Though the major themes explored at this year's Sundance Film Festival range from the usual (number of female directors, the young actors who will be breakout stars) to the bizarre (how many kinky sex movies are in this year's fest?), there's a smaller one that may turn out to be the most compelling.
Starring in NEXT category selection Blue Caprice, Isaiah Washington shows his talents haven't wavered in the six years of being shut out from mainstream roles after using a homophobic slur on the Grey's Anatomy set.
If you need a refresher, in the fall of 2006, at the height of his career starring in one of the biggest shows on TV, Washington insulted costar T.R. Knight with a homophobic slur. And things didn't get any better when, after the show won Best Drama at the Golden Globes in 2007, Washington grabbed the mic in the press room and stated, "I never called T.R. a faggot." (Knight would later tell Ellen DeGeneres that he did.)
The remarks drove a stake into Washington's career, as he was bounced off the show and shut out of Hollywood. This led to Washington starring in straight-to-DVD titles such as Area Q and The Undershepherd.
Can Blue Caprice, a fictionalized telling of the men behind the Beltway sniper massacre, bring Washington back into mainstream work?
If it were based solely on his talents I think there would be no discussion. As the father figure in the Beltway-shooter team, Washington gives a tour-de-force performance. With chilling intensity that often is subtle and calculated (making the performance even more disturbing), Washington's John Allen Muhammad character is one that could have been cartoonish or over-the-top in the hands of a less talented actor. But Washington, who has always been known for his character roles going as far back as movies like Out of Sight and Clockers, goes all in with the role, which should give him strong consideration for a Best Actor prize when the fest awards are given out next week.
But it wasn't his acting that got him in trouble.
In the post-screening Q&A Washington touched on his troubles, stating that he's been on a "personal journey" for the last six years. That he no longer has an agent or publicist (Blue Caprice director, Alexandre Moors, contacted him via Facebook for the role of Muhammad). As yesterday was the first time he'd seen a final cut of Blue Caprice, he was almost shaking as he answered questions. Admitting that he didn't know this was the movie he was making. "I thought it was going to be more like The Bourne Identity." Which brought out a laugh from the audience.
Looking forward, according to IMDb, Washington has locked down projects with indie vets like John Sayles and Karen Moncrieff, so he seems to be slowly getting back into relevancy again. But if Blue Caprice finds attention here, who knowns what may be in store for Washington this year.
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