Out of sight, but not out of mind. Few actors were received as warmly in Venice as Brendan Fraser last weekend. During the credits of The whale, the psychological drama in which he stars, applause erupted as soon as the man’s name appeared on the screen. Because the cheers went on – ten minutes according to The Independent – he was even allowed to return to the podium.
In the movie, the latest from black swandirector Darren Aronofsky, Fraser plays a man trying to eat away the grief over the death of his loved one. His character weighs 270 kilos. What a fat suit of 150 kilos and six hours in the make-up chair can’t do. And although the print may not please all critics, everyone agrees on one thing. An almost unrecognizable Fraser steals the show. After the premiere in Venice, the word ‘Oscar’ even fell. No wonder the actor had to shed a tear.
After all, he could not count on much support in the past fifteen years. In the late 90s, he was a popular poster boy in Hollywood. He was the tough action hero in the mummy. The good-hearted clown in George of the jungle. But when the 2000s arrived, he disappeared.
Whoever wanted to see Fraser had to look hard. The actor no longer appeared in blockbusters, but did appear in small films that did not even make it to cinemas in America. In addition, the physically intense roles of the early years had taken their toll. “I wanted to do it so well that it became destructive,” he told the magazine four years ago GQ. “When I was the third mummyfilm was running, I hung it together with bandages and ice packs. Every day I built a kind of exoskeleton, just to be able to do those stunts.”
Result: multiple back and knee operations and even a repair of the vocal cords. In that same interview, Fraser dropped an even bigger bomb. He had become a victim of transgressive behaviour. In 2003, he met Philip Berk, then president of the organization behind the Golden Globes. “With his left hand he grabbed my buttock, after which he started moving his finger over my anus. I felt sick, I could start crying at any moment.”
He asked the organization to address Berk about his behaviour. To date, his answer is that Fraser blows the story out of proportion. However, the actor noted that less and less work came in afterwards. “Something was taken from me then. My desire to work withered away, I withdrew from public life.”
In 2007 he divorced Afton, the mother of his three children. Another emotional blow and, with $900,000 a year in alimony, also a financial drain. Interviews with Fraser became rare. If he did do one, he came across as anxious and gloomy. It sparked a slew of painful memes about “sad Brendan Fraser” and jokes about his weight gain. But about three years ago, after he got a role in the successful superhero series doom patrolthe tide turned.
Suddenly he is called again by ‘cool guys’. Steven Soderbergh cast him as a gangster last year in No sudden move. Next year, he can be seen alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the new print by living legend Martin Scorsese. And in an ideal world he could be seen as a villain in the deleted batgirl.
In 2022, Fraser has shifted from poster boy to character head. Fans affectionately speak of a ‘Brenaissance’, the positive reactions to The whale are the icing on the cake. The actor himself wants to stay away from loaded terms such as ‘comeback’. “I try to stay in the present,” he says. “I especially hope that this film leaves as deep an impression on the viewer as it does on me.”