While there’s been a lot of buzz about Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming drama The Whale, not all of it has been positive.
Earning star Brendan Fraser a six-minute standing ovation at its Venice Film Festival premiere, The Whale follows Charlie, a housebound morbidly obese man who struggles to reconnect with his daughter (Sadie Sink) after leaving his family for his gay lover years prior.
Though those who have seen the film think Fraser’s performance could land the actor an Academy Award, some say he took an opportunity away from an actually overweight, queer actor.
“I love Brendan Fraser, [so] I’m very conflicted. Seeing him get up so modest in Venice and have that moment, I was very happy for him. He’s a lovely man. And it’s great. But why? Why go up there and wear a fat suit to play a 400-lb. queer man?” said Mean Girls’ Daniel Franzese, frustrated with the repeated Hollywood decision to cast thinner actors in overweight roles.
“To finally have a chance to be in a prestige film that might be award-nominated, where stories about people who look like us are being told? That’s the dream…I would have loved to have read for this. I mean, who knows more about being an obese queer man than an obese queer man?”
Fraser Responds to Critics: ‘I’m Not a Small Man’
Despite criticisms about the decision to cast him in the role of Charlie, Fraser says his only focus was giving a performance that was as honest as possible—and that he doesn’t exactly consider himself a “small man” to begin with.
“I’m not a small man. And I don’t know what the metric is to qualify to play the role. I only know that I had to give as honest a performance as I can,” the actor told Newsweek, stressing that no matter who starred in The Whale, makeup and prosthetics would have been needed to achieve the desired effect.
“There’s no way you can cast someone to play this job, so we had to use makeup to get there. Most of the people that are playing critique have not seen the film. So I welcome everyone to see the film because the film is about bringing empathy to characters that you don’t expect to feel for,” he said.
Either way, Fraser hopes that The Whale will help change some perspectives in a still largely fat-phobic society.
“I’m hopeful that we can change some hearts and minds at least in terms of how we think and feel about those who live with obesity. So often, those people are dismissed in our society, or the object of scorn and derision, and it’s unfair to them. I believe that shaming people for that reason is almost the last domain of prejudice that we overlook, and I think we can do better to change that. So I hope that this film might change some hearts and minds,” he added.