A visibly emotional Brendan Fraser fought back tears as “The Whale” received a passionate standing ovation at its Toronto International Film Festival premiere on Sunday. The crowd stood for roughly five minutes until festival organizers quieted the applause to begin a question and answer session. The reception was one of the strongest yet at this year’s festival, a gathering that has already included the premieres of Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” and “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”
TIFF was set to be a big festival for Fraser even before “The Whale” screened to huge acclaim. The actor is receiving the TIFF Tribute Award for Performance at the 2022 festival, with TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey saying, “Brendan Fraser gives a performance of staggering depth, power, and nuance in ‘The Whale.’ This former Torontonian has been an action star, a screen comic, and a romantic lead. We’re thrilled to welcome him home as the actor behind one of the finest performances of the year.”
“The Whale,” directed by Darren Aronofsky, stars Fraser as a man living with severe obesity who struggles to reconnect with his 17-year-old daughter, played by “Stranger Things” breakout Sadie Sink. The supporting cast also includes Hong Chau, Samantha Morton and Ty Simpkins. The movie is based on the play of the same name by Samuel D. Hunter, who adapted the stage script into Aronofsky’s feature.
The film got its start the Venice Film Festival, where it was met with a huge 6-minute standing ovation that left Fraser in tears. The actor even to leave the Venice theater at one point, but the outpouring of clapping was so loud that he stayed longer and took a bow. Variety wrote out of Venice that “The Whale” will “likely put Fraser at the forefront of this year’s best actor Oscars race.”
To play the lead character in the film, Fraser wore a prosthetic suit that added anywhere from 50 to 300 pounds given the scene. The actor spent as much as six hours in the makeup chair each day to fully transform into the character.
“I developed muscles I did not know I had,” Fraser told journalists at the Venice press conference about wearing the prosthetic suit. “I even felt a sense of vertigo at the end of the day when all the appliances were removed; it was like stepping off the dock onto a boat in Venice. That [sense of] undulating. It gave me appreciation for those whose bodies are similar. You need to be an incredibly strong person, mentally and physically, to inhabit that physical being.”
In his review of “The Whale” out of Venice, Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman called Fraser “slyer, subtler, more haunting than he has ever been,” adding that he gives an “intensely lived-in and touching performance.”
A24 will release “The Whale” in theaters Dec. 9.
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