The Reason Denzel Washington Refused To Kiss Julia Roberts In The Pelican Brief

It is no secret that two-time Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington is one of the greatest actors of our time. Be it his role as Malcom X in 1992, as Alonzo Harris in 2001's Training Day, or as Troy Maxson in 2016's Fences, Washington has repeatedly demonstrated his talents for over 30 years. Plus, aside from his acting chops, Washington's looks make it oh so easy to watch the actor again and again in any film he decides to take on. Even People named Washington the "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1996. Unfortunately for the fans, Washington is married and has been for over 35 years, so the only women lucky enough to cozy up next to Washington are his on-screen counterparts... except for Julia Roberts, of course.

The Pretty Woman actress called Washington her "beloved friend" and thanked him for his advice to "just act" during an interview with ABC News in 2015. She gushed that he is "the best actor of this generation hands down" and was even responsible for bringing on Washington to their 1993 film The Pelican Brief. Similar to Washington, Roberts was voted People's "Most Beautiful Woman in the World" a whopping five times. But, if they are such good friends, why was Washington so adamant about not kissing Roberts on-screen? Turns out it had more to do with the fans than Roberts herself.

Denzel Washington didn't want to upset his fan base

Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts admitted that she personally requested Denzel Washington play her love interest in the 1993 film The Pelican Brief. "I had suggested him from the beginning, and he did amazing things with a character that didn't look like much on paper," the Erin Brockovich star said (per Newsweek). "What more could you want?" However, fans of the movie often wonder how the film can follow the two without an on-screen kiss — something Roberts gets hammered for often.

"I have taken so much s**t over the years about not kissing Denzel in that film," Roberts told Newsweek in 2002. "Don't I have a pulse? Of course I wanted to kiss Denzel. It was his idea to take the damn scenes out."

Washington reportedly wanted the scenes removed after receiving bad reactions from Black women while test screening 1989's The Mighty Quinn. The film featured Washington kissing actress Mimi Rogers. "Black women are not often seen as objects of desire on film," Washington told Newsweek. "They have always been my core audience." The actor decided to stay true to his audience and not anger the Black female moviegoers who supported his career with an interracial kiss.

Denzel Washington cut interracial romance scenes multiple times

Actor Denzel Washington's caution of interracial on-screen kisses is reportedly nothing new.

In the 1995 sci-fi movie Virtuosity, Washington plays Lt. Parker Barnes opposite actress Kelly Lynch, a white woman, who plays Madison Carter. At the time, the actress told A.V. Club that Washington's reasonings for his no interracial kissing rule was less about his Black female audience, and more about white men.

"He said, 'You know what, Kelly? I hate to say it, but, you know, white men bring women to movies, and they don't want to watch a Black man with their woman,'" said Lynch, according to the Washington Post.

Fast forward to 2004, rumors surfaced that Washington was behind the cut of a love scene between him and Australian actress Radha Mitchell in the film Man on Fire. According to TODAY, Washington again was concerned about the audience reaction to an interracial romance.

However, turning a new leaf, Washington's spokesman dismissed the rumors, saying he did not ask for cuts and that decade-old speculation that the actor was responsible for the deleted scenes with Julia Roberts in The Pelican Brief was also false, contradicting what Roberts has said herself.

Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts are working together again

Although rumors about actor Denzel Washington's longtime refusal for on-screen interracial romance are still somewhat, just rumors, Washington's reluctance to confront the gossip leaves many questions as to what really happened on which set.

After the Man on Fire debate sparked in 2004, a studio rep for the film confirmed that there were scenes cut but added, "I don't think there was any agenda. And if there was, I probably wouldn't tell you."

Eight years later, Washington would share an on-screen kiss with a white actress in 2012's Flight. The actor shocked movie critics who were aware of Washington's hesitation with interracial romance in cinema, as he kissed actress Kelly Reilly to seemingly little audience reaction.

In July 2020, Washington and actress Julia Roberts announced they would rekindle their work relationship and join forces on-screen again for a Netflix adaptation of the novel Leave the World Behind, according to Variety. The film reportedly covers the "complexities of parenthood, race, and class."

Although it is unclear if maybe, Roberts might finally get a Denzel Washington kiss.