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Brendan Fraser's Honest Response To The Whale's Fat Suit Criticism

One of this year's films that is a major awards contender is Darren Aronofsky's "The Whale," which was written by Samuel D. Hunter (based on Hunter's own 2012 play of the same name). After premiering at the Venice Film Festival in September of 2022, the A24 film will be released to theaters on December 9, 2022. The film follows Charlie (Brendan Fraser), a middle-aged, 600-pound teacher, who attempts to reconnect with his daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) after he abandoned her and his ex-wife Mary (Samantha Morton) when he fell in love with one of his male students. Subsequently, his lover dying is what led to Charlie's binge eating.

While "The Whale" has gotten plenty of positive reviews — with Fraser especially receiving a significant amount of praise — it has not been without its controversy. Namely, many people have taken issue with the fact that Fraser dons a fat suit for the role, as well as criticizing the fatphobic nature of the story. Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair, for one, noted that, while empathy may have been the intention, it's not the result — specifically calling out the sinister-like score that plays whenever Charlie eats. Lawson wrote, "But what's expressed instead is a kind of leering horror, a portrait of a man gone to catastrophic ruin ... their execution is turgid and ghastly." Further, "The Whale" is just the most recent in a long list of examples of Hollywood using fat suits instead of casting fat people — something that has been questioned more and more in recent years.

Fraser recently responded to these criticisms — here's what the actor had to say.

Fraser questioned the metric for casting roles

"The Whale" star Brendan Fraser has now responded to criticisms of his wearing a fat suit to play Charlie in the film. Speaking to Newsweek, Fraser defended his choice to take on the role and questioned what metric the casting decision should have adhered to. Fraser said, "I'm not a small man. And I don't know what the metric is to qualify to play the role." He then addressed instead what he focused on while making the film, adding, "I only know that I had to give as honest a performance as I can."

To prep for that performance, the actor revealed to Variety that he did his research, consulted with the Obesity Action Coalition, and spoke with people struggling with eating issues. Fraser explained, "It was heartbreaking, because very often these people were mocked and made to feel awful about themselves. Vindictive speech is painful. And it does damage because it feeds into the cycle of overeating. I just left those conversations thinking, 'Hey, this is not your fault. This is an illness. This is an addiction.'"

Most critics would agree that Fraser's honesty in the performance is not the problem — most reviews have nothing but praise for Fraser's work. So, with many believing that Fraser did his best with the role he was given, the question then becomes more about why he was cast in the first place when he would need a fat suit — a decision that director Darren Aronofsky has defended.

Aronofsky said they considered heavier actors for the part

In the same Variety interview, Darren Aronofsky addressed the backlash of not casting a heavier actor for the role, one who wouldn't need a fat suit. The director explained that there was a point in the process when they were looking into casting an obese actor, but says they ultimately struggled to find the right fit.

Like Fraser, Aronofsky also questioned what casting would be acceptable. Aronofsky continued, "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?" The director then went on to question if the grueling hours of a film set would have been safe for a heavier person. He continued, "From a health perspective, it's prohibitive. It's an impossible role to fill with a real person dealing with those issues."

"The Whale" will be released to theaters on December 9, 2022.