It Took Brendan Fraser Many Years to Fully Accept His Body, and Now He’s Finally Given Up Dieting

Brendan Fraser was at the height of his popularity in the 2000s. He was getting lead roles in comedy and sci-fi films, and the The Mummy franchise made him a real star. But behind the scenes, the actor was suffering through grueling diets and health problems, which led to severe burnout and a subsequent withdrawal from cinema. Eventually, years later, Brendan managed to overcome these difficulties and made a triumphant return, starring in The Whale, where he once again redefined acceptance of himself and his body.

Starved himself for the film George of the Jungle

Brendan Fraser came to conquer Hollywood in the early 1990s. He made his screen debut as a sailor in Dogfight, and then made his mark in several films with modest box office returns. His first big success came in 1997, when he got the lead role in the comedy film George of the Jungle.

In George of the Jungle, Brendan stood out with his shapely physique and well-defined muscles. But behind the pretty picture, there were grueling workouts and a long period of starvation, which the actor put himself through to achieve the desired shape. Fraser recently made a confession about that time. One day he went to an ATM, stopped in front of it, and realized that he had completely forgotten his PIN. In a desperate attempt to remember, he started hitting the machine with his fists, but to no avail. That evening Brendan didn’t eat anything at all and couldn’t think straight because of the long carbohydrate fasting periods he was putting himself through.

Nevertheless, later it seemed that the sacrifice must have not been in vain. The film grossed 175 million dollars at the box office, the actor gained long-awaited fame, and his next fateful role of Rick O’Connell would make Fraser a real movie star.

«I look at myself then and I just see a walking steak.»

Damaged his body by performing his own stunts

From 1999 to 2008, Brendan’s main focus was The Mummy trilogy. In between the different parts of the franchise, he appeared in other adventure films: Journey to the Center of the Earth and Inkheart. The actor was fully committed to his work, keeping himself in shape and trying to perform his own stunts. But constant physical activity, the tough schedule, and going back and forth from one set to another led to health problems. Within 7 years, Brendan underwent two spinal surgeries, a partial knee replacement, and vocal cord restoration procedures.

«I felt like the horse from Animal Farm, whose job it was to work and work and work. Orwell wrote a character who was, I think, the proletariat. He worked for the good of the whole, he didn’t ask questions, he didn’t make trouble until it finished him.... I don’t know if I’ve been sent to the glue factory, but I’ve felt like I’ve had to rebuild all that I’ve built that got knocked down and do it again for the good of everyone. Whether it hurts you or not.»

Despite all his sacrifices, he was forgotten by fans

In the late 2000s, Brendan’s popularity declined sharply. In addition to health problems, there were several unpleasant events in his life: his divorce from actress Afton Smith and harassment on the part of journalist Philip Berk, and then the head of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. All this plunged Brendan into deep depression and forced him to slow down his pace of work. From time to time, he still appeared in guest roles in various series, or embodying mostly minor characters in films. But there were no box-office successes, and Fraser’s stardom faded as quickly as it rose, despite all the efforts he put in on set.

Decided not to experiment with weight for The Whale

In 2022, after a long period of silence, Brendan returned to the big screen, playing Charlie in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale. In this story, his character is a middle-aged man who weighs over 600 pounds. He tries to reconnect with his 17-year-old daughter, whom he abandoned in favor of a new love. After Charlie’s partner passed away, he began to overeat due to the pain and guilt that consumed him.

Like many actors, Brendan could transform his body and put on the necessary weight for a big role. But this time, he decided against experiments that would be dangerous for his health, and take care of his body instead of tormenting it with new challenges. He gained a few pounds just to get into the role of Charlie, but the character’s body itself was “played” by a special suit, which varied in weight from 50 to 300 pounds, depending on the scene.

During the filming he developed a respect for people with a large physique

Having played Charlie, the actor learned first-hand how larger people feel. Brendan felt respect for them and realized that you have to be an incredibly strong person, mentally and physically, to live in such a body and accept yourself. So, having to wear a 300-pound suit while moving around the set, Fraser noted that he “developed muscles he did not know that he had.”

«Once I took all the applications off at the end of the day, I felt a deepening sense of respect for people who live in that corporal being, because I could remove it like clothing and wardrobe and makeup, and their challenge to do that with their own body is not as sudden.»

He felt honored to finally receive an award rather than present it

The Whale premiered at the 79th Venice International Film Festival. The film and Fraser’s work were overwhelmingly well received. The applause lasted for 6 minutes, which even made Brendan burst into tears of joy.

Previously, the actor hadn’t been particularly spoiled with awards and nominations. He usually presented them at award ceremonies, but hadn’t received a statuette himself. Brendan’s biggest achievement before The Whale was the Screen Actors Guild Award, but it wasn’t specifically Fraser that received it, but rather the entire cast of the movie Crash. His latest work, however, made the critics notice Brendan himself, who felt incredibly honored to win the TIFF Tribute Award.

“This is new for me. Normally I’m the guy who hands these things out, and I got really good at it. The trick is: left hand, hold; right hand, shake.”

Fraser recently received wonderful news — the role of Charlie has earned him a nomination for a Golden Globe Award. The dedication with which Brendan takes on his characters has finally brought him the recognition he always deserved. Early in his career, his dedication led him to experiment on his body, put himself through punishing diets, and push himself to perform his own stunts. But now the actor has come to accept himself, renounce traumatic transformations, and respect his own body.

Which of Brendan Fraser’s roles was the most memorable to you?

Cheery/Health/It Took Brendan Fraser Many Years to Fully Accept His Body, and Now He’s Finally Given Up Dieting
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