The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence: What Happened to Brendan Fraser?

Brendan Fraser

Brendan Fraser used to be synonyms with the phrase “90s heartthrob” once. Pretty much a household name in American households then, he was known for his handsome looks and charming personality, paired with extremely promising acting skills. Things did not stay that way for long, and Fraser more or less disappeared from the big screen. However, beating all odds,  the actor seems to be finally back to steal the show again, as he won the Oscar this year for Best Actor, and sweeping the awards season altogether, leading to many calling this phase of his career the “Brenaissance”. Here we take a look into the stunning actor’s beginnings, his journey, and the critical acclaim he has solidified for himself. 

The Rise of Brendan Fraser

Brendan Fraser in The Mummy

Brendan Fraser debuted in the 1991 movie Dogfight, but his first starring role was in the 1992 film Encino Man, where he plays a caveman getting defrosted after being found by a bunch of students in California. Following that, he starred in a number of unsuccessful movies but he finally gained commercial success with the hit George of the Jungle, based on the animated original of the same name. His chiseled body and his gorgeous looks in the movie has become almost iconic, with images from the movie often going viral on social media when somebody posts a throwback. He also gained a lot of praise from the critics with his performance in Gods and Monsters, based on Frankenstein director James Whale. Fraser’s biggest commercial success, however, came in the form of his starring role as Rick O’Connell in the Mummy movies, which launched him into worldwide fame. Fraser was known for his charm and his attractive appearance, and he starred in a few more dramatic movies and comedies, which ranged from mediocre to above average box office collections.

Career Setbacks and Personal Challenges

Fraser never actually left the spotlight entirely, but he lost his A-list status when he had to deal with a series of setbacks that would weaken any strong individual. Fraser had to deal with his mother’s death, and his own health was compromised. GQ’s report narrativizes how Fraser’s body was failing after performing massive hectic stunts and he had to undergo multiple surgeries. Moreover, Fraser also divorced his wife, who he shares 3 sons with. Fraser’s divorce was messy, with Afton Smith, his ex-wife and him having to appear multiple times in court over disputes. Fraser soon found his financial assets drained in alimony payments and child support, the former of which he asked a reduction of but failed, Smith too sued Fraser for the lack of transparency in his income estimation for fraud, essentially, which too the court ruled against.

Fraser, in 2018, revealed that he had been groped and sexually assaulted in 2003 by then Hollywood Foreign Press Association President at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Philip Berk. The actor said he felt like “something had been taken away from him”, and that experience had made him “retreat”. Although when asked about if he had been blacklisted in Hollywood for trying to speak up against it, he has said that although he does not believe that the HFPA holds that much of power, he can guess that a reason why the casting calls stopped in the middle of his career.

Brief Hiatus and Reevaluating Priorities

Doom Patrol

All his hardships had led to his depression. The sexual assault had deeply traumatised him, and Berk’s denial of it all and calling it complete fabrication made it worse. Fraser told GQ, “I felt ill. I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry”. However, he never really stopped working, despite there being breaks in between his projects, although much lower-budgeted, now. He did act in web-series like Condor, Trust, The Affair, Doom Patrol and movies like Line of Descent, The Poison Rose etc. However, it did make him feel reclusive, and having been blacklisted, he did not have as much attention on him as before. 

Resurgence and Return to Prominence 

Brendan Fraser in The Whale

Fraser’s return to popular and critical acclaim happened with his casting in The Whale, directed by Darren Aronofsky. Based on the play of the same name, it stars Fraser as a morbidly obese gay man who tries to desperately repair his relationship with his estranged daughter, played by Sadie Sink. Aronofsky said that he had taken note of Fraser when he had seen him in a small-scale Brazilian film and had decided to meet with him. This was after Aronofsky had been searching for actors with obesity, because finding a 600 pound obese actor is very difficult, and he did not know if cutting corners around the weight would be enough. However, meeting Fraser was enough assurance for Aronofsky to consider Fraser for the leading role. In an interview with Variety, Aronofsky said, 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.” This role has earned Fraser a slew of awards, including the Academy for Best Actor (Male), a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Satellite Award.

Impact and Legacy 

Fraser with Ke Huy Quan

Brendan’s legacy is undeniable. His performance as Rick O’ Connell in the Mummy movies have left an indelible mark on American pop culture. Action movies have tried to replicate the actor’s charm and feed off the classic status that the film has reached nowadays. Collider states that the Marvel movies have been trying to pull off a version of the same formula, but there is something about the 90s heartthrob that remains inimitable. On the other hand, Fraser’s comeback story has been inspiring people. His interactions with his Encino Man costar Ke Huy Quan, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor this year for his performance in Everything Everywhere All At Once, and who shares a similar comeback story after being shut out of the industry for years have become the internet’s favorite with the heartwarming stories that are these men’s lives.

Future Projects

Fraser is set to star in Martin Scorcese’s Killers of The Flower Moon, as WS Hamilton, and in the movie Brothers directed by Max Barbakow. Fraser said about working with Scorcese, like my fantasies fulfilled at what it’s like to be in a Renaissance master’s studio.” He continued, “Think about that. Somebody who has all the knowledge, hands down and surrounded by people who are so talented and enthusiastic for his vision.”

It is apparent that the actor is a phenomenon who had been forced to leave the limelight under the brunt of his circumstances and it is extremely amazing that he is one of the actors who had such a massive comeback. He has developed a very protective fanbase on social media who have called Brendan’s comeback and his sweeping the award season the “Brenaissance”. If you are new to this actor’s filmography you should definitely check out the movies mentioned here, and what is better than a Mummy rewatch, maybe a hundred?