Meet the new star of ''Antwone Fisher.'' Derek Luke is positioning himself to be this year's Oscar-nominee-you've-never-heard-of in Denzel Washington's directorial debut

By Adam Duerson
December 23, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
Derek Luke: Tony Bock/Toronto Star/ZUMA Press
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NAME Derek Luke

AGE 28

WHERE YOU’VE SEEN HIM He’s the feisty patient to Denzel Washington’s Navy shrink in the Oscar-hyped true story ”Antwone Fisher.” Luke also showed face on TV’s ”King of Queens” and ”Moesha” with less-than-memorable parts as ”delivery man” and ”thug number one.”

RÉSUMÉ The last seven years have been spent bouncing from odd job to odder job, including gigs in retail, bartending, selling candy at a souvenir shop on the Sony Pictures Studios lot, and as a limo driver…for one day: ”I never got paid for that,” he says. ”I almost hit a gas pump.”

HOW HE GOT THE ”FISHER” GIG While working for Sony, Luke became friendly with another employee after a lunchroom encounter. The new friend? The real Antwone Fisher. Luke says he checked out Fisher’s autobiographical work-in-progress screenplay and decided to audition to play him when the script reached preproduction. Luke would test for the part four times over four years before landing the role.

KNEW HE HAD THE PART WHEN… Director Denzel Washington personally told him so: ”I was working at the store [on the Sony lot] and Denzel walks in. He goes, ‘Antwone!’ and I say, ‘Yes, I can do it!’ I [thought he] was just playing around. But he says, ‘I know. I hired you.”’

ON WORKING FOR DENZEL ”He didn’t say a lot. He would just come in and say, ‘We’re doing it again.’ I knew what that meant without him telling us where to take it. He got the message across: ‘No pressure,’ and that had an awesome effect on what I was doing.”

ON-THE-JOB TRAINING To play Navy men, Luke and the cast went through a prep course aboard a U.S. Navy ship. The group ate like seamen and lodged in the ship’s ”really claustrophobic berthing areas. They were about a foot and a half long,” Luke says.

SAGE ADVICE ”Don’t call it a ‘boat!’ It’s a SHIP. Those Navy guys will hit you. They’ll come after you bad.”

ON 9/11 Navy training was shut down after the attacks: ”After that, those guys wore different masks. They were so serious and willing to die. So I knew what it meant to train as a Navy man. It made me feel like they were more important, and it added some integrity to [my role in] ‘Antwone.”’

KNEW HE HAD MADE IT WHEN… He saw his face on a Gap ad in New York City: ”It’s like looking in the mirror. I love it because I used to work for retail and now retailers are supporting me.”

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  • PG-13
runtime
  • 120 minutes
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