Washington flair ensemble

Denzel Washington can easily make you believe that you know him. He skilfully uses the familiarity audiences feel with a screen star they have watched for years, and adds to it the casual manner of your neighbour or basketball team-mate.

Truth be told, once he could indeed have lived next-door — back in his youth when alcohol seemed the best medicine for confusion and despair. But now he is one of the most respected and bankable actors of his generation, who has proved that being black in Hollywood is not a casting risk and whose skin colour has become completely irrelevant in his work.

The 47-year-old actor says he will always cherish the roles of black men he has played, such as a runaway slave in the civil war epic “Glory” (1989), a South African activist in “Cry Freedom” (1987) and a controversial Muslim leader in “Malcolm X” (1992)…

Costner’s last stand

Kevin Costner has never given up on his search for the people who he reckons are the most “difficult to find”: the ones “who think outside the box”. He looked for them — futilely yet persistently — when he first called himself an actor and hoped that someone would hire an ambitious college graduate without a single acting credit on his CV.

He broke just about every Hollywood rule when he produced, directed and starred in “Dances with Wolves”, the more than three hour-long western epic he had been repeatedly warned against, and it won him an Academy Award for best director, the respect of the film-making community and tens of millions of dollars.

He then defied all modern trends in his business, choosing non-commercial — and often unattractive by many standards — roles, some of which provoked harsh criticism and doubts about his talent. He has invested more than $20m in businesses that haven’t made him a dime, and has been trying for years to build a luxurious resort in the Black Hills of South Dakota, against the will of the Sioux Indians…