|Actor Daniel Day Lewis portrays President Abraham Lincoln in the Steven Spielberg film "Lincoln" in this publicity photo released to Reuters February 21, 2013.
HOLLYWOOD - This year's Oscars race may be one of the least predictable in recent memory -- but there is one virtual certainty for Sunday night: Daniel Day-Lewis will likely win a record third best actor prize.
The British-Irish actor has won the main acting category in almost every show so far in Hollywood's annual awards season, which reaches its height with the 85th Academy Awards this weekend.
And, while the other four actors nominated all put in great performances, Day-Lewis looks set to take the best actor Oscar, confirming his status as one of the finest actors of his generation.
"If there is one slam-dunk winner, it's... Day-Lewis for his awe-inspiring performance as America's 16th president," wrote Scott Feinberg, awards analyst for The Hollywood Reporter.
The 55-year-old is known for his incredible range and astonishing attention to detail.
His uncanny performance in "Lincoln" could hardly be further removed from "My Left Foot," in which Day-Lewis played a man with cerebral palsy to win his first Oscar in 1990.
The actor also played a gay man in an inter-racial relationship in 1985's "My Beautiful Laundrette," in the same year he appeared as a quintessentially upper-class Englishman in "A Room with a View."
Day-Lewis -- who won his other Oscar as a ruthless oil tycoon in 2007's "There Will Be Blood" -- is renowned for the selectiveness and intense research with which he approaches each of his roles.
He has made only four films in the last decade. But without exception, Day-Lewis has immersed himself in each of his roles to a degree that has become legendary.
For 1989's "My Left Foot," he insisted on staying in his character's wheelchair during the shoot to the consternation of crew members forced to carry him above or around camera cables and lighting.
In 1992's historical epic "The Last of the Mohicans," Day-Lewis buffed up and learned to live off the land as his character had done.
After 1997's "The Boxer," Day-Lewis retreated into a mysterious five-year break from acting that has been the subject of intense speculation.
The most widely reported version of events is that Day-Lewis spent part of the period living in Italy learning to become a shoemaker in exchange for teaching a cobbler how to act.
Whatever the truth, Day-Lewis has studiously avoided talking about the period. Once asked what he had done during those years, Day-Lewis replied: "Different things, some of which I've resolutely chosen not to speak about."
Day-Lewis returned with a vengeance in 2002, teaming with Martin Scorsese once again to play the murderous Bill "The Butcher" Cutting in "Gangs of New York," a role that earned him his third Oscar nomination.
He appeared in the 2005 drama "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" in which he was directed by his wife, before reemerging to link with director Paul Thomas Anderson in "There Will Be Blood" six years ago.
His only movie between that and "Lincoln" was 2009's "Nine," in which he played a film director struggling to find harmony in his professional and personal lives.
The diffident actor has remained modest despite repeatedly taking the stage for acceptance speeches over the last two months.
"Members of the Academy love surprises, so about the worst thing that can happen to you is if you've built up an expectation," he said, after winning the Screen Actors Guild best actor award last month.
"I think they'd probably be delighted if it was anybody else."
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