Oscars 2022: Denzel Washington and Will Smith Go Head-to-Head for the Second Time in 20 Years

The Oscar nominees have been announced for 2022, and the competition is steep. This year’s nominees for the best actor category, in particular, are filled with heavy-hitters, each with an equal shot at winning. Despite the contenders, however, there are those who feel like it’s Will Smith’s year to come out on top.

But to get the gold, Smith will also have to beat out Denzel Washington, who walked away with the statue the last time they faced off.

What were Will Smith and Denzel Washington both nominated for in 2002?

Will Smith smiling with Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington and Will Smith | Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The last time Will Smith and Denzel Washington were voted for the same category was in 2002. Smith received a best actor nomination for the lead role in Ali, and Washington received his for Training Day. However, at the time, Smith felt that neither he nor Denzel Washington were the frontrunners for the role. In an interview with Bryant Gumbel on The Early Show, Smith revealed who he believed was the man to beat that year.

“I think because of the success of A Beautiful Mind, that puts Russel [Crowe] out front,” Smith confided according to the youtube channel Restless Rick.

However, at the time, Smith felt that getting nominated was just as important, if not more so, than winning.

“It’s so amazing to all of a sudden start hearing Oscar-nominee before your name,” he said. “This period is the best period, even, I’m sure, more than winning or losing.”

Smith also shared at the time that getting nominated was enough to boost people’s opinions of his acting abilities.

“The Oscars is one of those awards where the nomination really holds weight everywhere in the world,” he explained. “I think once you receive the nomination you are forever viewed in a different light.”

When was the last time Will Smith and Denzel Washington were nominated for Oscars separately?

Denzel Washington hasn’t been away from the Oscars race for long. The last time he was nominated was in 2018, just four years ago, for his role in Roman J. Israel, Esq. However, Will Smith has spent much more time away from the Oscars campaign. The megastar hasn’t been nominated since 2007 for The Pursuit of Happyness.

As many know, the film was a biography detailing the real-life rags to riches story of Chris Gardner. For Happyness, Smith compared his experience with his other more dramatic roles like Six Degrees of Separation and Ali.

“I’m finding that space where I’m committing to the truth of the character and it’s such a liberating, artistic space,” Smith once said according to Black Film. “I’ve been there two other times in my career with Ali and with Six Degrees of Separation where just completely liberated to live and be free and to create.”

For Smith, he also had a similar reaction being nominated for Happyness as he had with Ali.

“You know, that period between the nominations and the show is the best series of parties on the face of the Earth,” Smith said. “I mean, it is every night, different cities. You’re part of this wonderful elite group and it’s a beautiful time.”

How many Oscar nominations does Will Smith have compared to Denzel Washington?

With Will Smith just being nominated for King Richard, he will have three nominations in his career. However, as CNN reported, Denzel Washington has a record 10 Oscar nominations. Seven of those nominations were for best actor.

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