Brendan Fraser Wins at Critics Choice Awards 2023: 'I Was in the Wilderness' Before 'The Whale'

Austin Butler, Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Brendan Fraser, Paul Mescal and Bill Nighy were all up for the honor

Brendan Fraser has won best actor at the 2023 Critics Choice Awards.

The Whale star, 54, beat out Austin Butler (Elvis), Tom Cruise (Top Gun: Maverick), Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Paul Mescal (Aftersun) and Bill Nighy (Living) to clinch the victory.

At the start of his emotional acceptance speech, Fraser thanked the Critics Choice Association, then joked, "It was Herman Melville who once wrote that there are only five critics in America — the rest are asleep. I don't know what it means, either, but I'm sure glad you woke up for me. Where were you for Furry Vengeance?!", calling out his 2010 comedy costarring Brooke Shields and Ken Jeong.

He went on to describe The Whale as a film "about love," adding, "It's about redemption. It's about finding the light in a dark place, and I'm so lucky to have worked with an ensemble that is incredible," including Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins and playwright/screenwriter Samuel D. Hunter.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 15: Brendan Fraser accepts the Best Actor award for "The Whale" onstage during the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza on January 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)
Brendan Fraser. Kevin Winter/Getty

"And Darren Aronofsky, I was in the wilderness — and I probably should've left a trail of breadcrumbs — but you found me, and like all the best directors, you merely just showed me where to go to get me where I needed to be," Fraser said.

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He concluded, through tears, "If you — like Charlie, who I played in this movie — in any way, struggle with obesity, or you just feel like you're in a dark sea, I want you to know that if you, too, can have the strength to just get to your feet and go to the light, good things will happen."

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Critics Choice Awards Arrivals
Brendan Fraser. Monica Schipper/WireImage

Fraser's commitment to The Whale, in which he plays a 600-lb. man who reckons with the limits of his reclusive life over a period of five days, has earned him multiple award nods, including a Golden Globe nomination.

On Jan. 5, Fraser — who makes a triumphant return to the big screen with The Whale — received the Spotlight Award at the Palm Springs International Film Awards. He has also enjoyed multiple-minute standing ovations at film festivals.

"It's been gratifying, it's been eye-opening," the actor told PEOPLE at the latter event of the praise he has received for his performance. "It has made me have a sense of accomplishment by way of seeing how this story is changing people's hearts and minds."

He added, "That's gratifying, to say at least, and that kind of opportunity does not come along in this circus show of show business that we all play along with sometimes."

"But when it does, and it's material that's handled with care and the project comports itself in a way that's interesting and important, I feel very fortunate and lucky to be a part of it," Fraser said.

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Everything Everywhere All at Once leads the pack at Sunday's ceremony with 14 nominations overall, including a best actress nomination for Michelle Yeoh and best supporting actor win for Ke Huy Quan.

Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans received 11 nominations, while Damien Chazelle's new movie Babylon was given 10 nods for the awards ceremony.

"This recognition comes from a diverse group of more than 600 critics and entertainment reporters who share their opinions about film and television with millions of people every day, all year long," CCA executive Joey Berlin said in a statement last month.

He added, "Our collective opinion about the year's finest achievements is truly meaningful to the creative community."

The 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards are currently airing live on The CW.

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