Movies | July 27, 2022 12:05 pm

Is It Problematic for Brendan Fraser to Play a 600-Pound Man?

Fraser donned heavy prosthetics for Darren Aronofsky's "The Whale"

Brendan Fraser in "The Whale"
Brendan Fraser in "The Whale"

It’s been many years since we last saw Brendan Fraser in a starring role — his last leading effort was in the direct-to-DVD action flop Breakout back in 2013 — but we now have our first glimpse of his comeback. On Tuesday, Variety shared a first-look image of Fraser in the upcoming Darren Aronofsky drama The Whale.

In the film, which will be released via A24 and make its world premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, Fraser wears heavy prosthetics to play a reclusive 600-pound man who struggles to reconnect with his 17-year-old daughter, played by Stranger Things star Sadie Sink. The cast also includes Hong Chau, Samantha Morton and Ty Simpkins.

“It’s gonna be like something you haven’t seen before,” Fraser told Unilad last year. “That’s really all I can tell you…The wardrobe and costume was extensive, seamless, cumbersome. This is certainly far removed from anything I’ve ever done but not to be coy…I do know it’s going to make a lasting impression.”

That may be true, but the movie is also just the latest example of Hollywood putting actors in fat suits rather than simply casting fat performers to play these roles. We can all agree that it’s problematic to put a thin actress like Renee Zellweger or Sarah Paulson in a fat suit rather than casting a woman whose body type has otherwise unfairly shut her out of opportunities in an industry that places such an unsetting importance on its rigid beauty standards. But is using movie magic to pack a few hundred extra pounds onto Brendan Fraser equally bad?

It’s complicated, to say the least. Fraser has put on weight in recent years, and while he certainly isn’t anywhere near 600 pounds in real life, he’s also not exactly waifish. There’s an argument to be made that his weight has contributed to his lack of work in recent years. (Though in 2018, Fraser claimed he was being “blacklisted” after he spoke out about allegedly being sexually assaulted by the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.) Putting prosthetics onto an already-overweight performer to make him appear heavier feels slightly less egregious than making a thin actor appear fat. And while there are absolutely countless fat actors who have struggled for years to break into the industry who would be perfect for the roles going to folks like Zellweger, Paulson and Jared Leto instead, there may not be many who are 600 pounds, which does pose a challenge to casting directors looking to do the right thing.

So is The Whale going to be just as cringe-y as, say, Gwyneth Paltrow in Shallow Hal? Probably not, though we’ll have to wait until it hits theaters in 2023 to find out.