The Whale director defends casting Brendan Fraser as obese gay man amid criticism

Brendan Fraser wears a suit and tie at an event for The Whale

The Whale director Darren Aronofsky responded to criticism of Brendan Fraser being cast as a 600-pound gay man.

Fraser has been receiving a lot of positive buzz from fans and critics for his performance in The Whale. His character, Charlie, is an obese, reclusive gay man who is desperate to reconnect with his daughter after the death of his partner.

However, there has been some criticism of the movie, including the decision to cast Fraser in an LGBTQ+ role and the film’s use of a fatsuit.

Aronofsky responded to the backlash against Fraser in an interview with Variety, claiming he and casting directors couldn’t find an obese actor who “could pull off the emotions of the role”. 

“There was a chapter in the making of this film where we tried to research actors with obesity,” Aronofsky said. 

He continued: “Outside of not being able to find an actor who could pull off the emotions of the role, it just becomes a crazy chase. 

“Like, if you can’t find a 600-pound actor, is a 300-pound actor or 400-pound actor enough?”

Aronofsky explained there were also concerns from a “health perspective” that an actor with severe obesity would struggle to keep up with the demands of filming and production. 

“It’s an impossible role to fill with a real person dealing with those issues,” Aronofsky said.

The Whale director added that he “just needed the right actor for the role” and that it’s “amazing to see how people respond” to Brendan Fraser on screen. 

“I think they’re going to be impressed by how the same actor who played all those honest, innocent characters back then is portraying this complicated, messed-up person,” he said. 

Brendan Fraser wears a suit and tie at an event for The Whale

Darren Aronofsky said it was “impossible” to cast an actor ‘dealing with the issues’ The Whale’s main character faces. He believed fans will be “impressed” by Brendan Fraser’s acting. (Getty)

There is a long-held debate in Hollywood about whether casting directors should prioritise LGBTQ+ actors when filling queer roles in movies, TV shows and theatre productions. 

The LGBTQ+ community has remained divided on the issue with British actor Ben Whishaw saying, while it can work, he ‘sometimes doesn’t believe’ straight actors in gay roles. Ugly Betty actor Michael Urie said he’s “tired” of such casting decisions. 

Yet, acting legend Sir Ian McKellen defended straight actors taking on queer parts, saying there is “nothing wrong” with certain performances. 

However, queer actors have shared their thoughts about Brendan Fraser playing a 600-pound gay man while wearing a fatsuit.

Mean Girls star Daniel Franzese said Fraser is a “lovely actor”, but he felt “conflicted” about the directors’ decision not to cast a queer actor who fit the character a bit more in The Whale.

Bros star Guy Branum told PRIDE that he had “real problems with the fact” The Whale directors “cast a straight actor who is not very fat” and who used “prosthetics to represent fatness” in the film. 

“I think it allows people to talk about that character as an object in a way that wouldn’t be possible if it were an actual fat person who you had to look in the eyes,” Branum said. 

Branum wanted Brendan Fraser to have a “great comeback” but didn’t think it should come at the expense of how Hollywood is “representing queer life and fat life through straight actors or prosthetics”.