NEW YORK -- Thursday marks the start of voting to select this year's Oscar nominees, and roughly 10,000 industry professionals get to determine those lucky few who will be recognized when this year's list is read on February 8.
Among the leading contenders is Denzel Washington, who has been nominated nine times and won twice for "Glory" and "Training Day."
He's back in the race thanks to playing the lead role in "The Tragedy of Macbeth," a movie that definitely plays to his strengths.
He's an international superstar, of course, but also a classically trained actor who first appeared on stage in a Shakespeare play while in college at Fordham University.
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His new take on Macbeth is very accessible, and this is not your parents' Shakespeare.
Washington stars opposite Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth in the film directed by her husband, Joel Coen.
"With Frances and Joel and a guy named Shakespeare, it's hard to say no," he said.
He calls working with Cohen a "master class in directing."
"The level that he came in on, it just made all of us want to meet him where he was," he said.
The stars and their director are at the top of their game, and willing to take risks.
"And it's harder when you're at the top of your game," Washington said. "It's easy to take chances when nobody knows you, but how could we not? How could you not take this ride?"
Corey Hawkins plays Macduff, opposite a legend.
"What I see is a man who is going to continue passing the torch because the fire in him, it's not out," he said.
Hawkins went on to say that Denzel's work was so compelling, the younger actors would come to set when they were not working just to watch and learn from him.
And mentoring means a lot to Washington at this stage in his career.
"At a certain point in the relay race, you have to hand the baton off," he said. "So it's fun and fascinating to watch them run, and to know that things are in good hands."
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He is serving as a mentor now just as he was inspired and befriended by the late Sidney Poitier.
Washington learned of his recent death from Poitier's wife, who called him before the news of his passing was announced.
"I will miss Sidney's smile," he said.
"The Tragedy of Macbeth" is now streaming on Apple TV+.