Brendan Fraser wins best actor Oscar, capping a ‘Whale’ of a comeback

Brendan Fraser, whose career has featured both meteoric success and semi-obscurity, celebrated perhaps his finest hour Sunday, winning the Oscar for lead actor for his performance in “The Whale.”

“So this is what the multiverse looks like!” Fraser proclaimed in his acceptance speech, thanking his director Darren Aronofsky for “throwing me a creative lifeline.”

Fraser’s road to Oscar began with a six-minute standing ovation for his transformative performance in Darren Aronofsky’s film at its premiere at the Venice International Film Festival last September.

Despite some controversy over his casting as a 600-pound, suicidal, gay professor and the depiction of morbid obesity in the film (based on Samuel D. Hunter’s play), Fraser had won more than 20 lead actor prizes from critics’ groups including the Critics’ Choice Assn., and collected the most reliable Oscar precursor: the Screen Actors Guild Award.

Though Fraser has worked steadily in television and smaller movies in recent years, he hadn’t headlined a major theatrical release since 2010’s “Extraordinary Measures” with Harrison Ford. Before that, of course, he had starring roles in the “Mummy” franchise, “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” best picture winner “Crash,” “Gods and Monsters,” “George of the Jungle” and many others.

Fraser has attributed his absence from the marquee in part to injuries suffered while enthusiastically filming his many action movies; he has also alleged that eight-term HFPA president Philip Berk sexually assaulted him. (Berk has denied the accusation, as well as the actor’s open question as to whether the Golden Globes had blacklisted him. Berk was later expelled from the organization when it came out he had sent an email calling Black Lives Matter a “racist hate movement,” spurring Globes broadcaster NBC to call for his removal.)

Fraser, meanwhile, ended up sweeping the American televised film acting awards this season — except for the Globes, which selected Austin Butler’s highly praised turn as the King of rock ‘n’ roll in “Elvis.” Fraser had said in advance he would “not participate” in the Globes ceremony.