Even those who are not so passionate about cinema, but are more than 30 years old, know well the name, and the face, of Brendan Fraser54, aka Richard O’Connellthe seductive protagonist of the «The Mummy» trilogy.
After an explosive career in the 1990s and 2000s, the sex symbol actor, appreciated by both female and male audiences and esteemed for its versatility, has disappeared from the scene. He only returned to the red carpet last year and from the front door – that is, as a candidate for the 2023 Oscars – visibly changed and in a different role from those to which he had accustomed us. In «The Whale» by the director Darren Aronfosky Fraser is Charlie, a homosexual professor, close to death, who lives alone, suffers from obesity and tries to make peace with his daughter. A role that gives him due credit, after a long period of undeserved oblivion. Here because.
Brendan Fraser crash diet “burns brain”
Over the past twenty years, Fraser has worked in smaller productions and supporting roles, stepping away from Hollywood partly by choice, partly for health reasons. They probably contributed to determining the crisis of the man and the artist the physical upheavals due to the roles he played from time to time. First of all that of 1997. At that time the actor had to lose weight drastically to be able to (dis)dress the role of «George King of the Jungle?», a film based on the homonymous animated series of «Tarzan». A box-office success estimated at 175 million dollars (compared to a budget of approximately 55 million dollars). During filming, Fraser showed off an Apollonian physique, the result of a diet so unbalanced and restrictive as to cause him temporary memory loss. In an interview with «Variety», an American entertainment weekly, the artist revealed that he is «dramatically starved of carbohydrates. One day, on my way home, I stopped to withdraw some cash without success. My brain was having trouble connecting: I couldn’t remember the pin. I hadn’t eaten anything that evening, it was a very, too strict diet ».
Brendan Fraser, from overweight to depression
Another script, more trouble for the Indianapolis actor. Never replaced by a stuntman, he had suffered a lot from the «The Mummy» trilogy. At the time Fraser was “held together by ice and bandages” as he himself declared in a 2018 interview. To resolve the knee, back and vocal cord problems it took seven years of surgery and massive doses of medicines. All of this led him to gain weight, work less and fall ill with depression. His mental health was then further undermined by an episode of sexual harassment: in 2003 Philip Berk, former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), an association that organizes the Golden Globes among other things, came to harass him in the middle of an event. Fraser initially did not report the incident, which was only made public in 2018, a year after the advent of the MeToo movement. The episode had such an impact on Fraser’s personal and professional life that he divorced his first wife at the time Afton Smithwith whom he had three children.
Tomorrow night we will attend the 95th Academy Awards ceremony. Among the films in contention, with three nominations — best make-up and hairstyling, best leading actor for Brendan Fraser, best supporting actress for Hong Chau — there is also «The Whale». To transform into Charlie, the protagonist of the film, Fraser underwent to grueling make-up sessions: on average lasting six hours each, every day. He was wearing a prosthetic suit weighing 136 kg so as to appear to be 270 kg obese: «I needed – he explains about his character – to learn to move in a new way. I’ve built muscles I didn’t know I had. At the end of the day, every time I took off my costume, I felt dizzy. That swinging sensation made me appreciate those with similar bodies. I learned that you have to be a physically and mentally strong person to inhabit that body».
In an interview by Francesca Scorcucchi on Courier Fraser also said that he “gatten weight to play Charlie, but without the makeup, there wouldn’t have been this movie. I wear a prosthesis created with a new technology. A fat suit that transforms me and allows me to be Charlie. The director was well aware of that the virtual touch-ups had to be minimal and that that prosthesis had to obey the laws of physics and gravity, make my movements as difficult as those of a seriously obese person. Mine had to be a representation that respected and conferred dignity on those who suffer from it».
Brendan Fraser, the rebirth
To restore merit and dignity to Fraser the actor, and perhaps also to the man, it was precisely the film by Darren Aronfosky (former director of “The Black Swan” and “The Wrestler”), who wanted him in the role of Charlie for his talent and not for the physical appearance. In Venice, where the film premiered during the Venice Film Festival, Fraser was greeted with a standing ovation. Who knows if the Italian success is not premonitory. Like the most beautiful of dreams.
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