A visibly emotional Brendan Fraser fought back tears as ‘The Whale’ received an impassioned standing ovation when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday. The crowd remained on their feet for about five minutes until festival organizers broke the applause to begin a Q&A with Fraser, director Darren Aronofsky, writer Samuel D. Hunter and cast members Sadie Sink and Ty Simpkins. The reception has been one of the strongest yet at this year’s festival, a gathering that has already included premieres of Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” and “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”
“The Whale” stars Fraser as Charlie, a severely obese man who struggles to reconnect with his 17-year-old daughter. Fraser told the TIFF crowd that he hopes the film inspires more compassion in people who watch it.
“You have to be an incredibly strong individual to be this man,” Fraser said. “Because at the end of the day I could take the device off and while I was dizzy something would stay with me…I learned that when you invest everything you can and we give him what we have like it’s the first and last time you do it, something big can come out of it. And I think with your help, maybe we can change some hearts and some minds.
TIFF was to be a big festival for Fraser even before “The Whale” screened to huge acclaim. The actor receives the TIFF Tribute Award for Performance at the 2022 festival, with TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey saying, “Brendan Fraser delivers a performance of staggering depth, power and nuance in” The Whale”. This former Torontonian has been an action star, an on-screen comic and a romantic lead. We’re thrilled to welcome him home as the actor behind one of the finest performances ever. of the year.
The supporting cast also includes Hong Chau and Samantha Morton. The film is based on the play of the same name by Hunter, who adapted the script of the scene to Aronofsky’s feature film. The director worked for a decade to make the film, but he couldn’t find the right person to bring Charlie to life.
“It’s such an emotionally and technically demanding role, and I’ve considered just about every actor on the planet and nothing clicked,” Aronofsky said. That changed after seeing a trailer for a low-budget film Fraser appeared in, a chance meeting that sparked something deep in the filmmaker.
“From that moment I knew we had found Charlie, and I never doubted him for a second,” he added.
Fraser, a major star in the 1990s and early years, had moved away from the studio system in recent years. “The Whale” could revitalize his career, just as another Aronofsky film, 2008’s “The Wrestler,” led to a resurgence of Mickey Rourke. Aronofsky was asked about the similarities.
“Hungry actors are a super important thing, because those roles are really tough,” he said. “You just have to find the actor at the right time in his career who is willing to work hard.”
The film debuted at the Venice Film Festival, where it was greeted with a huge six-minute standing ovation that left Fraser in tears. The actor even tried to leave the theater in Venice at one point, but the applause was so loud he stayed longer and bowed. Variety wrote in Venice that “The Whale” will “probably put Fraser at the forefront of this year’s Best Actor Oscar race”.
To play the film’s lead character, Fraser relied on prosthetics and spent up to six hours in the makeup chair each day to fully transform into the character.
“I built muscles that I didn’t know I had,” Fraser told reporters at the Venice press conference about wearing the prosthetic suit. “I even felt dizzy at the end of the day when all the devices were removed; it was like getting off the dock on a boat in Venice. This [sense of] undulating. It gave me appreciation for those whose bodies are similar. You have to be an incredibly strong person, mentally and physically, to inhabit this physical being.
In his review of “The Whale” of Venice, Variety Chief film critic Owen Gleiberman called Fraser “snarkier, more subtle, more haunting than he’s ever been”, adding that he gives an “intensely lived and touching performance”.
A24 will release “The Whale” in theaters on December 9.