Brendan Fraser made waves at the 2022 Venice Film Festival for his lead performance in Darren Aronofsky’sThe Whale. 

The Oscar buzz and the best reviews of his career culminated in a six-minute standing ovation after the film’s screening at the festival. In a video shared by Variety co-editor-in-chief Ramin Setoodeh on Twitter, Fraser broke down in tears during the reception, showing us the power of resilience and perseverance in the industry. 

Part of this collective happiness from fans to Fraser comes from the knowledge of Fraser’s recent struggles. 

Where did he go?

This reception from fans and critics comes years after Fraser was at the height of his career, starring in hits such as George of the Jungle and The Mummyfranchise. But after a sustainable run as one of Hollywood’s leading men, Fraser retreated from the limelight to stand somewhere off in the margins. The star that was once a cornerstone in many audiences' lives was gone, and no one really knew why. 

After Fraser was absent from anything big in Hollywood for several years, GQ published a profile in 2018 where the actor revealed the culmination of struggles he faced that made him retreat. 

Fraser discussed years of suffering from injuries, subsequent surgeries, personal loss, divorce, and—most startling—allegations of sexual assault by Philip Berk, a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Berk told GQ that Fraser’s account was “a total fabrication.” 

The weight of the loss and pain of Fraser's career made the actor feel unworthy of his stardom. The feeling ate at him as he starred in movies he was less and less proud of.

Brendan Fraser's comeback can teach us a few things as filmmakersBrendan Fraser at the Venice Film Festival for 'The Whale'Credit: Getty Images

“But I felt like the horse from Animal Farm, whose job it was to work and work and work,” Fraser told GQ. “Orwell wrote a character who was, I think, the proletariat. He worked for the good of the whole, he didn't ask questions, and he didn't make trouble until it killed him... I don't know if I've been sent to the glue factory, but I've felt like I've had to rebuild shit that I've built that got knocked down and do it again for the good of everyone. Whether it hurts you or not.”

Fraser has lived a quiet life since, starring in projects here and there, but never returning to those career-defining roles. But the appeal of the actor never faded. 

Fraser and The Whale

The Whale offers Fraser a role unlike anything he’s ever played. Adapted from the play by Samuel D. Hunter, Fraser wears a prosthetic bodysuit to play Charlie, a 600-pound gay man who lives in isolating grief after the death of his partner. 

Aronofsky wanted to make the film for years, but could never land the right actor to star in the emotionally challenging role. Aronofsky landed on Fraser after watching a trailer for the low-budget crime thriller Journey to the End of the Night

When fans of Fraser heard the news, the internet erupted with joy that the actor was back in a major film. It was during an interview with TikTok user Lindley for a two-minute meet and greet that Fraser learned the internet was rooting for him, dubbing what looked like his return to the film industry as "the Brenaissance."

Nicholas Baer, an assistant professor of film studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, told NPR, “[The Whale] is offering us an opportunity to kind of recognize the virtue and the kind of fundamental decency of Brendan Fraser, who has been really wronged by the industry and has long suffered.” 

Film and media historian Chris Yogerst told NPR that Fraser is an actor who is so “universally loved” by the public for so long that fans were waiting for the critics to praise Fraser again, welcoming him back into the industry.

“It’s almost like the public was just waiting for this moment,” said Yogerst. “Everyone has missed him. Seeing him back on the screen, it was like an old friend was back.” 

Danny Boyle, an executive producer on Trust, told GQ that he was drawn to the performances of Fraser, saying that “I utterly believed him.”

“It’s one of those delicious moments where you see someone you’re so familiar with who is so changed by time and by experience,” Boyle said. 

What we can learn

It’s inspiring to see Fraser back on the silver screen, bringing back that honest emotion to a role as he so naturally does.

As creatives, we experience highs and lows. They feel dramatic, and, at times, absolutely soul-crushing. Sometimes, those moments force us to retreat from our passion, but those moments do not define our talent or ability to create new and exciting art.

Fraser has shown us, on the biggest stage possible, that passion and love for your work will always be supported and appreciated. This is a reminder to take time for yourself when you need it and to make the art that you want to make, even if no one sees it.

Let us know your thoughts on the return of Brendan Fraser to the industry in the comments below!

Source: Ramin Setoodeh via Twitter