Darren Aronofsky defends his decision to cast Brendan Fraser in ‘The Whale’

Three men wearing suits and smiling pose in front of a film festival backdrop.
Director Darren Aronofsky, from right, Brendan Fraser and screenwriter Samuel D. Hunter arrive at the premiere of “The Whale” during the 2022 London Film Festival.
(Vianney Le Caer / Invision / Associated Press)

Director Darren Aronofsky initially wanted to cast an actor who could play the 600-pound lead of his forthcoming film “The Whale” without any physical alterations before going with Brendan Fraser in the starring role.

“There was a chapter in the making of this film where we tried to research actors with obesity,” Aronofsky said in a recent Variety interview. “Outside of not being able to find an actor who could pull off the emotions of the role, it just becomes a crazy chase. Like, if you can’t find a 600-pound actor, is a 300-pound actor or 400-pound actor enough?”

Aronofsky expressed concern over whether or not an actor at that size would be able to keep up with the physical nature of the film’s production.

“From a health perspective, it’s prohibitive,” the “Black Swan” director said. “It’s an impossible role to fill with a real person dealing with those issues.”


Brendan Fraser got emotional and cried as audiences at the Venice Film Festival gave a six-minute standing ovation after the premiere of ‘The Whale.’

Sept. 5, 2022

In the A24 drama Fraser plays Charlie, a gay man who is dying as a result of his weight issues. While under the care of his friend and nurse (Hong Chau), Charlie attempts to make amends with his ex-wife (Samantha Morton) and his daughter (Sadie Sink).

Each day on set Fraser spent four hours in makeup and getting fitted for prosthetics. To get an understanding of his character’s state of mind Fraser consulted weight advocacy groups and people who “were struggling with eating issues.”

“They let me know what their diet was and how obesity had affected their lives in terms of their relationships with loved ones,” “The Mummy” star said in the same Variety interview. “It was heartbreaking, because very often these people were mocked and made to feel awful about themselves. Vindictive speech is painful. And it does damage because it feeds into the cycle of overeating. I just left those conversations thinking, ‘Hey, this is not your fault. This is an illness. This is an addiction.’”

The 53-year-old actor noted that films centered on people considered obese often lack sympathy and dimensionality.

“I don’t want to call out colleagues by name,” Fraser said. “But a lot of those movies are one-note and depict obesity with crude jokes.”

The film’s screenwriter Samuel D. Hunter noted in the Variety interview that he was aware of the criticism he would get for the movie’s title, given how it may be perceived as insensitive.

Brendan Fraser sent fans into a frenzy after A24 posted images of the actor in Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming film, “The Whale.”

July 27, 2022


“The title deliberately pokes at some people’s prejudices,” Hunter said. “I wasn’t surprised by the blowback, because of the history of the way that obesity is treated on film. And we live in cynical and reactionary times.”

At the September premiere of the movie at the Venice Film Festival, the audience gave the film a six-minute standing ovation, according to Variety and social media reports.

As the credits rolled in Venice, Fraser sobbed during the ovation. Video posted on social media showed a teary Fraser reluctantly getting up as the standing audience claps and cheers for his performance.

“The Whale” marks a comeback of sorts for Fraser who rose to prominence in the 1990s as an action and comedy heartthrob in lighthearted films such as 1992’s “Encino Man,” 1997’s “George of the Jungle” and 1999’s “The Mummy.”

In a 2018 interview with GQ, the actor said he retreated from the spotlight after he alleged former Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. President Philip Berk inappropriately touched him at an event in 2003. Berk apologized but admitted to no wrongdoing.

“The Whale” is scheduled to be released Dec. 9.