13th March, 2023
By Nehru Odeh
Brendan Fraser is not just the comeback king, he is a study in determination and courage.
And just like Charlie, the role he played in the film, Whale that just earned him an Oscar for best actor, Fraser tried all he could to get his acts together after a great fall to win the highest award in the American film industry.
Stunning? Sure. By winning this award, Fraser has shown not just strength of character, but also the courage of his convictions as he bounced back after a fall and everyone had given up on him to win the Oscar for best actor.
Fraser couldn’t have had it better. This was a man who had things going well for him as an actor until he dipped and was cancelled after he accused Philip Berk, Golden Globe’s former president of sexually assaulting him in 2003.
This was a man who was blacklisted by the powers that be in the movie industry and not only did he go into hibernation, he also suffered several losses.
This is was a man who cried out against what he regarded as a sexual assault and instead of getting justice, he was victimized, blacklisted and cancelled.
Though Berk said the allegation was “a total fabrication”, an internal investigation concluded that Berk had “inappropriately touched Fraser, adding that Berk’s action “was intended to be taken as a joke and not a sexual advance”.
Still, Fraser who had had a string of successes with box office hits such as Encino Man, School Ties, George of the Jungle, the Mummy trilogy was backlisted.
Fraser didn’t just go into the cooler, his wife Afton Smith, an actress, who had three children with him, divorced him, leaving him with their two sons, one of whom is autistic.
Fraser went into hibernation, settling in a remote farm. He was largely off the big screen for about 20 years and people wondered what had become of him.
Fraser also suffered a series of physical injuries in the 2000s – many acquired on set during his action movie stunt sequences — which eventually required multiple surgeries across a seven-year period on his knees, back and vocal cords.
Yet, Fraser only revealed how he had been blacklisted by the industry after his encounter with Berk more than a decade later in an interview. According to Fraser, the psychologist impact of the alleged attack, combined with the industry’s response as well as his bitter and costly divorce from Smith all took their toll on him.
Indeed, Fraser referred to his trouble-filled past in his emotional speech after receiving the Oscar for best actor.
“I started in this business 30 years ago, things didn’t come easy to me but there was a facility that I didn’t appreciate at the time, until it stopped. I just want to say thank you for this acknowledgement. It couldn’t be done without my cast. It’s been like I’ve been on a diving expedition and the air on the line to the surface is being watched over by some people in my life like my sons,” he said.
This Oscar is indeed an icing on the cake. For playing Charlie, a house-bound English teacher trying to salvage his relationship with his estranged daughter, played by Sadie Sink, Fraser had also won other awards such as best actor at the Screen Actors Guild and Critics’ Choice awards, and best actor nominations for the Baftas and Golden Globes (for film drama).
However, what is so remarkable about Fraser’s comeback story is that he maintained a steady lead throughout the award season, starting with a 14-minute standing ovation during the world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
According to Variety magazine, “when asked what he thought of the Oscar buzz back at the start of it all at the Variety TIFF studio, Fraser quoted author Herman Melville, saying: ‘I know not all that may come, but come what may, I will go to it laughing.’”
That indeed does not only sum up Fraser’s life but indeed speak volumes about his triumph and rise after a fall. He went into the movie industry without knowing all that may come, with all its challenges, but has come out of it laughing, with an Oscar for best actor in hand.