The Equalizer Franchise Could Make Denzel Washington The Next Victim Of AI De-Aging

Honestly, what can't Denzel Washington do? Last seen on the big screen delivering Shakespearean monologues like an absolute force of nature in Joel Coen's "The Tragedy of Macbeth," the star has already lined up his next major project with Ridley Scott for his "Gladiator" sequel and continues to add action cred to his name with the ongoing "Equalizer" series. But pretty much the only thing out of the 68-year-old Washington's control is the passing of time and, despite hardly aging a day in the last decade or two, director Antoine Fuqua has sought to get in front of that issue for a potential follow-up to "The Equalizer 3" down the line.

On the face of it, tinkering with the idea of digitally de-aging arguably one of the most recognizable actors on the planet doesn't sound like the greatest approach. (That's exactly what stopped Christopher McQuarrie from doing the same thing with Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning," in fact.) But it would certainly open the door for new stories to tell with Robert McCall in the "Equalizer" franchise. Fuqua said as much to NME in a recent interview (via Variety), touting the technology as a game-changer and possibly a method of choice for another "Equalizer" film:

"I definitely thought about it a lot. Especially now with the new technology and the AI and all of that kind of stuff ... Is there a story to be told about how [McCall] became this person — the younger version. I've had that conversation with ['Equalizer' screenwriter] Richard Wenk quite a bit."

'I'm kind of watching it to see where it goes'

Obviously, the role of artificial intelligence and the creation of digital likenesses of actors has taken on a very different tone amid the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, as studios have made it abundantly clear that such cost-effective choices would sure beat the responsibility of, you know, paying their hard-working employees and the literal faces of their movies a fair and living wage. Yet as much as the next contract with the AMPTP is more about the majority of actors struggling to make it in the business (as opposed to the mega-stars), even A-listers like Denzel Washington aren't immune to the effects of digital or even AI-assisted manipulation of actors.

If you're wondering what Washington himself might think of such de-aging techniques, well, "Equalizer" director Antoine Fuqua admits he hasn't run it by him just yet. Citing Harrison Ford in "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" as a recent example of how much better the tool has become over the years, the filmmaker appears to be in wait-and-see mode for now. As he put it:

"I haven't talked to Denzel about that yet. It's all so fresh and new. I'm still watching [the technology]. I've watched Harrison Ford's film and I know there's other movies coming out. I think Sony has one coming out with Tom Hanks soon [Robert Zemeckis' 'Here']. And I'm hearing the technology is getting better and better and better. So I'm kind of watching it to see where it goes."

It sounds like any attempt to de-age Denzel Washington remains years away, at best. For my money, it's probably ideal if it doesn't happen at all. In the meantime, "The Equalizer 3" comes to theaters on September 1, 2023.