Thursday, April 18, 2024

Brendan Fraser, Starring in “The Whale,” Wittily Quotes “Moby Dick” About His Oscar Chances This Year


It’s all in the eyes. Brendan Fraser plays Charlie, a morbidly obese gay man desperate to reconnect with his teenage daughter (Sadie Sink), in “The Whale,” Darren Aronofsky’s new moody film, written and adapted by Samuel D. Hunter from his 2014 Off Broadway play. All the action takes place in a dark, decrepit apartment full of clutter like candy wrappers and pizza boxes. This is not a movie that screams Merry Christmas.

Fraser wears a gelatinous body suit to play a 600 lb man, with legs so bloated even a short trip to the bathroom is a Herculean-like effort. Encased in the fat man suit, only Fraser’s face is left unadorned of prosthetics, so it’s left to his round and expressive eyes to convey emotion and do all the dramatic work.

It’s a face audiences have come to love for 30-some years, in comedies like “Airheads” and “The Mummy” franchise. Because of familiarity to his films and the sweetness of his characters there’s a natural connection with audiences; we recognize Charlie in some subliminal way, and the empathy for him is strong.

Last week Fraser, along with Aronofsky and Hunter and co-stars Sink and Ty Simpkins, turned up at the AMC Lincoln Square last week for a screening and Q&A to promote the film. It was a relief to see Fraser was normal size. A little older, but the sweetness in his face was still there.

During the Q&A Fraser was asked if he knew right away when Aronofsky approached him that despite some prosthetics, this was going to be incredibly soul bearing for him as an actor.

 He said, “I knew that really from just reading the script. I felt a great deal of empathy and connection to the story in a way that I wasn’t anticipating. I was moved by it. I was moved about how a man who’s made life choices, the life choices that Charlie has, have led him to a place where he lives alone, has been having certain regrets, harming himself by overeating, and comes to the realization that in what little amount of time he has left, and, we the audience, know it’s five days, that unless he can reconnect with his daughter, his very salvation is at risk. So he makes that decision.

He continued: “Look, I’m a dad, I’ve got three kids and that’s the engine that moves me no matter what I’m doing. And to think that it fueled me in this performance in so many ways, to think that how heartbroken, crestfallen, anyone would feel to come to that realization, that late-stage and their life. That having had left a child under the circumstances, whatever circumstances, if you had a chance to turn it around or make it right somehow, you would.

“And I felt that only after having read the script, which I have to admit, right now, wasn’t before I met Darren. I knew that he wanted to make a film, as I was told, and I knew very little about it, but I knew that I wanted to be a part of it very much, as would any actor worth his weight in salt.”

Asked about the Oscar buzz he’s received since the film premiered in Venice and received a standing ovation, Fraser said: “I feel both bashful and happy and staying in the here and now. And I think of our friend Herman Melville, who in his novel ‘Moby Dick’ once wrote that. “I know not all that may be coming, but come what will, I will go to it laughing.”


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