“By The Water Or Sea,” The Cigar Habits of Denzel Washington
There are only a few names in Hollywood that command as much attention as that of Denzel Washington, who over the course of his career has become one of the highest-grossing actors of all time, in addition to directing a few pictures of his own. In this time he has developed a reputation for being calm, affable, and utterly unshakable … characteristics that no one should be surprised to find in an avid cigar smoker.
Though he doesn’t consider himself an expert, Washington made it clear to everyone in a 1998 interview with Cigar Aficionado that, at the very least, he has a firm grip on the spiritual core of cigar smoking:
“The other day I was driving around in the heat. Going around and around. Running my errands. Everybody was beeping their horns and going nuts, so I decided to fire up a Cohiba. I cranked up the stereo and within moments, man, I was so mellow. I was just gone. I was like, ‘I’m not in a hurry, I don’t know why these other 19 million people are in a hurry. I don’t know what’s wrong with them, but I’m fine.”
Unsurprisingly, Washington apparently also enjoys a good stogie every now and then when taking a break from shooting, usually a smaller cigar that better suits the full-schedule of the working father. He has even mentioned that he is not the kind of man to ‘wave around a Churchill’, especially because of the required time commitment. With a net worth of over 200 million, he might be onto something.
Denzel’s Stogies on Screen
In addition to his personal smoking habits, Denzel Washington has portrayed a number of different characters on the silver screen that have shared his appreciation for a good cigar every now and then.
In the 2007 crime thriller American Gangster, Washington worked under the direction of Ridley Scott in order to portray the famous 1960’s drug trafficker, Frank Lucas. Because the real Frank Lucas was working as an advisor on set, he was able to teach Denzel a thing or two about how he did things, right down to the way he held his cigar.
More than a decade before that, Denzel shared the screen with Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide (1995), the story of a young First Officer who incites mutiny aboard a nuclear missile sub. Early in their mission, two men light up what appear to be Montecristo #2’s. Though it is not confirmed, the fact that Hackman’s Captain Ramsey remarks that they were “more expensive that drugs” indicates that they were likely of Cuban-make as opposed to Dominican.
(Spoiler alert: they should have saved the victory cigars for after the victory).
Being a cigar smoker is about far more than what kind of smokes you can afford, or what brand is imprinted on the front of your wrapper. Indeed the most refined cigar smokers are not the least bit interested in the branding or imagery associated with it. Rather, it is the commitment to the ritual of the cigar that elevates the thoughtful smoker to higher planes of peace and relaxation.
Denzel gets it:
“I like the fresh air. I love to smoke on the sea or by the water. I like the quiet that it’s about. I like to take a nice mile walk up and down the beach, take a nice, toasty, single malt with no ice and a good cigar. … It’s odd, because the first time I really smoked a cigar was back before you knew you were supposed to have a good time with them.”
photo credit: celebritysmokingcigar