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Denzel Washington on longtime friendship with Sidney Poitier: ‘He was the beacon’

“It was an honor to be able to call him a friend,” Washington told TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

Denzel Washington is trying to process the death of Sidney Poitier.

The legendary and trailblazing actor,  who was the first Black male actor to win an Academy Award, died last week at the age of 94.

“I haven’t had time to reflect,” Washington told Hoda Kotb Tuesday on TODAY. “You know, we had a 40-some-odd-year relationship, so I’m still digesting all of that and he was the beacon. He was the one we all followed and it was an honor to be able to call him a friend.”

Sidney Poitier is congratulated by Denzel Washington as he accepts the Life Achievement Award at the Sixth Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on March 12, 2000.Lucy Nicholson / AFP via Getty Images

Poitier was the first Black actor nominated for an Oscar for best actor, for the 1958 film “The Defiant Ones.” He would become the first Black actor to win an Oscar when he broke through in the best actor field in 1964 for “Lilies of the Field.”

A Black actor would not win best actor again until Washington himself did it in 2002 for “Training Day,” although he did win a best supporting actor Academy Award for “Glory” in 1990.

Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington shared a close bond.Kevin Reece / WireImage

While accepting his trophy for “Training Day,” Washington made sure to shine a light on Poitier, who was on hand at the ceremony to receive an honorary Academy Award.

“Forty years, I’ve been chasing Sidney. They finally give it to me. What do they do? They give it to him the same night,” he joked.

“I’ll always be chasing you, Sidney. I’ll always be following in your footsteps. There’s nothing I would rather do, sir. Nothing I would rather do.”

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