Antwone Fisher (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Antwone Fisher
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDenzel Washington
Written byAntwone Fisher
Based onFinding Fish
by Antwone Fisher
Produced by
CinematographyPhilippe Rousselot
Edited byConrad Buff
Music byMychael Danna
Distributed by20th Century Fox[1]
Release date
  • December 19, 2002 (2002-12-19)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12.5 million [2]
Box office$23.4 million[2]

Antwone Fisher is a 2002 American biographical drama film directed by and starring Denzel Washington in his film directing debut.[3] Washington stars in the film as the psychiatrist Jerome Davenport, alongside Hollywood newcomer Derek Luke, who plays the title role (and personally knew the real Antwone Fisher), and former model Joy Bryant, as Fisher's girlfriend. The film marked Luke's film debut.

The film is inspired by a true story, with the real Antwone Fisher credited as the screenwriter and is based on his autobiographical book Finding Fish. The film was produced by Todd Black, Randa Haines, and Washington and features a soundtrack by Mychael Danna.

Black was first inspired to make the film upon hearing the story from Fisher, who was then working as a security guard at Sony Pictures Studios.[4]


Antwone "Fish" Fisher is a temperamental young man from Cleveland, Ohio with a violent history who is serving in the U.S. Navy. His father was killed before he was born and his teenage mother, Eva Mae Fisher, ended up arrested soon after and put in jail, where she gave birth to him. He was then placed in an orphanage until she was released and could claim him. Since she had not yet claimed him, at the age of two Antwone was placed in a foster home run by a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Tate. Antwone suffers years of physical and emotional abuse at Mrs. Tate's hands and is molested by her adult niece Nadine. He finally leaves the home at age 14. After living out on the streets for the next few years, he decides to join the U.S. Navy to make something out of his life.

The rough life he had as a child has caused him to have a violent temper; after getting into a fight with a fellow sailor, Antwone is sentenced at a captain's mast to be demoted, fined, and restricted to the ship for 45 days. His commanding officer also orders him to go to psychiatric treatment. Antwone goes in to meet Dr. Jerome Davenport, who attempts to get him to open up. Antwone is at first extremely resistant, but gradually comes to trust Davenport and opens up about his traumatic childhood. Meanwhile, Antwone develops feelings for fellow Navy sailor Cheryl. With Antwone still getting into altercations, Davenport tries to explore his feelings for Cheryl in order to channel Antwone's feelings into something positive. Antwone finally goes on a date with Cheryl and establishes a relationship with her.

While on leave in Mexico, Antwone gets into a fight with a sailor who insinuates that he is gay and is thrown into jail. Davenport meets him in jail, where Antwone confides the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Antwone eventually reveals to Cheryl that he sees a psychiatrist.

At a Thanksgiving dinner, Davenport advises Antwone to find his real family. Antwone refuses, but thanks Davenport before inviting him to a graduation ceremony. Following the graduation ceremony, Davenport tells Antwone that he's ending the sessions and feels Antwone needs to progress on his own. Antwone breaks down, feeling everyone has abandoned him. He reveals his best friend Jesse was killed while attempting a robbery, and that he resents Jesse for leaving him behind. Realizing he needs to find his parents to find closure, Antwone asks Cheryl to go with him to Cleveland. After a dead end at social services, Antwone decides to return to the Tate household. There he confronts Nadine and Mrs. Tate about their abuse. Mrs. Tate ultimately reveals Antwone's father's name: Edward Elkins.

After looking through multiple telephone books, Antwone comes into contact with his aunt Annette and visits her. Antwone learns his mother lives nearby and goes to visit her. Antwone finds closure, forgives her, and leaves. When he returns to the Elkins household, he finds a feast prepared for him and finds the family he lost.

Antwone visits Davenport and thanks him for everything. Davenport then replies that it is he who should be thanking Antwone. Davenport confesses that he had been failing to deal with his own problems - particularly that his wife was unable to have children, and that treating Antwone prompted him to finally confront his demons. The film draws to a close as Davenport and Antwone go to eat.


Finding Fish[edit]

Finding Fish is an autobiographical account written by Antwone Fisher upon which the movie was based. The film generally follows the plot of the novel. However, the book proceeds in a linear fashion while the movie is explained through various flashbacks. The movie stresses Antwone's relationship with his doctor, whereas the book chronicles Antwone's entire life.


In his novel Finding Fish, Antwone Fisher explains he took a free screenwriting class at Bethel A.M.E. Church after a chance encounter with a limo driver. The class was taught by Chris Smith, who delivered an introduction to a producer named Todd Black. Black was impressed with Fisher's story. Black reviewed the script for a week and told Fisher that though he couldn't make a deal, he wanted to hire him full-time as a screenwriter. Fisher wrote 41 drafts until the script was sold by Black to 20th Century Fox, who ultimately released it under their Fox Searchlight Pictures banner. The film marks the directorial debut of Denzel Washington, the first screenwriting credit for Antwone Fisher, and the first feature film role for Derek Luke.[5] Washington was brought the script originally just to play the part of Jerome Davenport. But Washington's agent called Black and told him he not only wanted to act in the film, he wanted it to be his directorial debut.

Fisher had known Luke as a young actor working at the Sony Pictures gift shop while he was writing the screenplay.[3][6] Fisher encouraged Luke to try out for the part. An audition with casting director Robi Reed-Humes went well enough that Luke was called in to meet with Washington.[3] Washington was impressed with Luke's audition and asked that he personally deliver the good news. Though Luke had no prior film credits, Washington wanted to give a younger generation of Black actors the opportunity to break through.[7] To prepare the cast, Washington required all the principal cast members to know his or her character's history and story inside out before coming to the set, telling cast and crew, "We’re doing it for Antwone."[7]

Inspired by Fisher's story, the filmmakers sought to give back to the communities that supported them during the shoot. In the Cleveland neighborhood where scenes of Fisher's youth and homecoming were shot, the filmmakers renovated and reinforced structures like the apartment building where Eva Mae's character lives. Members of the community were hired to work on the production, and Washington personally met with these people and offered his thanks for their help.[7]

The Slave Community[edit]

The book The Slave Community, written by American historian John W. Blassingame and referenced in the film, was one of the first historical studies of slavery in the United States. The book contradicted others which suggested that African American slaves were largely submissive. Blassingame used psychology to determine the mentality developed by slaves during the era and possibly passed on to generations after.

Davenport suggests that Antwone read the book to understand why Mrs. Tate abused him. Davenport does not intend to justify her actions, but he seeks to help Antwone understand where her mentality of beatings and verbal abuse to keep the foster children subservient came from. Antwone is seen briefly reading the book in the next scene.


Author's reaction to the film[edit]

When I saw the film for the first time, I was overwhelmed by a mixture of feelings: fear, joy, pride and satisfaction—all of which still linger, and I am certain they will for the rest of my life. I hope others, too, walk away with those same feelings and the courage to do something to better the lives of children in general. I hope that after seeing the movie and reading my memoir that people will see that every child has value and boundless potential and that even if all one has to give is an encouraging word as a genuine gesture of care. ... that gift alone can save a child's life and give hope for the future.

— Antwone Fisher[7]

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reports 78% of critics reviewed the film positively, based on 150 reviews. The website's critic consensus says, "Washington's directing debut is a solidly crafted, emotionally touching work."[8] Metacritic gave the movie a score of 62 based on 30 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[9] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare "A+" grade.[10]

Praise was given especially towards Washington's directing and Luke's performance.[11] Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times wrote, "There's a simplicity and heart to Antwone Fisher, Denzel Washington's directing debut, that's extremely appealing; the emotional wallop of the movie sneaks up on you, despite its entirely predictable trajectory."[12]


Year Ceremony Category Nominee Result
American Film Institute Awards[13] Top 10 Films of 2002 Antwone Fisher Won
National Board of Review Awards[14] Breakthrough Performance Derek Luke Won
Producers Guild of America Awards[15] Stanley Kramer Award Denzel Washington Won
Todd Black
Writers Guild of America Awards[16] Best Original Screenplay Antwone Fisher Nominated
Black Reel Awards[17] Best Film Antwone Fisher Won
Best Director Denzel Washington Won
Best Actor Derek Luke Won
Best Supporting Actor Denzel Washington Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Joy Bryant Nominated
Best Screenplay, Adapted or Original Antwone Fisher Won
Best Breakthrough Performance Derek Luke Won
Humanitas Prize[16] Feature Film Antwone Fisher Won
Independent Spirit Awards[18] Best Male Lead Derek Luke Won
Best Supporting Female Viola Davis Nominated


  • Blassinggame, John W. (1979). The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South (Revised ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195025637.
  • Fisher, Antwone Q.; Rivas, Mim E. (2001). Finding Fish: a Memoir. New York: William Morrow. ISBN 978-0060007782.
  • Fisher, Antwone (2002). Who Will Cry for the Little Boy?:Poems (1st ed.). New York: William Morrow. ISBN 978-0060549329.


  1. ^ a b c d "Antwone Fisher". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Antwone Fisher". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Baskin, Ellen (November 3, 2002). "It's just like in the movies: A novice hits the big time". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 7, 2019. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  4. ^ "Denzel on His New Film 'Antwone Fisher'". ABC News. December 19, 2002. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  5. ^ Triplett, Gene (January 10, 2003). "First-rate effort Denzel Washington's directorial debut one of several firsts for 'Antwone Fisher'". The Oklahoman. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  6. ^ "AFI Movie Club: ANTWONE FISHER". American Film Institute. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d "Antwone Fisher: Production Notes". Retrieved February 11, 2011.
  8. ^ "Antwone Fisher". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  9. ^ "Antwone Fisher Reviews". Metacritic.
  10. ^ "53 Movies With A+ CinemaScore Since 2000, From 'Remember the Titans' to 'Just Mercy' (Photos)". TheWrap. January 12, 2020. Archived from the original on June 24, 2021. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 20, 2002). "Antwone Fisher". Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  12. ^ Macdonald, Moira (December 25, 2002). "Antwone Fisher' holds no surprises and is better for it". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  13. ^ "AFI AWARDS 2002". American Film Institute. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  14. ^ "2002 Award Winners". National Board of Review.
  15. ^ Kay, Jeremy (January 9, 2003). "Antwone Fisher wins PGA Stanley Kramer Award". Screen Daily. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  16. ^ a b "'Antwone Fisher' wins top Humanitas Prize". UPI. July 11, 2003. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  17. ^ "Black Reel Awards - Past Winners - 2003". Black Reel Awards. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  18. ^ "36 Years of Nominees and Winners - 2003" (PDF). Film Independent. p. 32.

External links[edit]