• Clayton Davis, Variety

The king of the jungle returns to film


Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images/TNS Brendan Fraser attends The Whale and “Filming Italy Best Movie Achievement Award” red carpet at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on Sept. 4, 2022, in Venice, Italy.

The love for Brendan Fraser continues to grow following his acclaimed turn in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, generating tons of Oscar buzz.


“It’s the right actor, for the right part, at the right time,” Darren Aronofsky says in the Variety Studio presented by King’s Hawaiian at TIFF. While at the Toronto International Film Festival for the movie, Fraser, along with writer Samuel D. Hunter and his fellow cast members Sadie Sink and Ty Simpkins, spoke with Variety about taking on the difficult role of a 600-pound man, which required up to four hours of prosthetics and makeup.


“It was designed specifically to obey laws of gravity and physics. It wasn’t built for just a silhouette or a one-note joke,” Fraser said.


“It’s a funny movie. The laughs are nonstop and it’s hard to remember because there’s a lot of humanity up there and there’s a lot of truth. There’s top-of-the-game acting going on,” Aronofsky said.


The film received a standing ovation at the premiere at the Venice Film Festival, where Fraser burst into tears. The actor got misty-eyed again in the Variety Studio while his fellow filmmakers spoke about their favorite Fraser roles. He received the TIFF Tribute Award for his performance, with a highlight reel of his most memorable films playing before he took the stage. With Simpkins citing The Mummy (1999) and Hunter saying, Gods and Monsters (1998), Sink says: “I only know Brendan as Charlie” [from The Whale], prompting a sweet hug between the two.


Fraser is one of the frontrunners in the best actor Oscar race that includes Hugh Jackman in The Son and Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin. Fraser quotes Herman Melville’s Moby Dick when asked about his awards buzz for his performance: “I know not all that may be coming but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”


Hunter, who adapts his play of the same name, is taking it “one day at a time” as he navigates through the early phase of awards season. “I’m an off-Broadway kid, so this is incredibly new to me. Feeling incredibly grateful.”


Sink, best known for her role of Max on Netflix’s hit series “Stranger Things,” is on a double promotional tour at TIFF for The Whale and her role in Grammy winner Taylor Swift’s short film “All Too Well,” which will be seeking an Oscar nom for best live action short. Aronofsky sings Sink’s praises as a rising star. “I haven’t seen work like that in a really long time,” he says.

Fraser adds, “dynamite comes in small packages.”


As the world roots for Fraser’s rise and return in the industry, he also discussed acting in the Batgirl movie, which was recently axed by Warner Bros., something he was “disappointed” by.


“The fans really wanted to see this film made. Leslie Grace is a dynamo,” Fraser said. “The movie was shot and conceived for a smaller screen. In this age that we’ve come out of now between streaming service versus theatrical release, it wound up being the canary in the coal mine. What did we learn from this? Work with trusted filmmakers, like Darren.”


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