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Brendan Fraser's Portrayal of Gay Man in 'The Whale' Earns Oscar Buzz

Brendan Fraser
Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images

The Mummy actor's film The Whale received a six-minute standing ovation after its screening at the Venice Film Festival over the weekend.


Brendan Fraser may be known for his leading roles in The Mummy and George of the Jungle, but he is now earning some Oscar chatter for his new film The Whale where he plays a 600-pound gay man who has entered a severe bout of depression following the death of his partner.

The film, directed by Darren Aronofsky, debuted at the Venice Film Festival. It's adapted from a play by Samuel D. Hunter.

Audiences reportedly gave the film a six-minute standing ovation, according to CNN.

A video posted by Variety's co-editor in chief Ramin Setoodeh showed Fraser's emotional response to the film's reception.

Both the film and the play focus on Charlie, a kind man who has isolated himself after his partner's death and is eating constantly to deal with the sadness. As he knows his continuous eating is leading to severe health problems, Charlie tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter (played by Sadie Sink of Stranger Things).

Fraser, 53, spoke to reporters ahead of the premier, discussing the intense makeup and prosthetics used to play protagonist Charlie and the emotional and physical the role had on him.

"By far and away I think Charlie is the most heroic man I have ever played because his superpower is to see the good in others and bring that out," said Fraser, Reuters reports.

Related: Straight Actors Who Nabbed Oscar Noms for LGBTQ+ Roles

The prosthetics needed to play Charlie meant that Fraser was sometimes wearing up to 300 extra pounds.

"I needed to learn to move in a new way," Fraser told reporters. "I developed muscles that I did not know that I had. I even felt a sense of vertigo at the end of the day when all the appliances were removed, just as you would feel stepping off the boat onto the dock here in Venice."

While Academy voters tend to root for those undergoing physical transformations, critics have complained that using fat suits to play overweight roles is fatphobic.

Fraser said that donning the prosthetics gave him "an appreciation for those whose bodies are similar because I learned that you need to be an incredibly strong person physically, mentally, to inhabit that physical being. And I think that is Charlie."

"I considered everyone -- all different types of actors, every single movie star on the planet -- but none of it really ever clicked," Aronofsky said, according to the New York Times. "It just didn't move me, it didn't feel right."

Seeing Fraser in a 2006 low-budget film called Journey to the End of the Night made the director decide to approach the actor.

According to Reuters, Aronofsky said the line "People are incapable of not caring" in the play made him want to pursue the project.

"[It] is the most important message to put out in the world right now. Everyone is leaning into the cynicism and darkness and giving up hope. That is exactly what we don't need right now," he explained.

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