With Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, and director Antoine Fuqua topping the box office charts last month with their "Magnificent Seven" remake, it's worth looking back at the first time these three strapped on their guns together: "Training Day."
Released 15 years ago this week (on October 5, 2001), the instant-classic crime drama offered a pioneering, still-relevant look at abusive policing, made a star of Eva Mendes, and won Washington his second Oscar for his atypical villainous role. Still, as many times as you've heard Denzel's Alonzo Harris boast, "King Kong ain't got sh** on me," there's plenty you may not know about the film. So make like Hawke's rookie Jake Hoyt and prepare to be educated.
1. The primary inspiration for "Training Day" was the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart corruption scandal of the 1990s. In fact, Washington chose to wear a goatee in order to resemble Rafael Pérez, an officer central to the scandal.
2. Screenwriter David Ayer, who grew up in an area of Los Angeles affected by the scandal, put his personal knowledge into the story. "I spent a lot of time observing and talking with people who live and work in these areas," he said at the time of the movie's release. "I really wanted to get beneath the surface of what it's like to be a cop out here and how the community looks at them."
3. Fuqua (far right) was raised in a tough Pittsburgh neighborhood. Of power-abusing policemen like Alonzo, Fuqua said in 2014, "I grew up with that. I've seen that. I know that guy. That guy choked me out before. I was just a kid who was playing basketball and walking home with my friends."
As a result, Fuqua said, "I had a love-hate relationship with police officers as a kid. Whether it be color or just feeling powerless. That's why 'Training Day' was so appealing to me, because I had known some black officers who were worse, because they were part of the neighborhood, so they would manipulate that situation."
4.Tobey Maguire, Freddie Prinze Jr., Scott Speedman, Paul Walker, and Ryan Phillippe all auditioned for the role of Jake. Fuqua chose Hawke after seeing the "Reality Bites" star in a TV appearance.
5. For research, the two stars met with several undercover cops, gang leaders, and drug dealers. Hawke even went out on patrol. "I did a bunch of these drive-arounds to figure this whole thing out," he recalled.
6. Fuqua's street background helped the production secure permission to film in some of the most notorious gang-controlled areas of Los Angeles, including the Imperial Courts housing project -- which had never allowed a movie shoot before.
7. Fuqua also put members of both the Crips and the Bloods in the movie as extras. Fuqua came to the project with a street credibility that uniquely prepared him for what was to come. "Antoine Fuqua might be the only director around who can move through Hollywood and the gritty streets of Watts or Rampart or Crenshaw with equal agility," producer Bobby Newmyer said during the production. "And that's what this movie required."
8. "Training Day" features notable dramatic cameos from prominent musicians, including Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and Macy Gray. Fuqua praised the famously laid-back Snoop as a serious, disciplined actor. To play a thug's wife, Gray went undercover herself, wearing a wig and a gold tooth to mingle with neighborhood women.
9. Mendes had played tiny roles in half a dozen movies, but playing Sara, Alonzo's baby mama, turned out to be her big break. She was 27 when she played the love interest opposite 47-year-old Washington. They would work together again a couple years later in "Out of Time."
10. Washington has said he ad libbed the famous "King Kong" line.
11. (Warning: This item contains a major spoiler.) Washington has said that the original screenplay ended with Alonzo escaping punishment for his crimes. Washington said he told Fuqua that the ending felt like a cop-out, and that Alonzo ought to die violently because "the wages of sin is death." Fuqua agreed and shot a bloodier, more cathartic ending.
12. Hawke claimed to have predicted his co-star's Oscar win even before shooting started. "I said to my close friends when I got that job, 'If I do my job right, Denzel Washington will win the Academy Award for this,'" he said in 2014. "It's a Jason Kidd job. You're throwing the passes, and Denzel was making the shots."
13. Similarly, Fuqua claimed he predicted Hawke's nomination for Best Supporting Actor during production, while filming one of Alonzo and Jake's intense conversations in Alonzo's car. The director recalled telling Hawke, "You get this right, Ethan, and you're gonna get nominated for an Oscar."
14. "Training Day" cost a reported $45 million to make. It earned back $77 million at the American box office and another $28 million abroad.
15. A decade after the film's release, there were rumors that Warner Bros. was developing a direct-to-video sequel involving none of the principals behind the original "Training Day," though its script was supposedly written by Antwone Fisher, whose memoir famously became a Washington-directed movie in 2002.
16. The second "Training Day" would supposedly have taken place years later, with a much older-and-wiser Jake mentoring a younger, African-American officer. The rumored project never came to fruition.
17. Nonetheless, there is going to be a small-screen follow-up. Fuqua is developing a "Training Day" TV series for CBS. In the show, an update set in the present day, the races are reversed, with the corrupt-but-effective older cop played by Bill Paxton and the idealistic rookie by Justin Cornwell. It's expected to debut mid-season in 2017.
Police drama about a veteran officer who escorts a rookie on his first day with the LAPD's tough inner-city narcotics unit. "Training Day" is a blistering action drama that asks the audience to decide what is necessary, what is heroic and what crosses the line in the harrowing gray zone of fighting urban crime. Does law-abiding law enforcement come at the expense of justice and public safety? If so, do we demand safe streets at any cost? Read More