Oscars Flashback '90: Denzel Holds His First


When a film has Denzel Washington in it, it's nearly a guarantee you'll see a quality performance. However, just like all actors, Denzel had to make his mark in the film world, and he did just that with Glory.

While Washington had made his on-screen debut fifteen years earlier and had taken on major roles in prior years, the film world hadn't yet discovered the Denzel we know today until he received his first Oscar for the 1989 film based on the American Civil War.

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"On my way up I was calm, calm as a cucumber...'cause I knew I had my names written down, so I knew I wasn't going to stumble too much," Washington recounts of receiving the award. "Then, just as I went off stage, it was like I was stunned, like I wasn't sure if I really won."

He adds that he was in such a daze after winning the Best Supporting Actor award for Glory, which also stars Matthew Broderick and Morgan Freeman, that he asked his Cry Freedom co-star Kevin Kline if he had actually won the award.

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From that point on, Denzel was put on a pedestal as one of Hollywood's premier actors. However, it was that moment in 1990 that paved the way for the ensuing greatness to come.

The award came on Denzel's second Oscar nomination, as he had been nominated two years prior for his supporting role in Cry Freedom. Rounding off the law of attraction or simply distinguishing the convenient coincidence, he recounts his experience holding an Oscar at the last awards show while sitting next to The Last Emperor director Bernardo Bertolucci, who won a handful of awards that night.

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"He had a bunch of them under the seat and I leaned over to his wife when he had gone up to get another one and I said, 'Could I hold one of those?' and she gave it to me," the then-35-year-old actor says. "Sounds corny but...I looked at it like I'm looking at it now [and] I said, 'I'll see ya later.' We meet again."