From 'George of the Jungle' to 'The Whale': The rise, fall and rise again of Brendan Fraser

From 'George of the Jungle' to 'The Whale': The rise, fall and rise again of Brendan Fraser
Brendan Fraser battled depression and had to undergo many surgeries before he made a stirring comeback with 'The Whale' (IMDb; RaminSetoodeh/Twitter)

VENICE, ITALY: The crowd went wild, Darren Aronofsky was cheering and all the while Brendan Fraser sat there clapping, tears filling his eyes. The 53-year-old was speechless. When the 'Mother!' director encouraged him to get up, the audience was euphoric. This was the scene at the Venice Film Festival after Aronofsky's movie 'The Whale' received a whopping six-minute-long standing ovation. After years of struggling and being considered a has-been, Fraser was finally getting his due. 

In the film, rhe 53-year-old actor plays Charlie, a man who is barely able to walk due to his size. Fraser had to put on a fat suit to play the role of the 600lb recluse. The 'George of the Jungle' actor was joined by 'Stranger Things' actor Sadie Sink who plays his 17-year-old daughter Ellie. Already the buzz has begun that this may be Fraser's Oscar moment, a vindication of the fact that he is still among the elite when it comes to his acting chops. The movie has since been lauded by critics and audiences alike. Fraser's acting in the film was the mark of a sensational comeback.


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Variety reported that it wasn't only Fraser who was moved to tears, but Nick Kroll and Hillary Clinton staffer Huma Abedin also cried after watching the powerful film. 'The Whale' left many people in the audience emotional. The outlet reported that Fraser cried throughout the ovation. From battling depression to losing his chiseled physique to making an impact, let's take a look at his journey. 

Jeanne Moore and Brendan Fraser arrive for
Jeanne Moore and Brendan Fraser arrive for 'The Whale' red carpet during the 79th Venice Film Festival on September 4, 2022 in Venice, Italy (Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Brendan Fraser becomes Hollywood's sweetheart

It all started with the 1991 film 'Dogfight' alongside River Phoenix in which he played a sailor. The very next year he starred in 'Encino Man' in which Fraser played the character of Link who was a caveman who had been frozen for centuries. He is broken out by two high school students who teach him about modern life. Top producers noticed him thanks to his skill and from then on it was supposed to be smooth sailing. The actor starred in highly-successful franchises such as 'George of the Jungle' and 'The Mummy'. 

Brendan Fraser as Rick O'Connell in 'The Mummy' (1991). (IMDb/The Mummy)
Brendan Fraser played Rick O'Connell in highly successful 'The Mummy' franchise (The Mummy/IMDb)

What set Fraser apart was his unbelievable physique that was so chiseled that Hollywood labeled him as an action hero, a title he happily accepted. He then went on to star in a couple of action-packed films. He told GQ in 2018 that while he was shooting the third instalment in 'The Mummy' franchise, he was constantly getting injured. This did not pay off well as the actor had to ultimately give up his Greek god-like physique due to injuries, which consequently pushed him into depression. Hollywood, which was quick to accept him, was quick to forget him as well.

He said in the GQ interview, "By the time I did the third Mummy picture in China, I was put together with tape and ice—just, like, really nerdy and fetishy about ice packs. Screw-cap ice packs and downhill-mountain-biking pads, cause they're small and light and they can fit under your clothes. I was building an exoskeleton for myself daily.” Sadly, these injuries would soon lead to multiple surgeries. "I needed a laminectomy. And the lumbar didn't take, so they had to do it again a year later.

Fraser had to undergo a partial knee replacement, some more work on his back and eve surgery on his spine. Later, his vocal chords also needed to be repaired. He was in and out of hospitals for seven years. 

Everything's coming up, Fraser

The final string holding Fraser tp Hollywood broke when he was blacklisted after he said that he was sexually assaulted by Philip Berk, former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, in 2003. The actor claimed he was leaving a luncheon hosted by the HFPA at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Hollywood when Berk shook his hand. He explained the incident, "His left hand reaches around, grabs my a** cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint. And he starts moving it around. I felt ill. I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry."

Brendan Fraser and Leslie Mann in 'Georg of the Jungle' (1997). (IMDb/George of the Jungle)
Brendan Fraser and Leslie Mann were highly successful in the 'George of the Jungle' franchise as well (George of the Jungle/IMDb)

Post this, he ended his nine-year-long marriage with Afton Smith in 2007. The couple share three sons: Griffin, Leland, and Holden. The settlement landed him in deep trouble he was ordered to pay $50,000 a month to Smith as spousal support. After five years, in 2013, he persuaded an agreement asking to pay less explaining that he was no longer getting the stupendous paychecks as he did back in the day. He accepted that he wasn't able to make the payments.

Epic comeback

By 2016, things started looking up for Fraser. He landed a role in the Showtime drama 'The Affair', starring Dominic West and Ruth Wilson in which he played the cruel prison guard John Gunther in the third season of the show. Fans were shocked with his appearance during the promotions for the show which led to speculations that he was going through something. His loyal fanbase rushed to his aid to remind the actor of how much he meant to them and that his movies were classics. Things had finally started looking up for Fraser. 

Brendan Fraser as Charlie in 'The Whale' (2022). (IMDb/The Whale)
Brendan Fraser plays Charlie in  crotocally acclaimed film 'The Whale'  (IMDb/The Whale)

After the series debuted, Vox stated that it could be the beginning of the "Brendan Fraser renaissance", which was not untrue. 'The Whale' has catapulted him back into the spotlight. He attended the premiere with his new beau Jeanne Moore. Fraser will next be seen in 'Killers of the Flower Moon' alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, and 'Brothers' alongside Josh Brolin and fan-favorite Peter Dinklage. 

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