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September 29, 2014

Denzel Washington's Op Ed explains that, after more than three decades in the movies, he's gotten really good at using fake guns.

Denzel Washington

I don’t know if you’ve seen The Equalizer yet, but it’s the number-one movie in the country, and I use a fake gun in it. A bunch of fake guns, actually. I’ve gotten really good at using fake guns — I’d say I’m almost a pro. Don’t get me wrong, I’m good at fake cars, fake sad faces — acting a lot makes you great at faking all kinds of things. But fake guns — that’s my butter.

I’ve been using fake guns for over 30 years, and that’s not even counting when I played with toy guns as a kid. Pretty much every movie I’m in features me holding or shooting a fake gun. Why? Well, I love using fake guns, look good doing it, and I’ve gotten great at it.

At first, when someone handed me a fake gun, I would say stuff like, “Whoa, I can’t believe that’s fake,” or, “How should I hold this?” But I don’t say that stuff anymore. Now, when I’m handed a fake gun, I know it’s fake almost right away.

I’m a master of the entire field of fake artillery: rubber, wooden, plastic, guns that shoot blanks, cap guns, guns that have fake triggers, guns that have no triggers, guns that were real in another life but are now fake. I’m really good at pretending guns are heavy, like real guns, even when they’re just water pistols painted black. I’m pretty quick drawing a fake gun out of a holster, too. Fun fact: Those holsters are often real holsters. Like, you could holster a real gun in there and it would be fine. I love that. I’m also really good at throwing a fake gun in the air and catching it.

I love pretending to shoot people, too, and I’m pretty sure I’m great at it. In my head, I never miss (unless I’m supposed to). I’ve learned that when you shoot the fake guns, don’t say “Bang! Bang!” They will add that sound later. In Glory, you can see me saying “Bang! Bang!” every time I shoot, and it’s a little embarrassing.

Sometimes, people come up to me and say, “Denzel, you look so cool holding a gun.” That makes me smile, and I say “Thank you,“ even though I know they mean I look cool holding a fake gun. But that’s OK — as an actor, that’s your #1 job: Get people to believe a fake gun is a real gun. I’ve gotten really good at that. Sometimes, when I watch early films I was in, like Ricochet, it’s so obvious that I’m holding a fake gun, and I say, “Let’s skip this part.”

If you are good at using fake guns, you also know they will never be real. Once, a long time ago, a guy tried to rob me, and I took out my fake gun and tried to shoot him. I figured that if I believed hard enough, it would become a real gun. It didn’t, and all I could do was throw my fake gun at him and run away. Lesson learned!

Sometimes when I talk to fake gun experts they are all really impressed with my fake gun knowledge. Fun fact: In the biz, we call fake guns “Prop guns,” or simply “guns.” I actually screw that up a lot. Mark Wahlberg got mad at me because I kept calling our movie “2 Fake Guns.” He would say, “'Zelly, baby, I love ya but it’s just called 2 Guns.” Then I would laugh and pretend to shoot myself in the head with my fake gun. Those jokes are OK if your gun is fake. If your gun is real, it’s more scary.

I don’t have a strong opinion on real guns, but fake guns should always be allowed. But don’t get me wrong — I’m a huge believer in fake gun safety. Like, don’t throw a fake gun at someone unless they are ready to catch it. Never load a fake gun with bullets, because one of those bullets might fall out and you could slip on it. Don’t swap someone’s fake gun with a real gun.

You follow those simple rules, and maybe one day you’ll be just like me, Denzel “Fake Gun Slinger” Washington.