Brendan Fraser
Photo by Benedict Evans

Brendan Fraser: “I am not a stranger to that”

Short Profile

Name: Brendan James Fraser
DOB: 3 December 1968
Place of birth: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Occupation: Actor

Mr. Fraser, after a few years away from the limelight, you’re having something of a career Renaissance. How are you feeling about that?

I was never that far away. (Laughs) You can’t get rid of me that easy! But I guess I’ll just say: I know not what will come, but come what will and I will go there laughing. And that is our friend Herman Melville, 1851.

That’s a good perspective to keep — especially in the film industry, you never know where you’ll end up next. You recently went from playing a reclusive obese father in The Whale, to playing a lawyer in a 1920s Western in Killers of the Flower Moon.

It was eye opening and an education really, a masterclass working with Martin Scorsese on Killers of the Flower Moon. That talent! Of course, you are in the presence of a master, working with him. It’s like a shop where everyone around him brings him the tools and the things he needs.

Director Darren Aronofsky said that he was looking for someone for that part in The Whale for a long time, and then he saw you and knew that it had to be you.

He's the auteur, so if it wasn’t me, he would have gotten the person he needed. I’m just a lucky guy who walked into his office. (Laughs) Darren, Sadie and I did a reading together and if we didn’t have the chemistry that we did, I’m pretty confident we wouldn’t be here, because he hadn't made up his mind on whether or not he was going to make the movie until he had some semblance of whether this can work. But I felt after shooting this film, and working with Darren and others closely, that it elevated our standards for the care that you would put into the craft.

“I felt after shooting this film, and working with Darren, that it elevated our standards for the care that you would put into the craft.”

I guess that’s the most you can really hope for when you’re working on any film as an actor: the chance to really grow your craft and become better.

It definitely think it made us better actors! We rehearsed down in Florida, at a one to one scale rehearsal hall for three weeks, so when we arrived we knew what to do, in other words, we’d read the sheet music, we knew what to play, we had our performance down. And that was liberating for practical reasons. The COVID restrictions somehow brought us closer together and more concerned for one another’s well being, and that just permeated the approach as well.

This is also a role that demanded a lot from you, physically — how was it to go through that kind of transformation for a character? It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that every actor gets the chance to experience.

Adrien Morot created Charlie’s body by a virtual skin that our producer Jeremy took of me. Then that went to the team in Montreal where he rendered a man, I guess from his research and imagination and skill virtually. And from that, 3D models were printed and from there a more traditional molding process, using different formulas of silicones. The application was about six hours to figure out how to do this. We never intended to be costuming it, we went to elaborate lengths to ensure that the shape of Charlie as you see it maintained a form that was human. Then every take, the team would be touching me up, or plugging in the cables in my costume to run the cold water through my suit. I mean, it was almost like a NASCAR pit crew that had to come in and do some repairs in between. When it came time to shoot it on such a small set, we were like a submarine crew in how cohesive we were.

Was it a claustrophobic experience for you, shooting in such a small space?

Not for me, no. Charlie’s world is a small one, clearly, a two-bedroom apartment, somewhere in Idaho. He’s someone who can only survive on what is brought to him, which is food. In America processed foods makes it almost unfair to people, to not continue to consume and consume and consume. You can’t just have one, you have to have the whole box kind of thing. And there are certain areas of America that they call food deserts, meaning there’s no grocery stores with proper nutrition and empty calories and people eat at gas stations what they can get out of boxes. It’s a real concern. People who live with obesity issues, it’s almost like they don’t have a fighting chance. What do you give to somebody who has a vice, who you care about, who you love, without judgment?

“What do you give to somebody who has a vice, who you care about, who you love, without judgment?”

How do you prepare to play a character who is so far away from yourself? Do you need to find a connection to embody the role?

In terms of connecting with this character in particular, you know, I spoke with people at the Obesity Action Coalition, and they gave me their story. While I am not a psychiatrist or anything like that, one thing I did notice that was common to each of these individuals who didn’t know each other necessarily, there was someone in their youth who was cruel to them. And sadly often it was a male and it was a father, normally it was a parent. Painful indeed is vindictive speech. I understand that it’s harmful to call people mean names, I am not a stranger to that myself. My feelings have been hurt and in years past there have been people who use social media in nefarious ways.

Those kinds of deep connections during the research stage must be so invaluable to what you can accomplish when you finally get to set.

Meeting with the Obesity Action Coalition and hearing their stories, you know, they shared their vulnerabilities with me, their frustrations… Clearly what was most important to them is that this was not a comic representation of what we had seen before. I was positively chuffed to know that they gave us their support, having had seen the film that this was treated with dignity and respect, to show that this is a human being. That was really the point of the film.