Few actors have been as dedicated to completely overhauling their physique as Brendan Fraser. The 54-year-old has gone from totally ripped to not-so-fit throughout his career, but not without taking a serious toll on his own physical and mental health. The actor says to prepare for his film ‘George of the Jungle’ he had to starve himself to the point where he would go days without eating.
Fraser made his name in films like ‘Encino Man’ and ‘George of the Jungle’, becoming a 90s comedy flick mainstay before landing the leading role in blockbuster franchise ‘The Mummy’. Fraser disappeared from the Hollywood scene for a while, but now he’s back in the spotlight with an Oscar-worthy performance in ‘The Whale’.
Fraser’s body in George of the Jungle was on the opposite end of the spectrum as The Whale. To get in that condition, Fraser went to extreme measures. He recently opened up with Adam Sandler in Vanity Fair, saying he starved himself to get into George’s famously toned state. “I was waxed. Starved of carbohydrates,” Fraser said.
“The wardrobe was there was no wardrobe. George wears a loincloth,” Fraser said. Feeling the pressure to attain an unachievable body, Fraser’s training and strict diet wasn’t enough and he often resorted to skipping meals. This got to the point where he could barely function, “I needed some cash one day and I went to the ATM, I couldn’t remember my PIN number because my brain was misfiring,” Fraser said. “I didn’t eat that night.”
Despite his dramatic rise to superstardom, Fraser quickly descended into obscurity. He told Newsweek it was the result of a combination of different factors, one of which was a heavy workload. “I felt like the horse from Animal Farm, whose job it was to work and work and work,” he said. “I’ve felt like I’ve had to rebuild shit that got knocked down and do it again for the good of everyone.”
Fraser’s reclusiveness was partially due to him becoming a victim of sexual assault. The incident occurred back in 2003, when Fraser claimed he was groped by journalist Philip Berk, the then head of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Fraser said he struggled with depression following the incident, “I was blaming myself and I was miserable, because I was saying, ‘This is nothing, this guy reached around and he copped a feel.’ That summer wore on and I can’t remember what I went on to work on next.”
Now Fraser is back in a quite literally big way. He’s playing a 270kg teacher that’s eating himself to death in The Whale. It’s tough to obtain a blockbuster physique, but it’s just as difficult to play a part of someone over a quarter tonne, even with the help of elaborate prosthetics.
Fraser had to spend hours backstage while makeup artists applied a series of prosthetics that transformed his appearance. He described the intricate costume to Entertainment Weekly, “There was a five-point harness that had me strapped in. Once into it, I was in there all day until it came off.”
Contrary to the common belief that emerged when Fraser was first seen filming The Whale, the actor isn’t actually that big. Packing on a few extra kilograms did help him get into character, but most of the work was done by his complex harness-costume. “My weight has been all over the map. I put on weight to play this role and it wasn’t enough. So the body had to go on top of that and the two worked together.”
After a career spent pushing his body to the limit and going to dangerous lengths to attain the required physique, Fraser is heading in another direction and is feeling better for it. The Whale has presented an opportunity for Fraser to feel comfortable in his own body, while sending an important message about the battle against obesity. “I felt empowered to be their voice and to be as honest as I could and as authentic as I could in the portrayal,” Fraser said. “It’s important to say this because there are those who live with this disease.”