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The Movie 'Fences' with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis

Updated on January 19, 2017
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in "Fences"
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in "Fences"

The Movie "Fences" Based on the Play of 2010

Fences is a popular movie that was released in theaters on Christmas Day, December 25, 2016. While the movie and what it portrays might be new to some, others might remember that the movie is actually based on the play by the same name.

Fences is a Broadway play that was performed on Broadway twice; once in 1987 and again in 2010. Therefore, the movie is the revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning play with lessons on race relations in America with a focus on the hardships of being black.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis have the roles as a married couple in the play in 2010 and again in the movie in 2016. Those who saw the play and the movie can surely make a comparison and say which one they like better.

Denzel Washington not only has a leading role in both the play and the movie, but he also directed the movie.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis had leading roles in the play "Fences" in 2010 and the movie "Fences" in 2016.

Meaning of the Title: "Fences"

The setting of Fences is in the backyard of an urban home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Rose wanted her husband, Troy, to build a fence in their backyard. Even though Rose wanted a physical fence, all the characters had symbolic fences in their lives.

The title Fences seems to mean different things to different characters.

  • For Troy, the fence was a barrier that kept out things that he couldn't control, like death and his own passions.
  • For Rose, the fence was an enclosure that kept her family together. It was symbolic of protecting what was her own. Some things she wanted to keep safe inside, and there were some things she wanted the fence to keep out.

Summary of "Fences"

The play and the movie have the same message. Fences is about a working-class African-American father, played by Denzel Washington, who tries to raise his family in the 1950s. The father struggles to come to grips with his past while trying to provide for his family as a waste collector who used to be a major league baseball player.

Denzel Washington in "Fences"
Denzel Washington in "Fences"

Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington plays Troy, the husband of Rose, played by Viola Davis. This is not the first film where Washington and Davis have acted together. They also starred in Antwone Fisher. Besides, they were a married couple in the 2010 Broadway play, Fences.

This is the third film that the 62-year-old actor starred in and directed.

  • In 2002, Washington starred in and made his directorial debut with the biographical film Antwone Fisher.
  • In 2007, Washington had a leading role and made his second directorial effort in The Great Debaters.
  • In 2016, Washington had a starring role and made his third directorial effort in Fences.

Viola Davis
Viola Davis

Viola Davis

Viola Davis starred in the Fences, the play in 2010. She won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her role as Rose Maxson in the revival of Fences. It is interesting that Davis played the same role in the 2010 play and the film in 2016.

On January 8, 2017, Davis won a Golden Globe award for Best Performace By an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture for Fences.

The 51-year-old actress had a leading role in the 2002 biographical drama film, Antwone Fisher. Denzel Washington also had a leading role, and it was the first movie he directed.

Themes in "Fences"
Secrets and lies
Mental illness
Demons of the past
Tough love
Race relations
Family drama

Success of "Fences"

Fences was released in the United States on December 16, 2016, by Paramount Pictures in two theaters in New York and Los Angeles before it opened worldwide on December 25, 2016. When it opened on December 16, it grossed $128,000 from those two theaters, which was more than the $32,000 average for a theater. When the film was released in 2,223 theaters on Christmas Day, it grossed $6.7 million. Over its first two days, it made $11.5 million.

With a budget of $24 million, the film has made $37.4 million so far. It has also received positive reviews and has been chosen by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of 2016.

Fences, the play
Fences, the play | Source

'Fences' - The Play in 1987

Fences premiered on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre in New York on March 26, 1987, and closed on June 26, 1988, after 525 performances and 11 previews.

  • Directed by Lloyd Richards
  • James Earl Jones (Troy Maxson),
  • Mary Alice (Rose Maxson)
  • Ray Aranha (Jim Bono)
  • Frankie Faison (Gabriel Maxson)
  • Courtney B. Vance (Cory Maxson)


  • Tony Awards for Best Play
  • Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play (James Earl Jones)
  • Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play (Mary Alice)
  • Best Direction of a Play (Lloyd Richards),
  • Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding New Play
  • Outstanding Actor in a Play (Jones)
  • Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play (Alice)
  • It also received Tony Award nominations for Best Featured Actor in a Play (Faison and Vance).

'Fences' - The Play in 2010

The first Broadway revival of the play opened at the Cort Theatre on April 26, 2010, with a limited 13-week engagement.

  • Directed by Kenny Leon
  • Starred Denzel Washington (Troy Maxson)
  • Viola Davis (Rose Mason)
  • Nominated for ten Tony Awards
  • Best Revival of a Play
  • Best Actor in a Play (Denzel Washington)
  • Best Actress in a Play (Viola Davis)

'Fences' - The Movie in 2016

  • Directed by Denzel Washington
  • Starring Denzel Washington (Troy Maxson)
  • Viola Davis (Rose Maxson)
  • Stephen McKinley Henderson (Jim Bono)
  • Jovan Adepo (Cory Maxson)
  • Russell Hornsby ( Lyons Maxson)
  • Mykelti Williamson (Gabriel Maxson)
  • Saniyya Sidney (Raynell Maxson)

Which One Did You See?

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    • revmjm profile image

      Margaret Minnicks 12 months ago from Richmond, VA

      MsDora, Thanks for reading my article. You can still write yours. I would love to read your opinions about the movie.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 12 months ago from The Caribbean

      Glad I didn't try to write a review on Fences. You did a great job giving the history, pointing out the themes and the lessons. Thanks.