The Whale Director Darren Aronofsky Reveals Why He Had No Idea What The Brenaissance Was When He Cast Brendan Fraser

Brendan Fraser sits with a melancholy smile on his couch in The Whale.
(Image credit: A24)

Brendan Fraser is currently the talk of Hollywood as he is expected to be in the running for many of awards season’s top prizes including the Oscar thanks to his performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. In this case, the Hollywood elite are really just catching up to a large portion of the public, who had already decided that Brendan Fraser was a massive talent, though the film’s director admits he had no idea the actor was so popular.

Even before Darren Aronofsky cast Brendan Fraser in The Whale we were experiencing a period that was being called the Brenaissance, as Fraser, a pretty big star back in the 1990s, had put together a pretty solid comeback story. One might think that Fraser’s return to stardom might have had an impact on his being cast in The Whale, but the director recently told Slashfilm that’s not the case, as he wasn’t really aware of the hype surrounding the actor. Aronofsky explained… 

I've said this in front of Brendan. I had no idea about the Brenaissance [laughs] or any of the deep, deep love for the human being that he is. I think I was a little older than the generation that watched those big '90s movies, so I missed a lot of them.

Not only was Darren Aronofsky not aware of the strong fan base surrounding Brendan Fraser today, he apparently hadn’t seen a lot of the movies that had made the actor a star previously. He was certainly aware of Fraser's work in a general sense, as the actor says Aronofsky was looking for an actor with a career similar to his when he was casting the role.

Specifically, what Darren Aronofsky hadn’t seen of Brendan Fraser’s work were the dramatic roles he had done. The actor was mostly known during his heyday for action movies like The Mummy or for comedies like Encino Man or George of the Jungle. It was apparently when the director got a glimpse of Fraser’s dramatic work that he realized he might be the right fit for the lead. He continued…  

I hadn't seen any of the dramatic work. I still haven't seen 'Gods and Monsters.' I did watch 'School Ties' while we were in post. It's like, 'Whoa. What the? Matt Damon in a supporting role? The world is insane!' But he fit the bill. When I saw him in that trailer, a light bulb went off. I was like, 'I've got to meet him,' because I had been thinking for years and years who could do it.

 While The Whale hasn’t gone without criticism regarding its casting decision, few have had anything but praise for Brendan Fraser in his performance. The actor is truly being celebrated right now. 

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.