“I think on some level I felt I deserved [a beating] and wanted to be the one who got in the first punch.”
Enjoying a renaissance years in the making, Brendan Fraser reflected back on the brutally physical early years of his film career and just how much damage it did to his impressive physique.
“I’m older now; I don’t look the way I did in those days, and I don’t necessarily want to,” “The Whale” star told The Telegraph of some of his earlier projects, like “George of the Jungle.”
While he was perhaps the most physically ripped he’d ever been at that time, it came at a tremendous cost — that and his incredible physicality in those roles.
“I got a little banged up from years of doing my own stunts and needed a surgical fix on the spine and the hinges,” he said, referring to a partial knee replacement and other surgeries including one to remove a portion of bone from his lower back and even vocal cord repair.
It got so bad that by the time he was filming the third film in the “Mummy” franchise in 2007 he was putting himself “together like a gladiator with muscle tape and ice packs, strapping on this Transformer-like exoskeleton just to get through the scene.”
“Those physical performances, whether fighting, dancing or comedy, had an element of self-sacrifice,” he said. “But it wasn’t very clever of me at all.”
When asked if there was perhaps some element of self-loathing, Fraser replied, “Absolutely there was self-loathing.” He had said he felt that he must “earn” those hefty blockbuster paychecks, and being physical was one of the ways he thought to do that.
“I think on some level I felt I deserved [a beating] and wanted to be the one to get in the first punch,” he added.
When he was asked if the alleged sexual assault by Golden Globes former president Philip Berk in 2002 fed into his concerns that he wasn’t being seen as a serious actor but rather “like a side of meat,” Fraser admitted he’d never thought of it that way, “but it’s a fair question.”
He did say, though, that in the aftermath of that alleged incident, “it brought me to a point in my life when I needed to retreat. And I did.” Berk has dismissed Fraser’s claims as a “total fabrication.”
Now 54 years old, Fraser concedes, “I don’t look the way I did in those days and I don’t necessarily want to.”
He went on to say he’s “made peace with who I am now.” He’s also grateful that the work he’s able to do now in his career “is based in an emotional reality” that is separate from his own life, but still one he can identify with.
Fraser has said multiple times that he can empathize with his character in “The Whale,” estranged from his daughter and attempting to forge a connection. Last week, he scored his first-ever Oscar nomination for his critically-acclaimed performance.
As to critics of the “fat suit” Fraser had to wear to become Charlie in the film, he has consistently urged people to see the film to understand the care with which the character was approached.
“All I can say is that I knew it had to be done with sensitivity and honesty,” he said. “Putting quotation marks around Charlie — trying to sentimentalize him, or make him a circus act — would be nothing that I would want to be a part of.”