Academy Award best actor nominee Hugh Jackman in a scene from the motion picture 'Les Miserables.'(Photo: Universal Pictures)
Here are the five men up for best actor in the 85th Academy Awards.
MORE: 'Lincoln,' 'Life of Pi' lead diverse Oscar nominees field
Daniel Day-Lewis, 55, in Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, who spends what would be the final four months of his
life working to pass the 13th Amendment and abolish slavery before the
Civil War came to a bloody end.
Oscar history: Won best actor as disabled Irish painter Christy Brown in 1989's My Left Foot and as the despicable yet compelling oil tycoon Daniel Plainview in 2007's There Will Be Blood; nominated for best actor as the barbaric Bill the Butcher in 2002's The Gangs of New York and as wrongly charged Irish prisoner Gerry Conlon in 1993's In the Name of the Father.
Why he might win:
Day-Lewis shows no fear as he seamlessly embodies one of history's
greatest leaders and turns him into a flesh-and-blood human being.
Why he might lose: No reason at all. He is the closest thing to a sure bet this year.
MORE: 2013 Oscar nominations announced
Denzel Washington, 58, in Flight
Whip Whitaker, a seemingly heroic commercial pilot whose audacious
landing of an out-of-control plane exposes him as an alcoholic who
drinks on the job.
Oscar history: Won best actor for his corrupt detective in 2001's Training Day and supporting actor as a Civil War soldier in 1989's Glory; nominated for supporting actor as South African activist Steven Biko in 1987's Cry Freedom; nominated for best actor as the controversial black leader in 1992's Malcolm X and boxer-turned-convict Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in 1999's The Hurricane.
Why he might win: Since
making history as the first black actor to take home a lead Oscar since
Sidney Poitier won in 1963, Washington hasn't had such a rich
opportunity to flex his acting muscles in ages.
Why he might lose: Flight isn't as first-class as its star.
MORE: Meet Oscar's best-actress nominees
Hugh Jackman, 44, in Les Miserables
His role: Jean Valjean, an ex-convict in 19th-century France who assumes a new upstanding identity after breaking parole.
Oscar history: Hosted the ceremony in 2009.
Why he might win: Best known as Wolverine in the X-Men
franchise, this Aussie multi-talent has been mostly keeping not only
his musical abilities but his flair for drama under wraps on the big
screen, until tackling one of the most challenging roles in theater
Why he might lose: This rough-hewn version of the still-touring stage show might not be for all tastes.
Joaquin Phoenix, 38, in The Master
Freddie Quell, a traumatized Naval veteran who allows no primal urge to
go unanswered, tries to temper his ways with the help of a charismatic
leader of a new philosophical movement.
Oscar history: Nominated for best actor as country singer Johnny Cash in 2005's Walk the Line and for supporting actor as sadistic Roman emperor Commodus in 2000's Gladiator.
Why he might win: Phoenix's no-holds-barred performance further confirms his status as one of the most original actors of his generation.
Why he might lose: Since The Master
opened in September, the actor has maintained a low profile except for
occasionally bad-mouthing the process of campaigning for awards.
Bradley Cooper, 38, in Silver Linings Playbook
Pat, who suffers from bipolar disorder and is newly released from a
mental health facility, misguidedly believes he can win back his
Oscar history: None
Why he might win: Fans who only know Cooper from the outrageous Hangover
comedies might be pleasantly surprised to see him tackle such a
multi-layered role that involves dramatic breakdowns and outlandishly
Why he might lose: Funny guys need to get much more serious than this to win an award.