DENZEL Washington is cheerfully humming a tune. It's not behaviour you'd expect from the man known for his stark portrayals of controversial civil rights activist Malcolm X or tough-talking bad boy Alonzo in Training Day, but the double Oscar-winner is anything but predictable.
Take his new film 2 Guns, for example. As well as brawls, car chases and a pretty hairy run-in with some cattle, Washington does something much more surprising. He smiles.
"I was looking for a departure from heavier roles and when I read this script it really made me laugh," explains Washington.
And with raging bulls, whip-smart wit and a rather dapper costume change, 2 Guns certainly marks a departure from Washington's previous role in Flight, as a pilot who snorts cocaine and downs a vodka before taking to the skies.
In the new film, he and Mark Wahlberg play a pair of undercover agents who work for the US Drug Enforcement Agency and the US Navy respectively. They have been brought together to infiltrate a Mexican drug cartel and recover millions of dollars.
Only neither Bobby Trent (Washington) nor Stig (Wahlberg) know the other is also working as an undercover government agent, having given each other fake back stories.
"Bobby and Stig are lying to each other for half the film," says Washington.
When the plan goes to pot, their identities are uncovered and they are disowned by their bosses, Bobby and Stig have to work together to bring the cartel down and clear their names, which have been sullied by their superiors.
Settling into the interview, Denzel natters about the weather before crooning away to himself. I feel lucky to hear this, I say. "So you should be," he jokes, smile firmly in place.
Away from the screen, he has a good deal to smile about. He's just celebrated his 30th wedding anniversary to wife Pauletta and the couple's four grown-up children are a constant source of pride for this devout Christian.
"My son John-David is fulfilling my dream, playing football like I'd always wanted to," Washington has said. "My daughter Katia is at Yale, a place where I didn't dare apply. I dig seeing them do their thing. They live well, but we don't just give them anything they want."
Surrounded by wealth, good living and fanfare, their father could have become high and mighty. But asked what his job involves he shrugs his shoulders and deadpans: "Swimming a bit, walking across the desert, shooting some bad guys and wearing gold teeth. It's all in a day's work."