LOS ANGELES -- Brendan Fraser won the Oscar Sunday night for best actor Sunday night for his performance in "The Whale," kicking off a new era for the once ubiquitous '90s star who became largely absent from the big screen for much of the last decade.
"I started in this business 30 years ago," an emotional Fraser said. "Things didn't come easily to me but there was a facility that I didn't appreciate at the time until it stopped."
The crowd at the Dolby Theater erupted in what seemed like one of the loudest ovations of the night when he was announced.
"I just wanted to say thank you for this acknowledgment," Fraser said.
Fraser, the 54-year-old former action star known for "The Mummy" and "George of the Jungle," doesn't mind that people have called his turn a "comeback." But it's not the word he'd choose.
"If anything, this is a reintroduction more than a comeback," Fraser told The Associated Press in a December interview. "It's an opportunity to reintroduce myself to an industry, who I do not believe forgot me as is being perpetrated. I've just never been that far away."
In Darren Aronofsky's "The Whale," Fraser plays a reclusive English teacher named Charlie who is grappling with his past in the midst of a dire prognosis.
For his performance, he's seen notable wins at the Critics Choice and Screen Actors Guild awards.
"Believe me, if you just stay in there and put one foot in front of the other, you'll get where you need to go," Fraser said during his SAG acceptance speech.
The film, an adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter's play, shows a different side of Fraser as an actor than the affable action/comedy roles that made him beloved and famous in the 1990s.
"I gave it everything I had every day," he said. "We lived under existential threat of COVID. An actor's job is to approach everything like it's the first time. I did but also as if it might be the last time."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.