After nine years, Brendan Fraser, former hero of the action-adventure saga The Mummy, played the lead role in the film. At the Venice festival, he presented the drama The Whale by the award-winning director Darren Aronofsky, in which he plays an obese man. The fifty-three-year-old American calls it the biggest career challenge to date.
According to Reuters, experts immediately started talking about Fraser getting an Oscar for the role. His 270-kilogram character tries to establish a relationship with his estranged daughter.
In order to appear real on screen, Fraser had to use so-called prosthetic make-up. It sometimes took up to six hours to put on, and the actor had trouble even physically moving around the crumbling house of the protagonist Charlie. “I had to learn to walk in a completely different way. While filming, I strengthened muscles I didn’t even know I had,” describes Fraser.
The film also stars Sadie Sink, aka Max from the Stranger Things series. | Photo: ČTK/AP
When the make-up artists removed the layers of artificial fat again in the evening, the change made him dizzy. He said the experience taught him more empathy for overweight people. “I realized how physically and mentally strong you have to be to do it,” he says.
The film The Whale was an adaptation of the play of the same name by contemporary American playwright Samuel D. Hunter from 2012. It tells the story of the gradual withering away of a fragile teacher and homosexual Charlie, who tries in vain to cope with the death of his lover.
She banishes depression by eating constantly, stops leaving the house and is ashamed of how she looks. During distance learning, he turns off the camera in the Zoom program. Right in the opening scene, he has a seizure after masturbating to online pornography. He soon learns that he may only have a few days left to live.
However, Charlie is a good guy at heart. This is most evident in what the film revolves around – his quest to find his way back to his teenage daughter Ellie. He hadn’t seen her since he left her and her mother for a lover eight years ago. The court subsequently decided that Ellie would be cared for by her mother.
The girl is played by twenty-year-old Sadie Sinková, known as Max from the sci-fi series Stranger Things. “She has a lot to say, so she really bursts into the screen. But I don’t think she expected that someone could care so much about her,” Sinková describes her character.
Ellie is in a situation where she is in danger of being kicked out of high school and shows an undisguised hatred towards her father. Still, she decides to give him a chance when Charlie offers to help her daughter write a school essay and to bequeath her any remaining money after her death.
Brendan Fraser calls Charlie “by far the greatest hero he’s ever played”. His imaginary superpower “consists in the fact that he can see the good in others and bring it to the surface”, notes the fifty-three-year-old Fraser, who drew attention to himself in the comedy King of the Jungle. Above all, between 1999 and 2008, he portrayed the adventurer Rick O’Connell three times in the popular action series The Mummy.
However, he had not been given leading roles for more than a decade and fame seemed to have left him. “I looked a little different, but that’s gone,” says Fraser today, who last planned a return to the silver screen in the superhero film Batgirl. Although it has already been filmed, studio Warner Bros. however, it was decided not to list it.
A second comeback awaits Fraser in the near future. He will act alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro in the new film by the famous director Martin Scorsese called Killers of the Flower Moon.
The picture from The Whale, which does not yet have a Czech distributor, features Brendan Fraser as Charlie. | Photo: A24
The Whale was made by the award-winning Darren Aronofsky, the author of Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan or The Wrestler, which won the main prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2008. He himself says that he was prompted to adapt this play by one sentence that stuck in his head. “People cannot be indifferent to others,” Aronofsky paraphrases her.
“I think there is nothing more important for the world to hear right now. Everyone is falling into cynicism and gloom or giving up hope. That’s why we need movies like this right now,” Aronofsky says.
He learned about the play by reading a review of its production in the New York Times. The article caught his attention, he went to see the performance and met the author. But then he spent almost ten years looking for a suitable representative of the main role.
“I tried to imagine every movie star you can think of as Charlie. But no one suited me, something always didn’t work,” he recounts. He remembered Fraser after seeing him in a trailer for a low-budget Brazilian film, he says.
And Fraser says he tried to make the most of this comeback opportunity as if it were to be his last. “I got here because of how many different characters I could play. But none were more complex than this one,” he adds.
According to the AP agency, it was also evident after the world premiere at the Venice festival. When the screening at the Sala Grande cinema ended, the audience gave the film a long standing ovation and the actor could be seen wiping tears from his face.
Fraser’s transformation into a fat man is breathtaking, truly Oscar-worthy, according to the British BBC. Thanks to his top performance, the actor could experience a similar comeback as his colleague Matthew McConaughey managed years ago.
Director Darren Aronofsky and actors Hong Chau, Sadie Sink and Brendan Fraser. | Photo: ČTK/AP
“Despite his massive appearance, Fraser maintains a certain vivacity in his face, softness in his voice, and his pleading, hopeful blue eyes shine right through. It’s hard to imagine anyone better suited for this character,” sums up the BBC. The latter is already more critical of the entire film, which, despite all efforts, cannot deny that it is based on a play. It would have benefited from being more narrative, less sentimental and also less reliant on dialogue, where one character turns after another at Charlie’s door, the website argues.
The Hollywood Reporter magazine wrote that the film manages to transport the viewer into the hero’s claustrophobic world. The impression is supported by the fact that director Aronofsky shot the film unconventionally in a square format. Fraser is especially touching in the scene where he remembers the last time he took a bath on a family trip – that is, before he started gaining weight. “Fraser’s heroic performance clearly deserves attention,” evaluates the Hollywood Reporter.