Brendan Fraser has responded to the backlash over the decision for him to wear a prosthetic fat suit while playing a 600-pound man in Darren Aronofsky’s film The Whale rather than casting an obese actor. In an interview with People, the actor said it was a crucial and “exacting” way to make his portrayal “accurate.”
“I think it’s one of the more exacting ways you can create a character and body,” Fraser said about his transformation process. “And in this case the mandate that Charlie’s costume would respect the laws of gravity and physics as opposed to the many ways that we’ve seen that character depicted in films before as really a one-note joke, and in a costume that’s just unfair.”
He continued, “That’s a personal view but we felt an obligation to ensure that it was cumbersome. It was accurate, that was what we strived for.” Fraser added that he would “absolutely” undergo a transformation for another role.
Aronofsky previously defended his decision to cast Fraser in an interview with Variety, saying it became “a crazy chase” to find an obese actor. The director added that it was “an impossible role to fill with a real person dealing with those issues.”
The Whale playwright Samuel D. Hunter, who also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation, has explained in the past that he made Charlie an obese character because a large portion of the audience has been “culturally trained” to put fat people at a distance. His goal was to create empathy that would erase that distance over the course of the play.
Despite the Oscar buzz for Fraser’s performance, The Whale has received criticism from actors like Daniel Franzese, who broke out with his role as Damian in Mean Girls. “I’m very conflicted,” Franzese told People in September. “When they go time and time again and cast someone like Brendan Fraser, me and the other big queer guys, we’re like, ‘What the … ?’ We can’t take it!”
In our review of The Whale, critic Sarah Kurchak broke down how Fraser’s fat suit and Aronofsky’s directing decisions had a negative impact on the film: “Even Fraser’s excellent performance is diminished by the fat suit. Not because it limits his movement and expression, but because the fat suit and the way Charlie’s fatness is treated by the whole film undercuts every genuine moment he brings to the screen.”
Though Fraser will undoubtedly be up for several awards for his performance, he won’t be attending the Golden Globes because the former head of the Globes’ Hollywood Foreign Press Association allegedly groped him.
The Whale also stars Sadie Sink as Charlie’s estranged 17-year-old daughter Ellie, Hong Chau as his best friend and nurse Liz, Sathya Sridharan as his regular pizza delivery person, and Ty Simpkins as a door-to-door evangelist. The film is out in theaters on December 9th. Revisit the teaser trailer here.