Brendan Fraser said that portraying an obese man in his latest film "The Whale" was a physically challenging, yet rewarding experience.
Based on a play by Samuel D. Hunter, "The Whale" is the story of Charlie, an English teacher who has been estranged from his ex-wife and daughter for the past 17 years, and has grown "dangerously obese since his partner's death," per Playbill. Fraser plays Charlie as he "fends off family, friends and church as he doggedly tries to connect with his estranged daughter."
While filming the Darren Aronofsky-directed movie, Fraser wore a prosthetic suit that he had mixed feelings about. In a new interview with Vanity Fair, the 53-year-old called the suit, created by makeup special effects artist Adrien Morot, “cumbersome, not exactly comfortable."
“The torso piece was almost like a straight jacket,” the "Mummy" star said, “with sleeves that went on, airbrushed by hand, to look identical as would human skin, right down to the hand-punched hair.”
Throughout the movie, Fraser's prosthetics added between 50 to 300 pounds of extra weight, so it was a physically intense role. Vanity Fair reports that staff was on-hand to help Fraser move around set.
“I learned quickly that it takes an incredibly strong person inside that body to be that person,” he said. “That seemed fitting and poetic and practical to me, all at once.”
Despite the physical hardships he was about to experience, Fraser couldn't help but admire the suit the first time he saw it.
“It was that beautiful and that arresting,” he said.
While researching his role, Fraser took some time to compare the prosthetic suit he was wearing to others that had been used in different films.
“I looked at other body suits that had been used in comedies over the years, usually for a one-note joke,” he said. “Whether intended or not, the joke is, it defies gravity. This was not that.”
He also worked with the Obesity Action Coalition to understand Charlie's experience, and spoke to people who have undergone bariatric surgeries.
While the prosthetic suit is a part of Fraser's transformation, the goal, according to director Aronofsky in another story with Vanity Fair, is for audiences to forget the suit.
“Unfortunately, so many characters portrayed in the media who are living with obesity are treated awfully—either they’re humiliated, made fun of, or just living in squalor,” Aronofsky said. “That was never Charlie. Obesity is just part of what Charlie is. After 10 minutes of spending time with Charlie, that’s the breakthrough that we hope the film has (for viewers).”
Earlier this summer, film distribution and production company A24 posted a photo of the actor in the role and revealed that the film will make its debut at the 79th Venice Film Festival, held from Aug. 31 to Sep. 10. Photos of Fraser's full body in “The Whale” have not been released.
The film also stars “Stranger Things” actor Sadie Sink.
During its stage run, "The Whale" received the Drama Desk Award, the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play and a GLAAD Media Award. Hunter adapted the play into a screenplay.
In a statement given to Deadline, Hunter said, "This story is deeply personal and I’m very thankful it will have the chance to reach a wider audience."
CORRECTION (Feb. 24, 2023, 6:10 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the director of “The Whale.” It is Darren Aronofsky, not Damien Aronofsky.