BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., (Reuters) – Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington joined the ranks of Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro when he was awarded the Golden Globe for lifetime achievement on Sunday – only the third black actor to be recognized in the more than 60-year history of the award.
Washington, 61, was presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes ceremony in recognition of his work in front of and behind the camera.
Washington accepted the award flanked by his wife, Pauletta, and three of his children, but said he couldn’t read his prepared speech because he had forgotten his glasses.
“Yeah, I did need my glasses,” he said, chuckling as he fumbled with his speech in his hands.
In his short speech, Washington thanked the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that hands out the Golden Globes, “for supporting me over the years. They always made me feel like a friend or part of the party.”
Washington’s movie roles have ranged from black activist Malcolm X, to a drunk but heroic pilot in “Flight” and a rogue detective in “Training Day” for which he won his second Oscar in 2002.
He also directed and starred in the 2007 film “The Great Debaters” about a professor who coached a debate team from a black U.S. college to national glory, and produced and starred in the drama “Antwone Fisher.”
Known for his ability to play both tough and sensitive characters, Washington is a seven-time Golden Globe nominee who has twice taken home a Golden Globe award.
Washington was introduced by Tom Hanks, his co-star in “Philadelphia,” who said “a single name can define an artist who is a peer and equal of all of greatest legends of our craft. If Washington doesn’t ring out loud enough, then let the first name carry that weight – and that name is Denzel.”
Washington is the son of a Pentecostal preacher who enrolled in college hoping for a career as a journalist before catching the acting bug. He is a devout Christian who has been the national spokesman for the Boys & Girls Club of America since 1993.
Washington is the third black actor after Sidney Poitier and Morgan Freeman to receive the Cecil B. De Mille award. Last year’s recipient was George Clooney. Other honorees since 1952 include Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Frank Sinatra and Robin Williams.