Brendan Fraser Tears in Venice as “The Whale” Gets a Huge 6-Minute Standing Ovation

If Sunday’s world premiere of The Whale at the Venice Film Festival was any indication, Brendan Fraser will return to Hollywood with a lot of cheers and even more tears. The Darren Aronofsky drama in which Fraser played a gay man 600 lbs and confined to a wheelchair, saw the actor overcome with emotion.

Fraser cried throughout the six-minute standing applause, which likely placed him in the lead of the best actor Oscars race.

Phoebe WallerBridge, Nick Kroll, and Hillary Clinton staffer Huma Abduldin were among those seen inside the Sala Grande Theatre. She was seated just a few rows behind Fraser, and she shed as many tears. During the film’s final scenes, many others in the theater also used a handkerchief.

During the ovation, Fraser hugged Aronofsky many times. At one point, he tried to leave the theater, but the clapping and cheers were so loud that he stayed on the stage longer and took a bow.

Fraser plays a man with severe obesity, who struggles to reunite with his 17-year old daughter. He is played by Sadie Sink from “Stranger Things.” Ty Simpkins, Samantha Morton, Hong Chau and Samantha Morton are also part of the supporting cast. Based on Samuel D. Hunter’s play, the movie was adapted from the script to Aronofsky.

Fraser, who played the role of the main character in the film’s opening scene, wore a prosthetic suit. It weighed anywhere from 50 to 300 lbs. Fraser spent six hours each day in the makeup chair to complete his transformation into the role. Fraser spoke out ahead of the Venice premiere to say that his prosthetic suit was “cumbersome and not exactly comfortable.” He also said that the torso piece looked almost like a strait jacket, with sleeves that were airbrushed by hand. This made it look just like human skin down to the hair.

Fraser said that he had developed muscles that he didn’t know he had during the Venice press conference. He spoke about the prosthetic suit to journalists. I felt vertigo when the appliances were taken out. It was almost like being able to step onto a boat in Venice. It was almost like undulating. It made me appreciate those whose bodies were similar to mine. To be able to live in that body, you need to be mentally and physically strong.

Owen Gleiberman, Variety movie critic, called Fraser “slyer and subtler than he has ever be,” and added that Fraser gives an “intensely lived in, touching performance.”

Aronofsky’s “The Whale” premiere in Venice is another big deal. He has a long history with this prestigious festival. He stumbled in Venice’s premiere of “The Fountain” but bounced back when “The Wrestler”, won the Golden Lion in 2008. “Black Swan” was a big hit at the Venice Film Festival 2010 (and won Mila Kunis an emerging actor award), while “mother!” was the only topic anyone could talk about at 2017 fest.

Fraser was a star in action movies, with “George of the Jungle” (1997) and “The Mummy” (1999). However, he lost his lead man status in the 2010s when he took on smaller roles (including one on TV’s”The Affair”) Fraser was a supporting actor in Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move” last year. “The Whale” marks a big comeback for the actor. This is Fraser’s first starring role since “Breakout” (2013). However, Martin Scorsese’s Apple Western “Killers of the Flower Moon” will be Fraser’s next film. Warner Bros. has canceled his role as Garfield Lynns/Firefly on the DC film “Batgirl.”

A24 will release “The Whale”, in theaters December 9.

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