Brendan Fraser is having something of a moment. The 53-year-old star of hit 90s-00s films such as The Mummy, George of the Jungle, and California Man was moved to tears when he received a six-minute standing ovation for his new movie The Whale at Venice Film Festival in 2022.
A best actor Academy Award followed at the 2023 Oscars, cementing his place the comeback king.
Many have hailed this new found critical acclaim as a Brendan Frasernaissance (Brenaissance?), but how did the Canadian star become Hollywood’s darling once again? And why is is such an emotional moment for the actor?
Read more: Brendan Fraser caps comeback with Oscar win
Allow us to explain...
The Brendan Fraser resurgence explained in 11 points
What’s behind this? Brendan Fraser is the star of The Whale, and it’s his first leading role in a major movie in over a decade. The film was met with a standing ovation at Venice, with critics singling out Fraser for praise. But what has he been up to all this time?
Let’s go back to the beginning. Brendan Fraser became a household name playing a shaggy-haired caveman in the 1992 comedy California Man. That same year he appeared alongside Matt Damon in acclaimed sports drama School Ties, and his star was on the rise.
Box office star. Fraser enjoyed his first major hit starring in Disney’s live action George of the Jungle. The following year he proved he was more than just a pretty face when he earned rave reviews for his dark turn in Bill Condon’s Gods and Monsters opposite Ian McKellen.
The big time. Fraser joined the ranks of Hollywood’s A-List in 1999 when he took the lead role in The Mummy. Playing an Indiana Jones type in this swashbuckling action fantasy, Fraser’s innate charm was to put to good use, and a long-running franchise was born.
An actor with range. Fraser continued delivering great performances in heavyweight dramas like The Quiet American and Crash, while cultivating a blockbuster career in Looney Tunes: Back In Action, Bedazzled, Journey To The Center of the Earth, and multiple Mummy sequels.
Things start to unravel for Fraser. In 2007, he went through a public divorce, and endured health issues during the shoot for The Mummy 3. His injuries led to multiple surgeries, including a back procedure, a partial knee replacement, and vocal cord repair.
Me Too. In 2018 Fraser alleged that he had been sexually assaulted by the then-president of the HFPA (Hollywood Foreign Press Association), in 2003. He claims he was blacklisted by the HFPA after incident. The assault, divorce, health issues and the death of his mother led to depression.
Fraser returns. Hollywood came calling again in 2016, and he landed roles in The Affair, Trust, and DC Comics series Doom Patrol. He appeared in No Sudden Move, and had a major role in the cancelled Batgirl, but it’s The Whale that looks to cement his comeback for the masses.
Comeback. After resurrecting Mickey Rourke’s career (briefly) with The Wrestler, Darren Aronofksy has done the same for Fraser with The Whale. The actor has been transformed into a reclusive 600-pound English teacher who attempts to reconnect with his life after years of grief.
Fraser landed his first Oscar win for The Whale, but he’s not resting on his laurels. He’s already filmed his next two movies: Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon with De Niro and DiCaprio and Brothers, with Peter Dinklage and Josh Brolin.
Goodwill. Fraser enjoyed huge success in the late 90s and early noughties, and his core audience remains incredibly loyal. He appears to be a humble and loveable movie star, unburdened by the trappings of Hollywood fame: long live the Brenaissance!
The Whale is in cinemas now. Watch him receive his standing ovation at Venice Film Festival.