LOS ANGELES (Updated 12:13 p.m.) — Brendan Fraser won his first Academy Award on Sunday for his performance as a 600-pound (270-kg) gay man trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter in “The Whale.”
Fraser was already touted as an Oscar contender when Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller premiered at last summer’s Venice Film Festival. The film was adapted from Samuel Hunter’s 2012 play of the same name.
“I’m grateful to Darren Aronofsky for throwing me a creative lifeline and hauling me aboard the good ship, ‘The Whale,” said Fraser in accepting the Oscar.
The role marked his return to the big screen as a leading man after a nine-year absence from major roles. Once the star of big releases like “George of the Jungle” and the action-packed “Mummy” trilogy, Fraser had largely retreated from the limelight in part due to injuries sustained from doing stunts.
The 54-year-old actor took on a new set of physical challenges for “The Whale.” He wore a heavy bodysuit, prosthetics and makeup, which could take up to six hours to apply, to embody the story’s obese hero, Charlie. The result left him barely able to walk in his character’s cramped home.
“I needed to learn to absolutely move in a new way. I developed muscles I did not know I had,” the American-Canadian actor told reporters in Venice in September, saying that it was the most challenging part of his career.
The film drew criticism from some reviewers who said its depiction of Charlie relied on tropes of depressed, obese people. Some spoke out against its use of prosthetics rather than casting an obese actor.
“The hope is we can change hearts and minds about how we relate to one another or don’t relate to one another, how we may dismiss one another, by simply by virtue of how we appear to one another,” Fraser said in an interview in December.
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—Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski; writing by Ben Kellerman; editing by Jonathan Oatis