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Fences is a 2016 American period drama film starring, produced and directed by Denzel Washington and written by August Wilson, based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. In addition to Washington, the film also stars Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson and Saniyya Sidney.

Fences (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Denzel Washington
Produced by
Screenplay by August Wilson
Based on Fences
by August Wilson
Music by Marcelo Zarvos
Cinematography Charlotte Bruus Christensen
Edited by Hughes Winborne
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • December 15, 2016 (2016-12-15) (Curran Theatre)
  • December 16, 2016 (2016-12-16) (United States)
Running time
139 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $24 million[2]
Box office $64.4 million[2]

Principal photography on the film began on April 25, 2016, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the Hill District, and wrapped in mid-June 2016.[3] Fences was released in the United States on December 16, 2016, by Paramount Pictures, received positive reviews and grossed $64 million. The film was chosen by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of 2016,[4] and was nominated for numerous awards, including four Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Washington), Best Supporting Actress (Davis) and Best Adapted Screenplay, with Davis winning for her performance. It also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for Washington and a Best Supporting Actress win for Davis.[5]



In 1950s Pittsburgh, Troy Maxson lives with his wife Rose and their son Cory, and works as a waste collector alongside his best friend, Jim Bono. Troy's younger brother, Gabriel Maxson, sustained a head injury in World War II that left him mentally impaired, for which he received a $3,000 government payout that Troy used to purchase a home for his family. Gabriel has since moved out, but still lives in the neighborhood, often getting in trouble with the law for his eccentric behavior, which includes religious fixations.

In his adolescence, Troy left home from his abusive father and became a robber to sustain himself. After killing a man during a robbery led him to prison, he met Bono and revealed himself to be a talented baseball player. He then played in the professional Negro Leagues; but he never made it to Major League Baseball, which had no black players in the years before 1947. When Bono says that Troy was born too soon, Troy rejects this choice of words and insists that he was passed over due to his race. Having survived a near-fatal bout of pneumonia in his youth, Troy claims to have done so by defeating the Grim Reaper in a fistfight, upon which the Reaper vowed to return for a rematch.

Troy's estranged son from a previous relationship, Lyons Maxson, visits him on each payday to borrow money, upsetting Troy, whose belief in responsibility rejects Lyons's pursuing his dream of becoming a musician instead of finding a real job – Troy refuses to even visit the club where his son's band is playing. Rose later tells Troy that Cory is being scouted by a college football team, but Troy is dismissive of Cory's chances of reaching the NFL. Not only is he stung by his own lack of success in baseball, but he believes that racial discrimination is still common in the major leagues. He tells Cory that he will not sign the permission documents. He does not want his son to fail as he did, but there is also some jealousy that Cory might achieve the success that had eluded his father.

Rose asks Troy to build a fence around their house, and Troy demands that Cory help him as punishment for Cory not doing his chores due to football practice. Troy and Cory clash over Cory's ambitions to play college football. On learning that Cory is not working at his part-time job due to football practice, Troy demands that he return to the job, despite Cory's attempts to convince him that the job is being held for him until football season is over.

Troy achieves a promotion to driving the garbage truck, becoming the first African-American to do so in Pittsburgh, even though he can't read and doesn't have a driver's license. Bono finds out that Troy is cheating on Rose with Alberta, a woman he met at the local bar, and alerts him his actions will have repercussions. The two then become estranged when Troy is assigned to a different neighborhood. Troy later finds out that Cory did not return to his part-time job at the A&P, and forces Cory's coach to kick him off the team – Troy also refuses to meet with the college scout who plans to visit their home. Cory lashes out and throws his helmet at Troy, which Troy claims is the first of Cory's three permitted offenses. When called to bail Gabriel out of jail for disturbing the peace, Troy unknowingly signs papers rerouting half of Gabriel's pension to a psychiatric hospital, forcing Gabriel to be institutionalized.

Troy is forced to reveal his affair to Rose when his mistress becomes pregnant, leading to an argument in which Troy aggressively grabs Rose, causing Cory to intervene and knock Troy into a fence, which Troy marks as Cory's second offense. In the following months, Troy and Rose become estranged, although they keep living in the same house, as Troy continues to visit his mistress, who ultimately dies in childbirth after going into early labor, leading an embittered Troy to angrily challenge the Reaper to another fight.

Troy brings his baby daughter Raynell home, and Rose agrees to raise her as her own, but refuses to accept Troy back into her life. Cory is considering enlisting in the United States Marine Corps after missing his opportunity to attend college. One day, when he returns home, an intoxicated Troy blocks his path and instigates a fight in which Cory swings at Troy with a baseball bat. Troy gains the upper hand, grabs the bat from Cory, and drives him out of the house. Both energized and disoriented by his victory, Troy once again challenges the Reaper to come for him.

Six years later, Troy has died of a heart attack, and Cory, now a USMC corporal, returns home, but informs Rose he will not attend the funeral. Rose admits to loving Troy despite his many flaws and pleads that Troy is still a part of him, and Cory later reconsiders after interacting with an older Raynell. Lyons is serving three years for fraud, and gets furlough to attend the funeral. Similarly, Gabriel is released from the hospital to attend and reunites with his family as they all bid farewell to Troy. Gabriel prays for St. Peter to open the gates of heaven for Troy, and a shimmering sunlight glistens over them, symbolizing intergenerational forgiveness and peace.



The film was adapted from August Wilson's play Fences. Production culminated in the 2016 release of the film, over a decade after Wilson's death.

Previous attempts to adapt Fences for the screen had been fruitless, partly due to Wilson's insistence on an African-American director.[6] In a 2013 interview with Empire, Denzel Washington expressed his intention to star in and direct an adaptation of Fences, reprising his role from the 2010 Broadway revival of the play, which like the film, was produced by Scott Rudin.[7]

On January 28, 2016, it was reported that Rudin, Washington and Todd Black would produce a film adaptation of the play, directed by Washington and starring Washington and Viola Davis, reprising their roles from the 2010 revival that earned both actors Tony Awards.[8] Playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner came aboard to build on a draft written by Wilson before his death in 2005.[9] However, Wilson is the only credited screenwriter for the film,[10] while Kushner received a co-producer credit. Black explained that Washington insisted that they remain faithful to Wilson's work, saying, "The star of the movie is the screenplay and August Wilson's words. What Denzel said to me, to Scott, to all the actors, the cinematographer, and the production designer was, 'Don't make any decision without August Wilson's words leading you to make that decision.' Whatever you do, let the words inform your decision first. That's what we all had to abide by."[11]

On April 4, 2016, Mykelti Williamson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Stephen McKinley Henderson and Saniyya Sidney joined the cast, with Williamson, Hornsby and Henderson also reprising their roles from the 2010 production.[12]

On April 25, 2016, it was reported that Fences had begun filming in Pittsburgh.[13] On June 14, 2016, principal photography was completed.[14] Post-production was completed in mid-November.[15] Charlotte Bruus Christensen was the director of photography,[16] David Gropman was the production designer,[17] Sharen Davis was the costume designer,[18] Hughes Winborne edited the film,[19] Sean Devereaux was the visual effects supervisor,[20] and Marcelo Zarvos composed the film's score.[21]


The film held its world premiere at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, California on December 15, 2016.[22] It began a limited release on December 16, 2016, before opening wide in 2,223 theaters on December 25.[23]

Home mediaEdit

Fences was released on Digital HD on February 24, 2017,[24] and on Blu-ray and DVD on March 14, 2017.[25][26]


Box officeEdit

Fences grossed $57.7 million in the United States and Canada and $6.7 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $64.4 million, against a production budget of $24 million.[2]

Fences opened in two theaters in New York and Los Angeles on December 16, and was expected to gross $50–75,000 per theater in its limited opening weekend. It ended up making a total of $128,000, good for a per-theater average of $32,000.[27] The film went into wide release (2,223 theaters) on Christmas Day and grossed $6.7 million; over its first two days it made $11.5 million.[28] In its first full weekend the following week, the film made $10 million, finishing 6th at the box office.[29]

Critical responseEdit

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 93% based on 231 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "From its reunited Broadway stars to its screenplay, the solidly crafted Fences finds its Pulitzer-winning source material fundamentally unchanged — and still just as powerful."[30] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 79 out of 100, based on 48 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[31] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[32]

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe wrote, "You don't get groundbreaking cinema from Fences, but what you do get – two titanic performances and an immeasurable American drama – makes up for that."[33]

In a negative review, David Edelstein of New York wrote, "It's not cinematic enough to make you forget you're watching something conceived for another, more spatially constricted medium, but it's too cinematic to capture the intensity, the concentration, of a great theatrical event."[34]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ McCarthy, Todd (November 22, 2016). "'Fences' Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 22, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c "Fences". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 2, 2017. 
  3. ^ Crawley, Dave (June 14, 2016). "Denzel Washington's Production Of "Fences" Wraps Filming In The Hill District". CBS Pittsburgh. CBS Local Media. Retrieved December 27, 2016. in the playwright’s native Hill District in 1957. 
  4. ^ Hipes, Patrick (December 8, 2016). "AFI Awards: Best Of 2016 Film List Includes 'Silence', 'Hacksaw Ridge' & More". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 8, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Golden Globes 2017: The Complete List of Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. December 12, 2016. Retrieved December 12, 2016. 
  6. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (August 4, 2014). "When August Wilson Insisted on a Black Director for a Hollywood Adaptation of 'Fences'..." Indiewire. Retrieved April 25, 2016. 
  7. ^ Goldberg, Matt (February 1, 2013). "Denzel Washington Aiming to Adapt August Wilson's FENCES as Next Directing Project". Collider. Retrieved April 25, 2016. 
  8. ^ Busch, Anita (January 28, 2016). "Tony Kushner Comes Aboard Denzel Washington's 'Fences' For Paramount". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 25, 2016. 
  9. ^ Obenson, Tambay A. (January 28, 2016). "Kushner Tapped for 'Fences' Screenplay + Fall 2016 Release Eyed for Oscar Consideration". IndieWire. Retrieved April 25, 2016. 
  10. ^ Davis, Clayton (August 10, 2016). "As per a rep from Paramount Pictures, only August Wilson is the credited screenwriter for "Fences" – no longer Tony Kushner". Twitter. Retrieved August 18, 2016. 
  11. ^ McKittrick, Christopher (February 13, 2017). ""The star of the movie is the screenplay." August Wilson's Fences". Creative Screenwriting. Retrieved February 14, 2017. 
  12. ^ Busch, Anita; D'Alessandro, Anthony (April 4, 2016). "Mykelti Williamson & Russell Hornsby Reprise Roles For 'Fences' Movie". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 25, 2016. 
  13. ^ "'Fences' filming turns back the clock in Pittsburgh". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 25, 2016. Retrieved April 25, 2016. 
  15. ^ Michael Cieply (September 15, 2016). "Delicious Complications As Denzel Washington & Scott Rudin Reach For The Black Cinema Torch". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 15, 2016. 
  16. ^ Bill Desowitz (October 6, 2016). "Why 'The Girl on the Train' and 'Fences' Shot on Film". IndieWire. Retrieved October 7, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Fences – Bron Studios". Bron Studios. Retrieved October 7, 2016. 
  18. ^ David S. Cohen (August 9, 2016). "How Sharen Davis Went From Actress to Oscar-Nominated Costume Designer". Variety. Retrieved October 7, 2016. 
  19. ^ Clayton Davis (August 30, 2016). "Oscars: Telluride, 'Silence', Editor for 'Fences', and 'Live By Night' staying 2017?". AwardsCircuit. Retrieved October 7, 2016. 
  20. ^ Sean Devereaux (September 27, 2016). "FENCES is a true work of art. I am so proud to be a part of it. SaveTheDate, this is the film to see this Christmas!". Twitter. Retrieved October 7, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Marcelo Zarvos to Score Denzel Washington's 'Fences'". October 4, 2016. Retrieved October 4, 2016. 
  22. ^ Gioia, Michael. "San Francisco's Curran Reopens to Host Fences Film Premiere". Retrieved 13 October 2017. 
  23. ^ Mendelson, Scott (December 26, 2016). "Box Office: 'Sing' Soars, 'Passengers' Recovers, 'Fences' Breaks Out On Christmas Day". Forbes. Forbes. Retrieved December 30, 2016. expanded ... to 2,223 theaters yesterday after keeping it in limited release for the last 10 days. The August Wilson adaptation earned a smashing $6.688 million opening day, ... long term predictions are challenging for this $20–$25m production ... but this is a smashingly impressive single-day debut for a film that will absolutely be a big part of the Oscar conversation. It has earned $11.528m thus far. 
  24. ^ "Fences (2016)". DVD Release Dates. Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  25. ^ "FENCES Film Coming to Blu-ray Combo Pack & Digital HD". Broadway World. Retrieved 14 February 2017. 
  26. ^ Hunt, Bill. "The Digital Bits". Fences official, plus the 4K floodgates are opening: Gladiator, Bridge on the River Kwai & more are on the way. Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  27. ^ "'Rogue One' Flying To $152M+ Weekend; 'Collateral Beauty' A Career B.O. Low For Will Smith: PM Update". Deadline Hollywood. 
  28. ^ Mendelson, Scott (December 26, 2016). "Box Office: 'Sing' Soars, 'Passengers' Recovers, 'Fences' Breaks Out On Christmas Day". Forbes. Forbes. Retrieved December 26, 2016. In other "new wide release" news, Paramount/Viacom Inc. expanded the Denzel Washington/Viola Davis drama Fences to 2,223 theaters yesterday 
  29. ^ "Weekend Box Office: December 30-January 1, 2017". Box Office Mojo. 
  30. ^ "Fences (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
  31. ^ "Fences". Metacritic. Retrieved December 31, 2016. 
  32. ^ "Rogue One' & 'Sing' Christmas Juggernaut Leaves Room For Specialty Films – Final Weekend Update". Deadline Hollywood. December 27, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
  33. ^ Burr, Ty (December 22, 2016). "Denzel Washington and Viola Davis give titanic performances in 'Fences'". Boston Globe. Boston, MA. Retrieved December 30, 2016. 
  34. ^ David Edelstein (December 23, 2016). "Denzel Washington's Fences Gets Stuck Between Stage and Screen". Vulture. New York Magazine. Retrieved December 30, 2016. There's a literal fence at the center of Fences, but it doesn't resonate onscreen the way it does onstage. It's not a living metaphor. Troy, a gifted baseball player, was fenced-out of the major leagues when he was young but was too old to strut his stuff when he emerged after a long stint in prison. Now, he sees fences everywhere. The fence that he's building, though, underscores the barrier he has erected between him and his sons, one from each of his marriages. 

External linksEdit