Brendan Fraser brings career-defining role for the American-Canadian actor to TIFF

Call it Brenaissance.

When director Darren Aronofsky was looking for an actor to star in Whale – a movie about a 600-pound recluse desperately trying to reconnect with an estranged daughter and heal from his traumatic history – he’s not really familiar with the job by Brendan Fraser.

Undoubtedly, the actor was one of the most recognizable leading men of the ’90s – think Encino Man, School Relations and George of the jungle – “but it’s a generation after me, those movies,” Aronofsky told CBC’s Eli Glasner. “So I don’t even know what his acting skills are.

“And then by chance… I came across a trailer for a low-budget Brazilian movie in Portuguese, and Brendan played a supporting role, and it was one of those light bulb moments. I just felt it. get that.”

Fraser, a 53-year-old American-Canadian actor who lived in Ottawa and Toronto (among other places) with his family during his nomadic adolescence, found in Whale a career-defining role after more than a decade of poor performances and a string of injuries, including many surgeries on the back, knees and vocal cords.

A sign in support of Fraser is seen at TIFF’s premiere of The Whale on Sunday. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

He starred opposite Sadie Sink, known for his role as Max in Netflix’s Strange things. Aronofsky called the 20-year-old actress a “firecracker”.

On Sunday’s TIFF red carpet, ahead of the film’s North American premiere, Fraser said he was blown away by the prosthetic made by Montreal costume designer Adrien Morot.

“The first time I saw his work on a mannequin, I thought it was on loan from Tate Modern,” he told CBC’s Lisa Xing. “It’s so dramatic, so eye-catching. It’s almost like he did my job for me in so many ways because I just wore it to play the traumatized man he felt. “

The actor worked with the Obesity Action Coalition to ensure that the issue was handled delicately, he said. Although not directly autobiographical, the story is partly based on the experience of playwright Samuel D. Hunter.

VIEW | Fraser describes his physical transformation in The Whale:

Brendan Fraser describes his physical transformation in The Whale

Brendan Fraser and screenwriter Samuel D. Hunter discuss their film, The Whale, on the TIFF red carpet ahead of its North American premiere.

Hunter, who adapted the 2012 play for the screen, said: “The film is set in my hometown of Idaho, where I was a gay teenager who attended a religious school that taught that homosexuality was a crime. fatal error,” said Hunter, who adapted his 2012 play for the screen.

“Early on, I started healing myself with food. I became very big,” added the writer. “I mean, of course, lots of big, happy and healthy people, this is just my story – no one else… I was scared to write it.

“I’m glad I didn’t know this was going to happen,” he added of the film’s high reception, “because I was too scared to write it, but I’m so glad I did. And I’m glad I can give it to Brendan.”

PICTURE | Stars shine on TIFF red carpet:

The actor has a ‘Canadian kindness,’ says the director

The actor has been greeted with warm support on the internet and in real life, as seen in a recent viral video from the Venice International Film Festival, where he received a lengthy standing ovation. 6 minutes of tracking Whaleworld premiere.

“There is one fundamental thing – we will call it Canadian goodness – about Brendan that this kind of ring cuts through and captivates everyone,” Aronofsky said.

“Listen, I haven’t really talked about this yet. But I didn’t know the love and goodwill for Brendan when I started this process. It wasn’t part of my calculation.”

Fraser and director Darren Aronofsky are seen on The Whale’s TIFF red carpet on Sunday. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

Make no mistake, though: Fraser would rather talk about this character than about himself.

“Charlie is a man living with a lot of regrets. He’s alone in his two-bedroom apartment, he’s got a lot of trauma in his life. And that shows through need. eating to comfort himself. to the point that he wears it on his body,” the actor told Glasner in an interview before the film’s appearance at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Fraser went on to say that he failed to identify the character’s problems.

“I really feel like, when shooting this movie, with the time it’s taken during the lockdown – I think we all feel like this could be the last time we get to privileged to do this kind of work,” he said.

“So there was a certain level of courage and renunciation that we did every day. And we loved each other taking care of each other more. And I think that really shows in the quality of the series. film.”

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