AFP

LOS ANGELES-Could this finally be Leonardo DiCaprio’s year?

Twenty years after his first Oscar nomination, the 39-year-old actor is hoping that he may at last win one of Hollywood’s most prized statuettes come Sunday night. Matthew McConaughey has long been the frontrunner for the best actor Oscar for his turn in “Dallas Buyers Club” - but DiCaprio is increasingly cited as a possible come-from-behind winner.

Critics have lavished praise on the actor for his portrayal of financial crook Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” fueling speculation that Oscar voters could finally give him the Academy Award. DiCaprio portrays the debauched and drug-fueled New York trader from his early days through his relentless rise to the top of Wall Street in the 1990s, and then his disgrace at the hands of FBI investigators.

The hilarious scene where DiCaprio struggles across the floor to get to his car, his limbs paralyzed by an overdose of Quaaludes, risks becoming one of his defining screen moments, along with the prow-of-the-ship “Titanic” scene with Kate Winslet. “Look, there’s a lot of disgusting behavior in this movie,” the 39-year-old - who took home a Golden Globe for the role - acknowledged at a recent lunch for this year’s Oscar nominees.

“We wanted this to be a cautionary tale, and we wanted to accurately portray this darker nature of our culture.” While DiCaprio has never won an Oscar, he was first nominated at the age of 19, for 1993’s “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?,” and then again for 2004’s “The Aviator” and 2006’s “Blood Diamond.” But his work in films including “Romeo and Juliet” (1996), “Gangs of New York” (2002), “The Departed” (2006) and “Shutter Island” (2010) was overlooked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.