Here’s why Brendan Fraser’s 300-pound ‘fat suit’ for The Whale has proved so controversial

Brendan Fraser (left) being put into a prosthetic 'fat suit', and in a still from The Whale (right)

Brendan Fraser’s powerful turn in The Whale has landed the actor his first Oscar for Best Actor, but his role as a 600-pound gay professor has not been without controversy due to the use of a prosthetic ‘fat suit’.

Based on based on a 2012 play by Samuel D Hunter, Darren Aronofsky’s acclaimed film follows Fraser’s character Charlie as he attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter.

The Whale has provided a career resurgence for 90s heartthrob Fraser, who shot to fame with films like George of the Jungle and The Mummy before taking a break from the spotlight in the late 2000s following various personal issues, including multiple surgeries and the death of his mother, Carol.

While accolades have been pouring in for Fraser following his performance, the prosthetics used to portray Charlie have proved contentious. With The Whale available to rent and to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the UK, here’s everything you need to know about the controversy so far.

Did Brendan Fraser wear a ‘fat suit’ in The Whale?

In order to play Charlie, a character who weighs 600 pounds, Fraser had to wear a prosthetic ‘fat suit’ that took four hours to put on each day.

A time-lapse video of Fraser’s transformation shows the make-up team working on creating his fuller face before fitting him into a body suit.

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According to Variety, the suit was created by Adrien Morot – who has worked on films including X-Men: Days of Future Past – using a digital sculpture and a 3D printer. 

During an appearance on The Graham Norton Show in January, Fraser said the ‘fat suit’ was “appropriately heavy”, which made playing the role “closer to what it would be like to live in a body of a man that size”.

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Ahead of filming, Fraser worked with the obesity Action Coalition and consulted with people who had undergone bariatric surgeries to lose weight.

Talking about his transformation process for the film on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Fraser descrbied the costume as “cumbersome”. 

“Up until now, the use of this costuming in films and makeup has always been in service of a mean joke or to vilify a character and I don’t think we need to do that any longer.” 

Why has the fat suit been criticised?

Since The Whale‘s premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 2022, allegations of “fatphobia” have been directed at the film.

Some film critics have have claimed the use of prosthetics to depict an obese character is dehumanising, Time reports, while Mean Girls star Daniel Franzese told People that although he loves Fraser he felt the actor’s casting as Charlie speaks to a wider issue of not utilising marginalised actors for roles that tell their stories.

Ahead of the films screening, writer and Maintenance Phase podcaster, Aubrey Gordon, posted a series of since-deleted tweets in which she called out the movie for having a “staggeringly” anti-fat premise. 

Time reported that Gordon later tweeted: “If the only way you can ‘humanise’ a very fat person is to watch them humiliated, terrified, ashamed and killed off in a stereotypically stigmatising way, it’s time to do some serious reflecting.”

The Whale‘s director and Brendan Fraser have responded to the criticism

The Whale director Darren Aronofsky and Brendan Fraser have both responded to the criticism, with Aronofsky telling Variety that he and casting directors couldn’t find an obese actor who “could pull off the emotions of the role”. 

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The filmmaker added that he “just needed the right actor for the role” and that it’s “amazing to see how people respond” to 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. 

Fraser has said wearing the elaborate prosthetic suit showed him the “strength” of obese people, The Independent reported, while the actor also told the LA Times: “I respect those who don’t see eye to eye with the aims of this film.

“I don’t agree with them because I know that there’s no ill intent. I know I want to know if I — me, Brendan — have done any harm.

“But the answer I got from the [Obesity Action Coalition] was, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ We made the movie we wanted to make, and we made it correctly. And I stand by that.”

The Whale is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

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