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Washington Square?

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According to several Hollywood sources, the 40-year-old superstar has a long history of dodging love scenes — often with white actresses. A well-placed studio exec says Washington balked at a graphic sex scene in Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues. The actor sidestepped the lead opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in 1992’s interracial romance Love Field. And in 1993’s The Pelican Brief, Washington didn’t so much as peck Julia Roberts.

Washington’s still a shy guy. Kelly Lynch, his costar in Virtuosity, recently told journalists at a press junket that Washington nixed the idea of a love scene because ”he felt strongly that [young] white males wouldn’t want to see [him] kissing me. He was sad about it [but] it was Denzel’s choice.” And in the upcoming Devil in a Blue Dress, with Jennifer Beals, no romance ignites, although the characters do have a torrid affair in the Walter Mosley novel on which the film is based.

Washington declines to comment, but Virtuosity producer Gary Lucchesi says, ”It would never have worked for Denzel’s character to pursue a romance with Kelly.” Devil director Carl Franklin also claims that a love scene just didn’t fit. ”We would have done it,” he says, ”if we could have made it work.”

According to another black actor, ”Hanging this around Denzel’s neck isn’t fair. This is a system that everybody knows about. A black man kissing a white woman in movies — you know who makes it the kiss of death? Studio executives. They think they’re reflecting what the general populace thinks it wants to see. White men made these rules.”