Brendan Fraser was named Best Actor at the 2023 Oscars for his role in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale.

Fraser, 54, plays a morbidly obese and reclusive English professor named Charlie in the psychological drama, which is based on Samuel D Hunter’s 2012 play of the same name.

The film focuses on Charlie’s attempts to rekindle his relationship with his teenage daughter, played by Stranger Things star Sadie Sink. It also picked up the award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

Fraser gave an emotional acceptance speech after his win, which marked a triumphant return to Hollywood after a long hiatus. “So this is what the multiverse looks like,” he said, accepting the award – a nod to Best Picture winner Everything Everywhere All at Once.

“I thank the Academy for this honour… Darren Aronofsky for throwing me a creative lifeline and hauling me aboard the good ship The Whale.”

He added: “I started in this business 30 years ago… there was a facility that I didn’t appreciate at the time until it stopped.”

Why did Brendan Fraser take a break from Hollywood?

Fraser started his career in the 90s and became known as an action star for roles in films including George of the Jungle (1997) and The Mummy trilogy (1999–2008). 

However, he disappeared from Hollywood in 2014, and did not appear in a single film until 2019 – a five-year break. The Whale is Fraser’s first lead role in a Hollywood film since 2013’s Pawn Shop Chronicles.

In 2018, Fraser said that he had been sexually assaulted by Philip Berk, the then-president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the nonprofit organisation that votes for the Golden Globe Awards, at a lunch in 2003. Berk denies the accusation.

He said the alleged assault, along with his divorce from actress Afton Smith and the death of his mother – as well as his own health problems – led to him experiencing depression and taking a break from the industry.

It was reported at the time that Fraser had been blacklisted from Hollywood for the accusations he made against Berk. The HFPA insisted it had always continued a positive working relationship with Fraser.

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What has he said about being blacklisted?

Fraser first publicly made the allegation against Berk in an interview with GQ in 2018, saying: “I felt ill. I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry… In my mind, at least, something had been taken away from me.”

Berk has called Fraser’s accusation “a total fabrication”.

On the possibility he was blacklisted, Fraser said: “The phone does stop ringing in your career, and you start asking yourself why. There’s many reasons, but was this one of them? I think it was.”

Regarding his subsequent disappearance, he added: “I bought into the pressure that comes with the hopes and aims that come with a professional life that’s being moulded and shaped and guided and managed. That requires what they call thick skin, or just ignoring it, putting your head in the sand, or gnashing your teeth and putting on your public face, or just not even… needing the public. Ignoring. Staying home, damn it. You know, not ’cause I’m aloof or anything, but because I just felt I couldn’t be a part of it. I didn’t feel that I belonged.”

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