Doing It For Antwone
One mantra that Director Denzel Washington repeated to the cast and crew
throughout the production of ANTWONE FISHER was "We're doing it
for Antwone." The concept was meant to keep everyone's thoughts attuned
to the story of a man who found hope and love through the help of an
outstretched hand. In turn, the filmmakers sought to give back to the
communities that supported them during the shoot.
In the Cleveland neighborhood where the scenes of Fisher's youth and
homecoming were shot, the filmmakers went out of their way to leave the urban
area and its people in a better place than when they arrived. Structures like
the apartment building where Eva Mae Fisher lived in the film and the house that
was shot as Fisher's foster home were renovated and/or reinforced. Members of
the community were hired to work on the production or as part of its
preparation, and always Washington was out and about meeting people, shaking
hands and offering thanks for their help in telling this great story of human
perseverance and hope.
Academy Award-winning Director of Photography Philippe Rousselot leapt on
board the project after reading Fisher's script and learning that Washington,
who he had previously worked with on REMEMBER THE TITANS, would direct. From
their first meeting about the film, Rousselot had great confidence in Washington's
abilities. "He is naturally gifted. He is a very bright man, full of
enthusiasm and very convincing that he wanted to do this project."
Additionally, Rousselot had had good luck with another actor-turned-director -
he served as director of photography under Robert Redford on A RIVER RUNS
THROUGH IT, for which Rousselot won his Oscar.
Coates joined the filmmaking team both for the opportunity to work alongside
Washington and for the chance to work with such important and moving material.
He says, "It's rare to work on something that affects you so
The film shot two weeks in Cleveland, capturing the Glenville neighborhood of
Fisher's youth, five weeks in San Diego, utilizing the U.S. Navy bases of 32nd
Street, North Island and Point Loma, and aboard the USS Belleau Wood. Despite
the increased complexity of shooting in a city with few experienced crew members
(Cleveland) and on naval bases suffering from the aftermath of September 11, the
filmmakers agreed from the beginning that it was important to be in these
historically correct places in order to capture the true essence of the story
that inspired Fisher's screenplay.
About Cleveland in particular, Black says Fisher had painstakingly included
every detail of the neighborhood in the script. "There's something
distinct about the rainy days...the lack of sun...the buildings, the smell. When
you watch the film, there's a smell to it that Antwone described. And we
wouldn't have gotten it in any other city."
San Diego was important to the story in conveying the sharp contrast to those
rainy days and reflecting the feeling of hope that pervaded Antwone's life
there as a naval petty officer. "Obviously, this
story is a love letter to the Navy," Coates says, and credits them for
their willingness to cooperate. Washington adds, "I have to really take my
hat off to the Department of Defense and the Navy specifically because they bent
over backwards for us. They allowed us to film on their base. They allowed us to
go out on their ships. It's not a big-budget picture. We didn't have a lot
of money to spend. Without their help, we wouldn't have gotten any of the size
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