Brendan Fraser’s weight gain and transformation

The Great Whale (A24)

Brendan Fraser in The Whale. (A24)

There’s nothing like a shocking movie company transformation to get Tinseltown talking and the nominations rolling in, and Brendan Fraser’s two roles in The Whale have managed both.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, The Whale follows the story of Charlie, a reclusive and chronically obese online English teacher who desperately tries to connect with his estranged daughter, as he approaches death.

600 lb Charlie is losing weight through catastrophic binge eating to cope with the guilt and pain of leaving his family and also the death of his lover.

Read more: Brendan Fraser says a ‘difficult’ fat suit helped The Whale

Despite his poor prognosis, Charlie seeks redemption by trying to bond with his 17-year-old daughter Ellie, played by Stranger Things star Sadie Sink.

Watch a trailer for The Whale

Adapted from playwright Samuel D. Hunter’s award-winning Broadway play, The Whale has garnered praise and critical acclaim, as well as awards buzz as we head into Oscar season.

The challenging film marks Fraser’s first ever Oscar nomination in the Best Actor category, with two other nominations including the Supporting Actor category for Hong Chau (played by Charlie’s friend Liz), and Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

Of course Fraser’s body transformation is one of the biggest talking points of the film.

To physically portray Charlie, a combination of heavy prosthetics, CGI and makeup was used on Fraser, making The Mummy star completely unrecognizable.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 15: Brendan Fraser attends the 28th Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza on January 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Brendan Fraser attends the 28th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards, 2023. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

The 54-year-old told the audience at GalaxyCon Raleigh last year, “The real task was to really create this character with all the tools we have with makeup, prosthetics, costume construction, and a little bit of CGI to ensure that the shape of this man’s body obeys the laws of physics and gravity.”

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The change from a muscular 90s movie heart to an obese Charlie in 2023 certainly feels a little uncomfortable and has fueled a lot of fatphobia discourse. Roxane Gay wrote a New York Times opinion piece entitled ‘The Cruel Spectacle of The Whale’.

In the piece, Gay writes, “The Whale claims to be told with care and grace, but it’s as exploitative as any episode of TLC’s My 600-lb Life.”

The Great Whale (A24)

Brendan Fraser in The Whale. (A24)

Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair wrote in his review that Charlie’s current existence is told with “a kind of leering horror”.

Despite some negative reviews, Fraser insists that we need to “see the work” before passing judgment on its performance. Speaking to the Telegraph, Fraser explained that he knew “it had to be done sensitively and honestly”.

Director Darren Aronofsky has also addressed the controversy over how obesity is addressed in the film.

“People who are obese are generally written as bad guys or as punchlines,” Aronofsky told Yahoo Entertainment last year.

“We wanted to create a fully-functioning character that has bad parts about him and good parts about him; Charlie is very sorry, but he is full of love and he is looking for forgiveness. [the controversy] that makes no sense to me. Brendan Fraser is the right actor to play this role, and the film is an exercise in empathy.”

The Great Whale (A24)

Brendan Fraser in rehearsal for The Whale. (A24)

Aronofsky also spoke to The Envelope podcast of The Los Angeles Times about how he collaborated with the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC).

“They really feel like this is going to open people’s eyes,” Aronofsky said. “You have to remember, people in this community, doctors judge them when they go for medical help. Most people are judged everywhere they go on the planet.”

“This film shows that, like everyone, we’re all human and we’re all good and bad and flawed and hopeful and happy and sad, and we have all different colors inside of us.”

Read more: Why is everyone talking about Brendan Fraser?

So how exactly did The Whale create an accurate and empathetic portrayal of an obese person?

Fraser’s intricate prosthetics were created by renowned prosthetics designer Adrien Morot, who also worked on The Revenant and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

The Great Whale (A24)

The Great Whale (A24)

Morot experimented with digital sculpting and a 3D printer for the body suit, as he was unable to make models of Fraser’s face and face due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the designer had to be creative.

With the help of an iPad, the Whale’s producer managed to scan Brendan in his garage and Morot used this date, along with Zoom calls, to design the suit remotely.

“That’s the biggest challenge I’ve ever had in my career. Morot told Vanity Fair about designing prosthetics for the Whale. “I always try to do makeups that are subtle and unnoticeable…it should be like, ‘What? This actor was wearing prosthetics? I thought I hadn’t seen him in a few years.”

To make the movements realistic, a full-body artificial skin suit was created using 3D printing and filled with sacks of “gelatinous water beads”, to correct the movement of Fraser’s limbs.

“I’ve looked at other bodysuits that have been used in comics over the years, usually for a one-note joke,” Fraser told Vanity Fair about the suit. “Whether it’s intended or not, the joke is, it doesn’t defy gravity. That was not the case.”

Brendan Fraser accepts the spotlight award for

Brendan Fraser accepts the spotlight award for Whale at the 34th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards. (AP)

Fraser also said that the change in his character The Whale was “anxious, not comfortable”.

At the start of production, Fraser would spend between five and six hours in the makeup chair, every day, to become Charlie, and the hour was down to two or three by the end of filming. The advanced prosthetics were so heavy that several people also had to be on hand to help Fraser move between the studio and the makeup room.

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Fraser went on to describe the struggle of getting into the heavy, yet intricately designed costume for Vanity Fair, “The torso piece was almost like a straight jacket with sleeves that went forward, airbrushed by hand, to look equal to human skin, right down to the hand-plucked hair.”

Brendan Fraser in The Whale (A24)

Brendan Fraser in The Whale. (A24)

In addition to the physical transformation, Fraser wanted to prepare mentally and emotionally for his role in the Whale and worked with the Obesity Action Coalition.

He consulted with people who had undergone bariatric surgeries to learn more about their lives and struggles, “I quickly learned that it takes a very strong person inside that person’s body,” said the t -actor. “That was fitting and poetic and practical to me, all at the same time.”

Read more: Brendan Fraser turns into a 42 stone man

After a long break in Hollywood, it’s definitely great to see Fraser back on the big screen delivering one of his most powerful and emotional performances to date.

The Whale is out in UK cinemas now.

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