Way Back When: Best Actor Nominee Denzel Washington

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Paramount Pictures

In today's Way Back When we take a look at the earlier roles of Denzel Washington, who is nominated for a best acting Oscar for his role in 'Flight.'

'Death Wish'

Denzel Washington's very first role was in the 1974 film 'Death Wish,' starring Charles Bronson as an architect whose wife is murdered by thugs, so he becomes a vigilante and decides to clean up the mean streets of New York, saving others from suffering his wife's fate. Washington played one of a trio of street thugs who learns very quickly that messing with Charles Bronson will just get you shot:

'Carbon Copy'

In this 1981 comedy, George Segal plays a white corporate executive who discovers he somehow has a black teenage son, played by Denzel Washington. The kid can't wait to be adopted into his wealthy new family in San Marino, California, where everyone is white. Wacky hijinks and valuable life lessons ensue! Check out the trailer below:

'License to Kill'

It was three years before Washington nabbed another role -- this time with a bit part in the TV movie 'License to Kill' in 1984. The film follows the tribulations of a family whose daughter dies in a car crash, the result of a drunk driver. Time and again they try to convict the drunk driver of murder, only to run into various bureaucratic limitations and poor counsel. Washington plays a prosecutor:

'A Soldier's Story'

This 1984 film is set in the segregated army of World War II, where a black soldier is murdered while en route home to his base in the south, and the white people of the surrounding area are suspected. A black attorney is brought in to investigate and uncover the truth of this heinous crime. Washington plays Private First Class Peterson:

'Cry Freedom'

Washington plays South African activist Steve Biko in this 1987 drama that takes place during apartheid. A journalist named Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) is skeptical of Biko's opinions, but winds up befriending the activist. When Biko dies in police custody, it's up to Woods to write Biko's story, and to get it published he'll have to illegally flee his own country:

'For Queen & Country'

In this 1988 movie, Washington plays Reuben James, a British soldier who is discharged from the military and returns home to discover that getting a regular job isn't the cake walk it was made out to be by his career officers. Reuben struggles to keep his head about him, but finds everyday life increasingly difficult.

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