Brendan Fraser’s Comeback Is Complete Following an Emotional Standing Ovation for His New Film

Culture
The beloved actor, who’s endured several personal struggles in past years, was moved to tears following the response to his performance in The Whale.

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Brendan Fraser at the 79 Venice International Film Festival 2022 red carpet in Venice Italy on September 4th, 2022Courtesy of Rocco Spaziani/Archivio Spaziani/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

It’s not uncommon for a beloved actor of yesteryear to make a comeback in a critically acclaimed, award contending film: see Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler or John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. But the buzz for Brendan Fraser’s performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale feels like something else entirely. The actor, who was a bona fide A-lister for much of the late ‘90s and ‘00s, earned a rapturous response from the Venice Film Festival audience when the upcoming film had its world premiere.

Fraser was visibly emotional during the lengthy applause, even breaking down in tears. It’s been a trying road for the actor, marked by depression, an alleged sexual assault by a powerful Hollywood insider, and several major surgeries due to physically punishing action roles. Now, he’s being viewed as a possible Academy Award contender.

According to Variety, Fraser spoke to assembled reporters in Venice about what it was like to don prosthetics and adjust his gait to convincingly play someone who weighs 600 pounds. “I even felt a sense of vertigo at the end of the day when all the appliances were removed; it was like stepping off the dock onto a boat in Venice. That [sense of] undulating. It gave me appreciation for those whose bodies are similar,” he told the media. “You need to be an incredibly strong person, mentally and physically, to inhabit that physical being.”

During a press conference at the festival, Variety asked Aronofsky why he chose Fraser, and he said he spent a decade trying to find the right actor for the role. He said he realized Fraser might be a fit after seeing the trailer for the 2006 drama Journey to the End of the Night.

“A couple years ago, I caught a trailer from a Brazilian movie, a low-budget [movie], and I saw Brendan in the trailer and a lightbulb went off. I hadn’t seen Gods and Monsters or George of the Jungle. Seeing him in there, it just clicked,” he said. “I asked Brendan to come meet me…it just kept clicking.”

Fraser retreated from the spotlight for several years in the 2010s, doing a handful of television roles before earning praise for a brief, but memorable turn in Steven Soderbergh’s 2021 crime film No Sudden Move. In a 2018 GQ profile, Fraser spoke about being sexually assaulted by the ex-president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Philip Berk, in 2003, and how that adversely affected his career. (Berk apologized to Fraser, but told GQ that the actor’s version of events “is a total fabrication.”)

In The Whale, Fraser plays a heavyset man confined to a wheelchair attempting to reconnect with his daughter after leaving his family to pursue a relationship with another man. The movie, is based on a 2012 play by Samuel D. Hunter, who adapted his own work into a screenplay. The Whale will be released theatrically on December 9, and also stars Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, and Samantha Morton. Fraser was set to play the heavy in the now-canceled Batgirl film and has upcoming roles in Martin Scorsese’s Oklahoma-set crime drama Killers of the Flower Moon and the odd couple comedy Brothers.

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The stupendous rise and surprising disappearance of Brendan Fraser.

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