‘Oscar was Never Even a Dream’: Brendan Fraser on his Best Actor- win for 'The Whale'
He talks about overcoming personal trauma to make a comeback in Hollywood.
Your success this awards season is being hailed as ‘Brenaissance’ (he also won at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and the Screen Actor Guilds Awards). Does bagging an Oscar feel like the culmination of this incredible comeback?
I honestly don’t know what to say. I never could have dreamed that this would happen to me, but I am so grateful that it has. This award season has been humbling and has given me a chance to take stock of who I am and where I’m going. This win represents a triumph over adversity and a victory for everyone who managed to come together to make a film during the pandemic. Charlie (his character) gave me the opportunity to tell a beautiful and rich story, and The Whale is a film that has the power to save someone’s life. That is the greatest prize of all.
Did you ever dream of getting an Oscar? Where are you going to keep the statuette?
Winning an Oscar was never even a dream. My dream was always just to be an actor––a working actor. From the moment I was taken to see a play as a child, I knew this is what I wanted to do, and what I hope I can carry on doing it. I haven’t thought about where to keep the award yet, but it’s a lot heavier than I thought, so somewhere safe.
What appealed to you about 'The Whale'?
I loved the script, and when there is a chance to work with a world-renowned director like Darren Aronofsky, it’s everything you could ask for as an actor. But more than anything, I loved how The Whale is a story of redemption. Right from the very beginning, I felt like I shared the journey of this character in a special way.
For those who haven’t seen the film yet, how would you describe your character?
I play Charlie who is languishing in his two-bedroom apartment which, through his size and physical immobility, has become his world now. He fell in love, and pushed his family aside, which he now regrets terribly. Since that day, he has been progressively putting on weight in an attempt to resolve his mistake, in the most awful way, until he finally finds a way to redeem himself.
Your physical transformation in the film is incredible. How hard was that process?
It was a lot of prosthetics, which was pretty tough. Just moving at all was hard, but Charlie’s size and physical limitations are crucial to the character as someone trapped by the weight of the trauma he carries. I actually used to feel a sense of vertigo at the end of the day when all of the devices were removed. It gave me an appreciation for those whose bodies are similar because you need to be an incredibly strong person, physically and mentally, to inhabit that physical being. Adrien Morot and his team did an amazing job creating Charlie’s body, which made my part in developing the character
so much easier.
Did you have to put on weight yourself or was it all prosthetics?
Some of it was me. I sat around during the pandemic playing games and going only to the kitchen and back for snacks, so I had a head-start in becoming Charlie.
A lot has been made of how you seemed to have disappeared (for almost a decade) after huge successes such as The Mummy series and George of the Jungle. What really happened?
Honestly, I was fatigued and disenchanted. I wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing anymore. I needed time to focus on my personal life and figure out who I was. But I was always an actor and knew I always wanted to come back. I never stopped loving the craft and the art of filmmaking.
Of all the roles you have played, which do fans want to talk to you about the most?
I get a whole range. Some want to talk about George of the Jungle, some about Encino Man. Now I already have people talking about The Whale, which is so humbling. But most of all, I guess it’s The Mummy. Like a mummy, that one is always around.
Which character of yours have you felt closest to?
There’s a little bit of me in all the characters I’ve played. They are all like me in some way. I believe acting comes from the heart, the people and the places that you know, so they all at least start from a personal place.
Finally, what is next for you?
I’m back looking for a job. I’m hoping this win will help.