With nine acting nominations to his name, Denzel Washington ranks as one of the six most-recognized male performers in Oscars history alongside Paul Newman, Al Pacino, and Spencer Tracy and behind Jack Nicholson (12) and Laurence Olivier (10). Having been included in so many lineups, it is only natural that he has faced some opponents multiple times. As the star of “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” he is in contention for the 2022 Best Actor award against two former rivals: Andrew Garfield (“tick, tick… BOOM!”) and Will Smith (“King Richard”). This brings his unique rematch total to five, which makes for a new male record.
All five of Washington’s rematches have been in the lead category. The first two occurred in 2002 when he triumphed for “Training Day” over past challengers Russell Crowe (“A Beautiful Mind”) and Sean Penn (“I Am Sam”). The three of them had all lost to Kevin Spacey (“American Beauty”) two years earlier, with Washington’s nomination having come for “The Hurricane,” Crowe’s for “The Insider,” and Penn’s for “Sweet and Lowdown.”
Washington’s sixth and eighth acting bids for “Flight” (2013) and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” (2018) both pitted him against Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln” and “Phantom Thread”), who won in the first case and then lost alongside Washington to Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”).
Smith initially challenged Washington in 2002 as the star of “Ali,” while Garfield and Washington’s first battle occurred five years ago when their respective performances in “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Fences” were beaten by that of Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea.”
The previous male record of being involved in four unique rematches was set by Tracy in 1962. His repeat Best Actor opponents were Paul Muni (1937 and 1938), Charles Boyer (1938, 1939, and 1962), James Cagney (1939 and 1956), and Newman (1959, 1962, and 1968). His back-to-back victories for “Captains Courageous” (1938) and “Boys Town” (1939) made Boyer the first and only contender in the category’s history to be bested by the same person twice.
After facing Tracy three times, Newman went on to match his record by earning two lead bids each against Sidney Poiter (1959 and 1964), Warren Beatty (1968 and 1982), and Dustin Hoffman (1968 and 1983). Hoffman also hit the mark in 1983, as did Jack Lemmon. Aside from Newman, Hoffman’s repeat challengers were Pacino (1975 and 1980), Lemmon (1980 and 1983), and Peter O’Toole (1970 and 1983). Lemmon’s other three were Burt Lancaster (1960 and 1963), Pacino (1974 and 1980), and O’Toole (1963 and 1981). Pacino later made it a five-way tie, with his other two recurrent rivals being Nicholson (1974, 1975, 1976, and 1993) and Joe Pesci (1991 and 2020).
Considering all four acting categories, Washington still ranks behind two actresses in this regard. The overall record holder is 21-time nominee Meryl Streep, who has faced a whopping 13 different women more than once. In chronological order, those cases involved Jane Alexander (1980 and 1984), Debra Winger (1983 and 1984), Jessica Lange (1983 and 1986), Glenn Close (1988, 1989, and 2012), Susan Sarandon (1982 and 1996), Kathy Bates (1991 and 2003), Julianne Moore (1999 and 2003), Kate Winslet (2007 and 2009), Helen Mirren (2007 and 2010), Cate Blanchett (1999 and 2014), Sandra Bullock (2010 and 2014), Judi Dench (2007 and 2014), and Emma Stone (2015 and 2017).
Until 2003, the female record was held by 11-time Best Actress competitor Bette Davis, who was challenged multiple times by six different women. After she and Claudette Colbert made history as the first actresses to face each more than once (1935 and 1936, and again in 1945), she was opposed several times each by Norma Shearer (1935 and 1939), Katharine Hepburn (1936, 1941, 1943, and 1963), Joan Fontaine (1941 and 1942), Greer Garson (1940, 1942, 1943, and 1945), and Barbara Stanwyck (1942 and 1945).
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