Denzel Washington and Damien Chazelle's Oscar journeys were paved with doubt

ABC/Randy Holmes(LOS ANGELES) — Oscar Sunday is just a few days away, and a couple of favorites to walk home with statuettes are Fences director and star Denzel Washington and La La Land director Damien Chazelle.  While directing any feature film is a challenge, Chazelle tells ABC News he faced a six-year battle just trying to get La La Land made, a struggle that even had him second-guessing himself.

 “I had just been hearing the word ‘no.’ No, no one wants to see that, no one would ever go pay for that, why do you want to make this, this is a waste of time,’” Best Director nominee Chazelle recalls. “So I think those phrases were still circling through my mind even when the movie was done.”

However, the movie’s 14 Oscar nods proved what Chazelle had suspected all along: “Actually I think musicals are more universal than we think…But they’ve gotten on, like there’s a reputation, or preconception about musicals that I wanted to try and shoot down with this movie.”

Fences is a Best Picture contender, but Washington — a two-time Oscar-winning for acting — tells ABC that he wasn’t sure about making the movie until he did the play, explaining, “We had the most nominations, I think, in the history of the Tony Awards for a play, obviously great success, Viola [Davis] won, I won, best revival all that. So I knew OK, it works.  Now, can I work as its director is the question.”

To that end, Washington says he was helped by the talented directors with whom he’s worked in the past. “I’ve learned from Jonathan Demme and Norman Jewison, Richard Attenborough, Ridley Scott,” Washington says.  “I’ve learned taken and stolen from everybody. The greatest directors.” 

The 89th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, air Sunday, February 26 at 7 p.m. ET on ABC.

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