Denzel Washington poised to join an elite Oscar group with 9th acting nomination for ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’

Denzel Washington could further cement his place in the history books at the Academy Awards in March. Already a two-time acting winner for his supporting turn in the 1989 Civil War drama “Glory” and as a leading man in Antoine Fuqua’s crime thriller “Training Day” (2001), Washington is poised to nab yet another Oscar nomination this season, this time for his performance in the title role in Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” If Washington is successful, he will become just the sixth man to receive at least nine acting nominations. He would also be the first Black man to do so.

Washington’s first Oscar nomination came in 1988 for his supporting performance in “Cry Freedom” (1987). His only other nomination in the category was for “Glory,” as his six other acting bids have all come in the Best Actor category, beginning with his turn in the Spike Lee-directed biographical film “Malcolm X” (1992), in which Washington portrayed the eponymous African-American activist. In addition to “Training Day,” he also was nominated for his performances in “The Hurricane” (1999), “Flight” (2012), “Fences” (2016) and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” (2017). (He also earned a Best Picture nomination as a producer on “Fences.”)

SEE Oscar Experts Typing: Will ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ have a fair (not foul) chance of scoring its leads some historic wins?

As it stands, Washington is tied at eight acting nominations with Marlon Brando, Jack Lemmon and Peter O’Toole among men. The only men to have been nominated more for acting throughout their careers are Spencer Tracy, Paul Newman and Al Pacino, who all have nine acting bids to their name, while Laurence Olivier has 10 and Jack Nicholson has 12. Olivier is the only performer to have won an Oscar for playing a Shakespeare role: He portrayed the title role in 1948’s “Hamlet,” which would be his only competitive acting triumph.

Washington has thus far received rave reviews for his performance in “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” which debuted at the New York Film Festival last week and is slated to hit theaters on Christmas Day before streaming on Apple TV+ on Jan. 14. He is currently sitting in second place in Gold Derby’s combined odds to earn his seventh nomination for Best Actor and ninth acting bid overall, with five Experts predicting him to triumph. A win would put him in the history books again, as it would allow him to tie Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis and Walter Brennan as the most awarded actors of all time with three victories apiece. Right now, he trails only Will Smith of “King Richard” in the odds  — he has 12 Experts predicting him to win. Rounding out the rest of the top five are Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”), Bradley Cooper (“Nightmare Alley”) and Peter Dinklage (“Cyrano”). 

While the 2021-22 Oscar race has only just begun in earnest, one thing seems clear, and it is that Washington is once again going to be a major contender.

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