broke.

Speaking to the magazine, the Fences actor/director said he wanted to costar in a film with Poitier, who made history in 1964 as the first Black man to win a Best Actor Oscar for his role in Lilies of the Field.

"God bless him," Washington told Variety, adding, "I missed that opportunity."

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Washington said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE on Friday, "It was a privilege to call Sidney Poitier my friend. He was a gentle man and opened doors for all of us that had been closed for years. God bless him and his family."

Denzel Washington and actor Sidney Poitier
Earl Gibson III/WireImage

Washington introduced Poitier at the 2002 Oscars, when the legendary star was given an honorary award for his work and accomplishments in Hollywood over the decades.

That same night, Washington also took home the award for Best Actor for his performance in Training Day, and made sure to mention Poitier in his acceptance speech.

"Forty years, I've been chasing Sidney — what do they do? They give [an award] to him the same night," he joked, before adding, "I'll always be chasing you, Sidney."

"I'll always be following in your footsteps," Washington continued. "There's nothing I'd rather do, sir."

While Washington looked up to Poitier, the Lilies of the Field actor had a mutual respect for his younger industry colleague. Poitier reflected on Washington winning an Oscar for Best Actor in a 2008 interview, calling the night "a special evening" and commending Washington for "a job most magnificently done."

"It represented progress. It represented the dimensionalizing of the film industry. It meant the embracing of a kind of democracy that had been very long in maturing," Poitier said of Washington's win. "It was an example of the persistence and effort and determination of young people of color — not just African Americans, but Hispanic and Asian people who too were sort of minimalized in American films for too, too long."

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"I paid then and I pay now great respect to Denzel Washington. He has been a quintessential element in the finest of all American actors," Poitier continued.

He added, "[Washington] had taken the concept of African-Americans in films to a place where I couldn't, I didn't. And he has taken it there with the same kind of integrity that I tried to articulate. So I thank him for that."

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