How Brendan Fraser Made It All the Way Back

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For the past few years, Brendan Fraser has been attending fan conventions. Maybe a star with a different level of vanity or self-regard wouldn’t talk about this fact because it could be seen as embarrassing, or humbling, but Fraser is not that star. He shows up, shakes hands, signs autographs, talks about the past. Shares table space with guys like Sean Astin, from The Lord of the Rings and The Goonies. Fraser started doing this, he told me, “to get over myself. Because I thought either, It’s not something I would do, or, I didn’t want to put myself in a place where I was vulnerable in front of everyone.” But then he went to a Comic Con in London. This was in 2019. Part of it, he admits, is that he was getting paid; part of it was that after a rough decade, he suddenly felt the desire to get back out there. “I wanted to see the people,” Fraser said.

Brendan Fraser is GQ’s Comeback of the Year. To get a copy, subscribe to GQ.Coat, $2,490, by Burberry. Shirt, $750, by Dior Men. Bracelet, $975, and ring, $595, by David Yurman.

Even now, during a year in which Fraser has, quite improbably, become an Oscar front-runner for his performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale—a performance that has reminded audiences of just how great Fraser once was, and how great he was once supposed to be—he is still showing up at conventions. And what he’s found is: People will line up to see him. Some of them ask about The Mummy, the franchise Fraser starred in from 1999 to 2008—would he consider doing another one? (Yes.) Some of them want to discuss obscure plot points from Doom Patrol, the superhero TV series Fraser acts in for HBO Max. Some come because they see in Fraser—an actor who was a fixture of the biggest movies of the 1990s and early 2000s, the star of School Ties and Encino Man and Looney Tunes: Back in Action—some ineffable connection with their youth. “In their words,” he told me, “they say I was their childhood.”

And in some, Fraser has learned to recognize a more specific kind of connection. “I can spot someone across the room who I know has something to say, something to share, who has had something that happened…someone hurt them.” They come to him and they divulge their secrets in what Fraser calls “a moment of glorious honesty.” And what he does is, he holds that person’s hand. He says: It’s actually possible to ask for help. “I do want them to know,” Fraser told me, that “if they admire or esteem me for whatever special reason, that if that kind of thing had happened to me, it could happen to anyone too. And we’re all just…we’re all just people.”

Perhaps, like the vulnerable men and women at the fan conventions, you’re aware of what Fraser is referring to here; perhaps you have no idea. The story, briefly, is this: A few years ago, Fraser sat down and relayed to a journalist a series of things he had not previously talked about in public. He talked about the ways in which his body had failed him after years of doing stunts on film sets. He talked about the reasons that had led him to step back from Hollywood, or that had led Hollywood to step back from him—he still wasn’t quite sure which it was. And he shared a startling allegation: that a once powerful man named Philip Berk, a former president and member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that stages the Golden Globes, had groped and assaulted Fraser at a 2003 luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel. (Berk disputes Fraser’s account.) The experience, Fraser said then, “made me retreat.” He felt, he said, like “something had been taken away from me.” The incident had colored his life ever since, in ways that sometimes felt small and sometimes felt very big indeed.

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