Brendan Fraser Wins Best Actor Oscar for ‘The Whale’, Reflects on Career Hardships in Tearful Speech

The actor completes his comeback with the Best Actor Oscar for 'The Whale.'

Brendan Fraser completed the comeback of his career by winning his first Academy Award.

The actor won the Oscar for Best Actor for his harrowing, critically lauded performance in Darren Aronofsky's The Whale. Fraser plays Charlie, a reclusive English teacher with morbid obesity who tries to salvage a relationship with his teenage daughter. This is Fraser's first Oscar win.

Fraser was visibly beside himself as he took the stage to accept his Oscar statuette. "So this is what the multiverse looks like!" he exclaimed. "Oh my goodness!" 

"I thank the Academy for this honor and to our studio, A24, for making such a bold film. And I'm grateful to Darren Aronofsky for throwing me a creative lifeline and hauling me aboard the ship of The Whale," he said, thanking the director of the movie, as well as the screenwriter. 

Fraser also thanked his fellow nominees in the category, saying with emotion, "Gentlemen, you laid your whale-sized hearts bare so that we could see inside your souls like no one else could do. And it is my honor to be named alongside you in this category." He also marveled over co-star Hong Chau, who was also nominated for her supporting performance.

"I started in this business 30 years ago and things didn't come easily to me but there was a facility that I didn't appreciate at the time until it stopped," he reflected. "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 diving expedition at the bottom of the ocean and the air to the line on the surface is on a launch being watched over by some people in my life, like my sons Holden and Leland and Griffin. I love you, Griffy."

Fraser then went on to thank people in his inner circle, including his manager and girlfriend Jeanne Moore, whom he called his "best first mate." He ended his passionate speech with this: "Thank you again, each one and all. I'm so grateful to you."

He was up against Austin Butler (Elvis), Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Paul Mescal (Aftersun) and Bill Nighy (Living), and was presented the award by former Best Actress winners Jessica Chastain and Halle Berry.

Fraser's Oscar win is a full-circle moment for the 54-year-old, who saw a career resurgence after largely stepping back from film and TV work in recent years. It wraps up an impressive awards run for the actor, who also took home Best Actor honors at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and Critics Choice Movie Awards for his performance in The Whale.

Prior to Sunday, Fraser attended the Academy Awards twice before, in 1999 and 2003. He was also part of the ensemble cast for the Oscar-winning film Crash, which won Best Picture in 2005.

"I'm so happy people are seeing it -- people are responding in a way that's meaningful," Fraser told ET in January at the Palm Springs International Film Festival of the response to The Whale as the crux of awards season took shape. "It's touching a lot of people, it's good."

Fraser acknowledged the attention surrounding his role and the dramatic physical transformation that went into it left him feeling the good kind of nerves.

"I think if I wasn't paying attention or felt a little bit of butterflies, I wouldn't have a pulse," he said. "It's exciting."

The 2023 Academy Awards hosted by Jimmy Kimmel aired live on Sunday, March 12 starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC. In the meantime, stay tuned to for complete Oscars coverage and the full list of winners.