Denzel Film To Have Cambridge Premiere

Denzel Washington has just given students a reason to stay in Cambridge on the last day of classes before winter break.

The two-time Oscar winner will bring glitz and glamour to Harvard when he opens his latest film during a black-tie premiere at the Carpenter Center on Dec. 18, the Harvard Foundation announced yesterday.

Students will be able to enter a lottery for tickets, Director of the Harvard Foundation S. Allen Counter said.

Washington shot “The Great Debaters,” in which he also plays the lead role, on campus this July. Set in the 1930s, the film chronicles the successes of the Wiley College debate team during the 1935 national championships.

Counter said that Washington promised over the summer to debut the film at Harvard. A close friend of the actor, Counter said he was surprised after finding out that Washington would be keeping his promise.

He added that Washington made the offer in light of the story’s location and Counter’s help in navigating Harvard’s complicated filming guidelines.

“It’s officially part of Harvard’s history, and the movie features Harvard. So we thought it appropriate for it to premiere here,” Counter said.

Because of Harvard’s highly restrictive media access policies, “The Great Debaters” is one of the few films to have been filmed in the Yard since “Love Story” in the 1970s.

The red-carpet event will also honor Washington’s wife Pauletta Washington for her work on the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience, which awards money to college students interested in medicine. Counter, who is also a neurobiology professor, sits on the charity’s selection committee.

Counter said he was excited to co-sponsor the black-tie event with the College’s largest black student groups, including the Association of Black Harvard Women, the Black Men’s Forum, and the Black Students Association “because the film is about a successful, historically African American school that had the greatest debaters in the country at that time. It’s a beautiful story.”

—Staff Writer Charles J. Wells can be reached at