LOS ANGELES (REUTERS, AFP) - Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar on Sunday for his leading role in revenge movie The Revenant.
DiCaprio, 41, had been nominated four times previously for an Oscar over a career spanning 25 years.
But he was favourite to finally take home the best actor Academy Award this year for his gruelling portrayal of a fur trapper left for dead in an icy wilderness after being mauled by a bear.
He edged out Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) to take the Best Actor statuette.
DiCaprio won a standing ovation as he accepted the award - one of the most highly anticipated moments of the night.
He had been nominated six times in total, five of them for acting roles. The 41-year-old film veteran thanked a long list of figures who have helped him in his career, including director Martin Scorsese, before speaking on his passion - climate change.
"Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted," he said, adding, "Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet to find snow.
"Climate change is real, it is happening now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together, and we need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters and the big corporations but who speak for all of humanity."
He had already won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild trophies for the role, which transformed the heartthrob from movies like Titanic and Romeo + Juliet into a greasy-haired 1820s fur trapper who barely speaks after the bear ripped his throat.
A bachelor with a string of supermodel girlfriends, he has also matured into one of the world's most admired and popular actors, as well as a champion of environmental causes ranging from marine reserves to the rights of indigenous people.
He won his first Oscar nomination in 1994 for his supporting role as a mentally challenged boy in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. His romantic Romeo + Juliet and Titanic roles went unrecognised by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and it was another 10 years before his obsessive-compulsive Howard Hughes in The Aviator brought a second Oscar nomination.
Nominations for 2006's Blood Diamond and 2013's The Wolf Of Wall Street came and went without DiCaprio taking home the most coveted trophy in show business.
Repeat telecasts of the 88th Annual Academy Awards will air on HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) on March 2 (9pm), March 4 (10.30pm) and March 6 (4pm).