After Brendan Fraser Commented On The Whale Backlash, Darren Aronofsky Gets Candid About What The Casting Process Looked Like

We’re currently in the middle of Brendan Fraser’s big Hollywood comeback, which has been lovingly referred to by fans as both the Brenaissance and Frasersance. One of the projects responsible for this change is The Whale, which has earned the actor both acclaim (including Oscars chatter) and some backlash for donning a fat suit to play the obese protagonist. And after Fraser commented on said backlash, director Darren Aronofsky gets candid about what the casting process looked like.

Brendan Fraser plays Charlie in The Whale, who is a 600 pound man attempting to reconnect with his daughter (Stranger Things’ Sadie Sink) seemingly before his impending death. While Fraser has been awarded for his performance in the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, there’s been some push back about him using prosthesis and a fat suit to play the role. Darren Aronofsky recently spoke to Variety about the challenge of finding the right actor for this intense role, saying:

There was a chapter in the making of this film where we tried to research actors with obesity. Outside of not being able to find an actor who could pull off the emotions of the role, it just becomes a crazy chase. Like, if you can’t find a 600-pound actor, is a 300-pound actor or 400-pound actor enough?

There’s been a ton of conversation over the last few years about the importance of representation and inclusion within the media. We’ve seen plenty of major steps forward in this regard, but there have been recent major examples of actors using fat suits, like Sarah Paulson’s Linda Tripp in Impeachment. And the same sort of discourse is currently surrounding The Whale, although the majority of folks haven’t actually seen the upcoming drama.

Darren Aronofsky’s comments to Variety revealed that Brendan Fraser’s casting in The Whale wasn’t always a sure thing. And it turns out that they did audition actors of size, although the specifics of Charlie’s weight seemingly complicated things. The Black Swan filmmaker further explained how finding an actor that was accurately sized for the role would seemingly be difficult during the long and grueling filming process. As he put it,

From a health perspective, it’s prohibitive. It’s an impossible role to fill with a real person dealing with those issues.

The action of The Whale is set within Charlie’s apartment, as he seemingly hasn’t left the premises in quite some time. Throughout the movie’s runtime, he struggles with physical tasks like standing up, and has some emotionally and physically grueling sequences. And according to Darren Aronofsky, the movie seemingly would have been more difficult to film if the lead actor was actually an accurate weight to its protagonist.

In the end Brendan Fraser used both prosthesis and a fat suit in order to transform into Charlie and film The Whale for its month-long shooting period. Darren Aronofsky explained what the Mummy actor was able to bring to their meeting, which inspired him to finally move forward with the long-gestating project. In his words,

As soon as he left my office after our first meeting, I felt it. I knew he could play someone who most people would start off by dismissing, but within five minutes they’d start to feel something for him. Then, within 20 minutes, they’re starting to fall in love with the character, because there’s just something about Brendan. Pretty soon, he starts to break your heart.

Indeed, Brendan Fraser’s performance has been universally acclaimed as The Whale had early screenings at various film festivals. Although there has been discourse about his casting, with Mean Girls actor Daniel Frazese taking umbrage as an actor who self-identifies as both queer and obese. And the conversations around this casting will likely only continue once the project finally gets its wide release. 

For his part, Fraser recently responded to the backlash, maintaining he tried to bring as much heart to Charlie in The Whale as possible. He also reminded the public that he’s no longer got the ripped physique from The Mummy or George of the Jungle

The Whale is expected to arrive in theaters on December 9th. In the meantime, check out the 2022 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience. 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.