Brendan Fraser wanted to push his personal limits with his latest role in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale”, playing as part of this year’s TIFF.
In the film, “The Mummy” star transforms into Charlie, a severely obese man who is reeling from the loss of a lover all while attempting to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter (Sadie Sink).
For Fraser, “The Whale” marks his first major starring role in a decade and with it, the actor wanted to push himself beyond recognition. For the physical transformation, Fraser dons a prosthetic suit that he says took “his breath away” the first time he saw it.
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“If there’s no risk, then why bother?” he asks Vanity Fair. “I want to learn from the people I’m working with at this point in my career. I’ve had such variety, a lot of high highs and low lows, so what I’m keen for, in the second half of my time doing this, is to feel like I’m contributing to the craft and I’m learning from it. This is a prime opportunity. I wanted to disappear into it. My hope was that I would become unrecognizable.”
In order to mentally prepare and get into Charlie’s psyche, Fraser reached out to the Obesity Action Coalition to understand portrayals of people with higher body weights. Fraser also had to challenge himself to take on Charlie’s mental state.
“This may be the first and last time I ever do this again, so I gave it everything I’ve got,” he said of the role. “And I did. That’s all I got.”
Like Charlie, whose weight severely limits his mobility, the “cumbersome” prosthetics limited Fraser’s physical range and required people to help him stand, sit and move between scenes. “The torso piece was almost like a straight jacket,” he says.
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“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 says. “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].”
“I learned quickly that it takes an incredibly strong person inside that body to be that person,” Fraser says of the physical experience. “That seemed fitting and poetic and practical to me, all at once.”