Brendan Fraser covers the December issue of GQ, four years after it was GQ that put him back in the spotlight via Zach Baron’s massively viral profile that asked, What ever happened to Brendan Fraser?
Back in 2018, Fraser was talking about where he’d gone, how years of doing his own stunts left him with serious physical ailments that required downtime for the kind of healing Hollywood is often not anxious to give. There is a maxim that once you “make it”, you never take your foot off the pedal, lest someone else come along to replace you. That has literally never worked in anyone’s favor, it just ends up with exhausted, over-exposed stars trying to reset their careers, much like Jennifer Lawrence recently said. He also spoke of an incident involving the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but we’ll come back to that in a minute. First, let’s look at where Fraser is now.
Zach Baron once again interviews Fraser, bookending their conversation from four years ago. Fraser is now on the Oscar trail, a Best Actor frontrunner thanks to The Whale, and his feel-good comeback is everyone’s favorite award season narrative (so far). His career is in high gear, or the highest gear it’s been in for the last decade, at least. Besides The Whale this year, he has Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon next year, and he was very good in Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Moves last year.
The best filmmakers want to work with Brendan Fraser who has, essentially, aged into his character actor phase. The handsomeness that defined his earlier career is still there—the striking eyes, that gorgeous smile—but he is undeniably older, and time has done its work. It’s something they touch on in the profile, how there is a whole phase of Fraser’s life missing from film, how he seems to go from action-hero heartthrob to middle-aged character actor with nothing in between, because those years missing are when he was sidelined by health issues, among other things. We didn’t, basically, get to see Brendan Fraser “grow up”, he simply returned to us a new kind of actor.
Physically, he can’t do the stunts anymore that defined his early comedies and action movies (though he insists he’s game for another Mummy). But he still has the charm and the winsome vulnerability and old-fashioned sincerity that also define his performances. Fraser namechecks Harrison Ford at one point, which is interesting because I’ve always thought of him as Harrison Ford without the grumpiness. Some of it is that his Mummy character, Rick O’Connell, is blatantly modeled on Indiana Jones. But a lot of it is a similar old-school appeal, the sincere man who’s a little too good looking to qualify for “everyman” status, but who has an earthy appeal regardless. Ford, though being a much better actor than he is generally given credit for, has never been able to escape the long shadows of his most famous characters. He never really got to a character actor phase, because we keep bringing him back to rehash Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Fraser, though, gets to transition. He gets a new era.
And while everyone in the industry is thrilled about that, to have this new iteration of Fraser, it’s his dealings with the HFPA that might show how much support there truly is for Fraser around town. This is the “other thing” that helped push Fraser out of the limelight: he was assaulted by former HFPA president Philip Berk in 2003, which Fraser details in his 2018 interview. At the time, during the height of the #MeToo reckoning, not much happened in the aftermath of his revelation. Berk never apologized—and Fraser refused, appropriately, to sign a blatantly bullsh-t non-apology indemnifying Berk of any wrong-doing—and it wasn’t until the LA Times exposed the HFPA’s (alleged) racial bias and ethical and financial wrongdoing that Berk was booted out (for sending a racist email to the membership). Now, a frontrunner in awards season and the star of the year’s most heart-warming celebrity narrative, Fraser says he won’t go to the Golden Globes: “It’s because of the history that I have with them. And my mother didn’t raise a hypocrite.”
At the very least, Team The Whale should also sit it out in solidarity with their leading man. And frankly, were I advising Fraser’s top competition, Colin Farrell and Austin Butler, I’d tell them to skip it, too. Issue simple statements of support for Fraser and give the night a miss. Publicists are looking for an out, anyway, and Brendan Fraser just handed everyone a great reason to skip the Globes. The HFPA insists they’ve changed, but they still haven’t apologized to Fraser. Will that matter in the run up to the event in January? I think it will. By making his statement in mid-November, Fraser has basically set up six solid weeks in which everyone can be asked if they intend to go to the Golden Globes or support him. I don’t think he meant it that way at all, he was just speaking his truth, that his conscience will not allow him to attend that particular event. But the effect is the same regardless, journalists can now ask everyone else if they’ll be going to the Globes or not.
It's great to have Brendan Fraser back. There is a sincerity and appreciation in him for the moment, but he’s also not blowing it out of proportion. He is older, wiser, and committed to enjoying the good things that come his way, whether it’s Oscar nominations—I wish The Whale was better, for his sake, but I won’t complain if he wins an Oscar for it—or positive interactions with fans at conventions. Fraser just seems happy to be doing it all.