By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Brad Pitt won the Oscar for best supporting actor on Sunday for his performance as a charming stunt man in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” director Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to 1960s Tinseltown.
It was the first acting Oscar for Pitt, 56, after three decades in the movie industry. He previously won an Academy Award as a producer in 2014 for best picture “12 Years a Slave.”
In “Once Upon a Time,” Pitt played the laid-back stunt double and fixit man Cliff Booth to Leonardo DiCaprio’s fading TV Western star.
“I’m a bit gobsmacked,” Pitt said on stage as he accepted the award. “I’m not one to look back, but this has made me do so. I think of my folks taking me to the drive-in to see Butch (Cassidy) and (the) Sundance (Kid), loading up my car and moving out here … to all the wonderful people I’ve met along the way.
“To stand here now, once upon a time in Hollywood. Ain’t that the truth?” he added.
His performance, which has won numerous other accolades, was hailed by critics as the best of Pitt’s career and included an extended shirtless scene that sent fans and celebrity media buzzing.
The Academy Award capped a comeback for the actor after a three-year film absence following flops “Allied” in 2016 and “War Machine” in 2017, and an extended period where he was portrayed as the bad guy in divorces from actresses Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston.
Pitt had adopted a low profile as he and Jolie spent more than two years in a bitter custody dispute over their six children that involved accusations against the actor of child abuse, heavy drinking and drug use.
He was cleared by investigators in Los Angeles of abuse allegations, which stemmed from an angry altercation in front of his children toward the end of his marriage to Jolie.
In a 2017 interview, Pitt admitted a heavy marijuana habit and said his drinking had gotten out of control, but said that since the split with Jolie he had quit alcohol and was undergoing therapy.
Pitt first grabbed audiences’ attention with a small part as in 1991’s “Thelma & Louise,” playing a seductive criminal who conned the character played by Geena Davis.
He went on to lauded performances in films such as “A River Runs Through It” and “Fight Club” and earned Oscar acting nominations for “Twelve Monkeys,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Moneyball.”
Pitt founded a film and TV production company with credits that include Oscar-winning movie “Moonlight,” “The Big Short” and “Selma.”
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Sandra Maler)