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Brendan Fraser Wins Best Actor Oscar for The Whale

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The “Brenaissance” continues: Brendan Fraser won his first Academy Award Sunday at the 95th Oscars. Fraser was awarded Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance as Charlie, a reclusive English teacher who attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter (Sadie Sink) in the Darren Aronofsky-directed drama The Whale. The fan-favorite 54-year-old actor has been a staple of the awards circuit, taking home the Screen Actors Guild Award and nominations at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. Fraser was among a class of first-time nominees and competed in the Best Actor category against Austin Butler for Elvis, Colin Farrell for The Banshees of Inisherin, Paul Mescal for Aftersun, and Bill Nighy for Living.

“So this is what the multiverse looks like,” Fraser joked when accepting his award, thanking the Academy and studio A24 “for making such a bold film.”

“I’m grateful to Darren Aronofsky for throwing me a creative lifeline and hauling me aboard the good ship The Whale, that was written by Samuel D. Hunter who is our lighthouse. Gentlemen, you laid your whale-sized hearts bare so that we could see into your souls like no one else could do,” Fraser added, thanking his fellow nominees. “It is my honor to be named alongside you in this category. I wanted to tell you that only whales can swim at the depth of the talent of [Fraser’s Oscar-nominated co-star] Hong Chau. I started in this business 30 years ago, and things didn’t come easily to me.”

Fraser continued: “There was a facility that I didn’t appreciate at the time until it stopped. And I just want to say thank you for this acknowledgment because it couldn’t be done without my cast.  It’s been like a bit of a diving expedition on the bottom of the ocean, and the air and the line to the surface is on a launch being watched over by some people in my life, like my sons Holden and Leland and Griffin… Thank you again. Each one and all. I’m so grateful to you.”

The Oscar-winning makeup and hairstyling team of Adrien Morot, Judy Chin, and Annemarie Bradley painstakingly transformed Fraser into a 600-pound man through makeup, prosthetics, and a full-body artificial skin suit, creating a believably housebound online teacher in the drama set within the confines of Charlie’s apartment.

“Nobody else would’ve went through that,” Morot told Entertainment Weekly of Fraser’s commitment to wearing the 200-pound prosthetics suit. “Everybody would’ve run away and called me crazy and gotten me fired. But Brendan used that to actually find his character. We had made a lightweight version of the understructure, and Brendan tried it, but when we were getting ready to dress him up again, he was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to go with the heavy one. This is not Charlie.’”

Fraser’s career comeback role comes decades after his most famous roles — 1992’s Encino Man, 1997’s George of the Jungle, 1999’s The Mummy, 2000’s Bedazzled — and his less-famous parts in 2010’s Furry Vengeance and 2014’s animated The Nut Job, which would mark Fraser’s last major film roles until his acclaimed turn in The Whale

“I think it was the night that I was shooting a scene wherein I was being mauled by a bear [in the animal-comedy Furry Vengeance], and I was in a Porta Potty, and the Porta Potty got inverted, and I was on my head, and all this Gatorade and stuff dropped on my head that made me have a conversation with myself: ‘Is this worth it? Maybe I should reprioritize myself and stop working with animals,’” Fraser recalled in an actor’s roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter. “Look, I stepped back for a number of reasons. I had some chips and dings in the paint [injuries], and the business had changed a lot, too. I had to grow back into it and get back the real hunger that I had to tell stories.”

See reactions to Fraser’s first Oscar win below.

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