Gold Standard: Denzel Washington is back in the awards mix with TIFF entry ‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’


Remember the Oscar that Denzel Washington almost won earlier this year for “Fences”?

It looks as if he’s going to have a prime opportunity for another chance to earn that third Academy Award this season.

Washington’s latest movie, a legal thriller titled “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” will premiere in a choice slot at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, Sony Pictures announced this morning.

The film, written and directed by Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”), will have its first screening on Sept. 10 at the Ryerson Theatre.


Washington plays the title character, who, per the studio’s synopsis, is a “driven, idealistic defense attorney whose life is upended when a turbulent series of events challenge the activism that has defined his career.”

Colin Farrell costars as Israel’s partner in the firm, a man hiding disturbing secrets that, when exposed, start the whole “turbulent series of events” scenario.

Gilroy earned an Oscar nomination for his original screenplay for “Nightcrawler,” his directorial debut. That chilling 2014 film proved a superb showcase for Jake Gyllenhaal, playing a creepy news cameraman willing to do anything to satisfy the media’s (and viewers’) appetite for gore.

Early reports described “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” as a drama in the vein of “The Verdict.” That probably means they’re both stories of redemption because, tonally, that 1982 Sydney Lumet movie would seem miles apart from what Gilroy did in “Nightcrawler.”

However it shakes out, the addition of Gilroy’s movie adds even more depth to what is shaping up as a potent 2017 edition of the Toronto fest.

It will also require festival-goers to make a hard choice at TIFF that Sunday evening as Darren Arronofsky’s highly anticipated psychological horror film “Mother!” will host a splashy premiere at roughly the same time as “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”


Press and industry types can catch “Mother!” earlier that day, though that will involve a particular horror of its own — waking up on a Sunday morning in time to make what’s sure to be an overflow 9 a.m. screening.

See the most-read stories this hour »

Twitter: @glennwhipp