Brendan Fraser talks about “The Whale” Fat Suit

Fraser, who stars in Darren Aronofsky’s drama as an obese English teacher, said the suit weighed up to 300 pounds.

Brendan Fraser wants to make a massive statement: “The Whale” doesn’t exploit obesity.

Fraser, who stars in Darren Aronofsky’s drama based on Samuel D. Hunter’s semi-autobiographical play of the same name, spoke to Vanity Fair about how the physical transformation for the role is part of his Hollywood reprise. Fraser’s role as Charlie, a reclusive and overweight English teacher who tries to mend his relationship with his daughter (Sadie Sink) in five days, earned him a TIFF Tribute Award. A24’s The Whale has its world premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival on September 4th, before making its TIFF debut and later hitting theaters on December 9th.

“I quickly learned that to be that person, it takes an incredibly strong person in that body,” Fraser said of donning the 50- to 300-pound prosthetic suit, depending on the scene. “It seemed fitting and poetic and practical at the same time.”

Fraser worked with the Obesity Action Coalition to better understand different body types, calling his prosthetic suit “beautiful” and “exciting” enough to feel it belonged in London’s Tate Modern Museum. The suit was made by director Aronofsky’s frequent collaborator, Oscar-nominated digital makeup artist Adrien Morot. The film barely uses CGI, opting instead to use prosthetics modeled via digital sculpts and 3D printed.

“I’ve looked at other body suits that have been used in comedy over the years, usually for a one-note joke,” Fraser explained. “Whether intended or not, the joke is, it defies gravity. That was Not the.”

While Fraser noted that the suit was “awkward, not exactly comfortable” at times, he marveled at its artistry. “The torso piece was almost like a straitjacket, with sleeves that were hand-airbrushed to look exactly like human skin, right down to the hand-punched hair,” he added.

Fraser called the role a “risk” but a necessary one on his way back to Hollywood after slipping out of the limelight.

“I want to learn from the people I’m working with at this point in my career,” said the ‘No Sudden Move’ star. “I’ve had so much variety, lots of ups and downs, so in the second half of my time I want to feel like I’m contributing to the craft and I’m learning that from that too. This is a prime opportunity. I wanted to disappear into it. My hope was that I would become unrecognizable.”

He added, “I wanted to know what I’m capable of.”

Director Aronofsky shared, “Unfortunately, so many media characters living with obesity are treated horribly – either humiliated, ridiculed, or just living in misery. That was never Charlie. Obesity is only part of what Charlie is. After 10 minutes with Charlie, that’s the breakthrough we’re hoping for in the film [for viewers].”

Playwright Hunter said of his own story: “I got into it through my own personal struggles, as I used to be a lot taller. This is just my story – a lot of people out there are big and happy and healthy and doing well and they deserve respect. But I was treating myself with food and it was hard for me to live in the world as that person. I had never seen this story told so accurately.”

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Lindsay Lowe

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