Actor Denzel Washington attends the 85th Academy Awards Nominations Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 4, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California

Actor Denzel Washington attends the 85th Academy Awards Nominations Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 4, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California

*For the sixth time in his career, Denzel Washington will compete for an Academy Award…and if things go his way, he’ll leave Sunday’s ceremony in Beverly Hills with his third.

The 58-year-old star of stage and screen was first nominated in 1987 – a best supporting nod for playing anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko in “Cry Freedom.” Two years later, he won the category for his memorable turn in “Glory.”

He was among the best actor nominees in 1992, for his title role in Spike Lee’sMalcolm X,” and in 1999 he earned his fourth career nod as boxer Rubin Carter in “The Hurricane.”

His role as cocksure cop Alonzo in “Training Day” led to his second Oscar win in 2001. More than a decade later, Washington finds himself nominated again for “Flight,” the 2012 film in which he played a troubled airline pilot.

Actor Denzel Washington (C) and Oscar nominees attend the 85th Academy Awards Nominations Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 4, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California

Actor Denzel Washington (C) and Oscar nominees pose for the official nominees photo at the 85th Academy Awards Nominations Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 4, 2013 in Beverly Hills, California

The Academy has placed him in the best actor category for the role of Capt. William Whitaker, who takes heroic measures to save a flight from crashing, only to have his personal demons exposed during the ensuing federal investigation.

It wasn’t just the deeply flawed character that sold Denzel on the role. The actor said the screenplay, written by John Gatins, was something he just couldn’t put down.

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The 85th Annual Academy Awards airs Sunday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. EST from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.  ABC will carry the event live.

Washington will vie for best actor alongside Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) and Joaquin Phoenix (The Master).