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Denzel Washington, Rami Malek say 'Little Things' set characters apart

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Denzel Washington, Rami Malek say 'Little Things' set characters apart
Denzel Washington gets pulled back into an old investigation in "The Little Things." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Warner Bros.' new movie, The Little Things, pairs Denzel Washington and Rami Malek as detectives with different approaches. Joe "Deke" Deacon (Washington) encourages Jim Baxter (Malek) that the killer will slip up because, Deke says, "it's the little things that get you caught."

Washington said "little things" helped him create the character of Deke, too. The actor asked writer/director John Lee Hancock several questions about the minutiae of his character.

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"You just get specific," Washington said at a Zoom press conference. "What does he eat? Why does he eat it? What time does he eat it? Why is he so heavy?"

After leaving the Los Angeles Police Department in disgrace, Deke polices Kern County. He visits Los Angeles to retrieve some evidence after a trial, where current department hotshot Baxter invites him to consult on a new murder investigation. Baxter's case bears some similarities to one of Deke's unsolved cases.

Washington said Hancock's script was the main selling point for him to play Deke. For further preparation, he modeled his performance on real detectives portrayed on the TV show The First 48.

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"[I was] just watching their behavior and how they go about things and their tenacity," Washington said. "It started with the script, but I went there."

For Malek, the "little things" that Baxter neglects informed his descent down a dark path. Baxter misses family commitments to spend more time on the case and in media briefings. Malek said Baxter's obsession leads him to make mistakes.

"We get so focused on certain things and so narrow minded," Malek said. "We perhaps start to neglect the most important things."

Even though Deke burned out, Baxter still sees value in working with him. Malek said Baxter felt alone in his investigation of a grizzly murder. He needed someone like Deke, who had experienced similar cases, to share the emotional load.

However, that experience also led Deke to have a heart attack five years before, and move to a quieter district. Malek said that by including Deke, Baxter may run the risk of adopting Deke's bad habits.

"There was almost a need to bring that person into your life and seek counsel from them," Malek said. "I think Baxter knew in a sense it could get him down a harmful road."

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Deke and Baxter focus their investigation on Albert Sparma (Jared Leto). Sparma knows just enough details about the case that the detectives can't tell if he's the killer, or just a true crime groupie who keeps up with open investigations.

Like Washington, Leto researched details that could help him create his character. However, since Sparma was the suspect, Leto mixed in transcripts from private investigators, along with watching documentaries and reading about cases.

"I didn't specifically research killers because there's a lot of ambiguity there," Leto said.

Leto said he experimented with little things regarding Sparma's appearance. The actor tried colored contact lenses and prosthetics, finally settling on long hair.

A subtle detail, like the way Sparma walked, allowed Leto to distinguish his character. Leto said he took inspiration from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

"I thought that Sparma feels pretty powerful when he walks across a room," Leto said.

The Little Things premieres Friday in theaters and on HBO Max.

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