Brendan Fraser Is Back and Explaining Why He Decided To Leave Hollywood at the Top of His Game

Wed Sep 14 2022

Brendan Fraser was once one of the most famous men of all time. During the late ’90s and throughout the ’00s he was a Hollywood hunk who appeared in some of the biggest productions the movie world had to offer. He was the star of George of the Jungle, The Mummy franchise, and so much more. But if you look at his filmography, you’ll see a bizarre break from acting that nobody could have seen coming.

In 2014, Brendan Fraser seemed to disappear off the face of the planet. He had been at the top of his game and was set to continue his reign in Hollywood, and then everything went silent. So, when he was welcomed back to the acting world at the 2022 Venice Film Festival to a wholesome six-minute standing ovation, fans couldn’t help but ask… why did he leave? Thankfully, Brendan has now provided us with the answers we’ve all been waiting for.

From a Young Age Brendan Wanted To Be an Actor, but He Had No Idea What Was Coming His Way

Brendan James Fraser was born in 1968, starting off his life in Indiana before moving across the world every few years. During his childhood, his family spent their time living in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States. However, it was during a vacation to London, England that he realized what he wanted from his life. While watching a stage show on the West End, he knew that he wanted to become an actor.

To bring his dream to reality, Brendan enrolled at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. And while he had all intentions of then going on to obtain his Masters at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, he decided to stop in on Hollywood on his way there. And when he saw the bright lights and opportunity, he was hooked. It was where he needed it to be, but he had no idea that Hollywood wouldn’t be kind to him.

It Didn’t Take Long for Brendan To Make His Mark in Hollywood, and He Soon Became an In-Demand Actor

Brendan Fraser made his professional debut as an actor in 1991, in the coming-of-age drama Dogfight. While this role didn’t thrust him into the spotlight, he didn’t have to wait long for his big break. In 1992, he was offered the chance to take on a leading role in the American comedy film Encino Man. For this role, Brendan became a pre-historic caveman who is thawed out and forced to adapt to the present day.

Despite the negative reviews of this movie, Encino Man was a moderate box office success. This meant that fans across the world were coming to learn who Brendan Fraser was, and they seemed to love him. He became an in-demand actor and starred in another 13 movies before he was offered a truly life-changing role in 1997. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t understand the price of fame at the time.

In 1997, Brendan Starred in George of the Jungle, but He Doesn’t Have Fond Memories of That Time

By the time 1997 came around, Brendan Fraser was a Hollywood hunk. Not only did fans find him extremely good-looking, but he was also an extremely talented actor. This helped him score the lead role in the comedy movie George of the Jungle. For this role, Brendan became a Tarzan-like man who prances around the jungle in just a loin-cloth. And while fans loved it, Brendan wasn’t so keen.

George of the Jungle solidified Brendan’s place in the realm of Hollywood legends, but it took a toll on the self-esteem of a man who wanted to be seen as a serious actor. He stated that: “I look at myself then and I just see a walking steak. The naïf cum babe in the woods cum new guy in town cum man-boy cum…visitor-in-an-unusual-environment conceit was, uh…was very, very good to me.” And while this role allowed him to move on to bigger and better things, they came at a price.

Two Years Later, Brendan Became the Face of The Mummy Franchise and Life Seemed To Be Going Well…

Despite the fact that Brendan felt uncomfortable playing a dim-witted jungle man, there’s no doubt about the fact that George of the Jungle put the actor on the map. His name and talent were brought to the attention of some of the biggest names in Hollywood, and by 1999 he had scored another huge win for his career. It was this year that he became Rick O’Connell within The Mummy trilogy.

Even today, fans know Brendan Fraser as the face of The Mummy. He appeared in all three movies, taking place in 1999, 2001, and then again in 2008. These movies kept him busy, they kept him rich, and they kept him in the public eye. And while they also helped him score even more acting roles, what nobody realized was that Brendan was suffering immensely behind the scenes.

But When Brendan Lost Out on the Chance To Play Superman in 2002, His Confidence Took a Serious Knock

The first installment of The Mummy was an instant hit, and so was Brendan. Spurred on by this high, Brendan began auditioning for more and more projects. And while he knew that rejection was just a part of Hollywood, losing out on the chance to play Superman in 2002 took a huge emotional toll on him. The role eventually went to Brandon Routh, making Brendan feel as though he had “failed.”

During this time, Brendan began to question his place in the limelight. He started to struggle with fame, and he confessed that he “bought into the pressure that comes with the hopes and aims that come with a professional life.” He also stated that the life of fame “requires what they call a thick skin.” However, he didn’t think he had thick skin, and he found himself on an emotional ledge.

To Make Matters Worse, the Third Mummy Movie Destroyed His Body and Left Him in and Out of Hospital

Just as Brendan was toying with his emotional struggles, he also began to suffer physically – something he only admitted years later in 2018. He confessed that while filming the third Mummy movie in 2008, his body was in unimaginable pain. Throughout the franchise, Brendan had decided against using a stunt double and instead opted to do his own stunts. However, this took a huge toll on his body.

Talking to GQ, he explained that his body was “put together with tape and ice” during filming. Unfortunately, when filming was over he didn’t magically recover. He spent the next seven years in and out of hospital having multiple surgeries that included an operation to repair his vocal cords, a partial knee replacement, and a procedure that bolted “various compressed spinal pads together.”

While Undergoing Multiple Surgeries, Brendan Felt As Though It Was His Job To Work Despite the Pain

Although Brendan was struggling with his physical health, the world had absolutely no idea. He continued to work through the pain and around his hospital appointments and operations, and his work continued as normal. He continued to score acting role after acting role, and he managed to maintain his place in the limelight. In hindsight, though, Brendan knows that he should have slowed down.

In recent years he has noted that “I believe I probably was trying too hard, in a way that’s destructive…I felt like the horse from Animal Farm, whose job it was to work and work and work… he didn’t ask questions, he didn’t make trouble until it killed him.” However, this wasn’t the only thing Fraser was dealing with, as he was also going through a divorce.

In 2008, His Marriage of Nine Years Had Also Come to an End and the Divorce Was Taking Its Toll on Him

As if his physical turmoil wasn’t enough, Brendan also dealt with another tough blow during the filming of the third Mummy movie. In late 2007, it was announced that Brendan Fraser and his wife of nine years, Afton Smith, were getting a divorce. The couple had tied the knot in 1998 and had welcomed three children into the world, and the divorce came as a tough blow to the already vulnerable actor.

Speaking about this time of his life, Brendan told GQ that “I changed houses; I went through a divorce. Some kids were born. I mean, they were born, but they’re growing up. I was going through things that mold and shape you in ways that you’re not ready for until you go through them.” This divorce also had a major impact on his financial situation.

Fraser Was Forced To Pay $900,000 a Year in Child Support, but He Petitioned To Have It Reduced in 2013

Losing his wife and 24/7 access to his children was a tough blow for Brendan, but the financial implications of the divorce forced him to retreat even further. As part of their divorce proceedings, Brendan was forced to pay $900,000 a year for child support – something the judge ruled to be fair during his heyday in 2008. However, as Brendan struggled with his mental and physical health this became less achievable.

By the time 2013 came around, Brendan was struggling to pay this child support sum. So, he petitioned the court for a reduced payment due to the fact that he was no longer working as much. This didn’t go down well with his ex-wife, though, who accused Brendan of hiding his financial assets. Unfortunately, this ordeal proved to be all too much for Brendan, and he retreated even further from the limelight. When he did reappear on the rare occasion, fans started to worry.

Brendan Gave a Rare Interview in 2016, but Fans Were Horrified To See How Sad He Seemed

Shortly after asking the court to reduce his child support payments, Brendan decided to press pause on his acting career. He stopped appearing in movies, and while he starred in the odd television show, he largely excused himself from Hollywood. Many fans hoped that a rare interview in 2016 would give them some answers as to what Brendan was going through. However, it just made them worried.

Within hours of Brendan appearing on AOL‘s BUILD series, his interview had gone viral – and not for the content of the interview. Many found the video extremely uncomfortable and sad to watch, as it was clear to see that Fraser was not ok. He spoke in a soft whisper, and he seemed as though he was extremely distant. Fans wanted to know what was wrong, and it turned out that he was going through another emotional upheaval.

He Later Confirmed That His Mom Had Died Just a Few Days Before the Interview and That He Was Struggling

Although he didn’t confirm this until 2018, Brendan Fraser explained a little more about this interview during another conversation with GQ. He explained that he was struggling on the day of the AOL interview, as his mother had passed away just a few days before. He confessed that “I buried my mom. I think I was in mourning, and I didn’t know what that meant.”

As well as dealing with the loss of his beloved mom, Brendan was also taken aback by how the interview was structured as it had been many years since he had dealt with the press. He told the publication that “I wasn’t quite sure what the format was. And I felt like: ‘Man I got f—— old. Damn, this is the way it’s done now?'” But that wasn’t all.

Brendan Also Believes He Was “Blacklisted” by Hollywood Because He Spoke Up About Abuse

During his tell-all interview with GQ in 2018, Brendan also opened up about something that had been plaguing him for years – and something that he believes had a major effect on his career. He alleged that he had been sexually assaulted by Philip Berk, the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, in 2008.

He claimed that the incident took place at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where he was inappropriately touched by Berk. He stated that “I felt ill. I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry.” While he reached out to Berk’s team for an apology, he was instead met with denial. This led Fraser even further into a downward spiral, as he believes that Berk had the power to “blacklist” him from Hollywood.

He Blamed Himself for the Incident, and Found Himself Spiralling Even Further Into Depression

The alleged incident between Brendan and Berk took place when he was already feeling low. He had just missed out on the chance to play Superman, he felt as though he wasn’t equipped to deal with everything Hollywood had to offer, and he was struggling with his self-esteem. Because of this, he started to blame himself for what had happened to him.

He noted that he became depressed and that “I was blaming myself and I was miserable – because I was saying, ‘This is nothing; this guy reached around and he copped a feel.’ The summer wore on – and I can’t remember what I went on to work on next.” He carried on with his life in an unconscious state, and before he knew it his career was slowing down. In his eyes, Berk had something to do with that…

Brendan Believes That Berk Was One of the Reasons That His Career Started To Decline

Speaking in 2018, Brendan admitted that he knows now that people wondered what had happened to him. He had gone from one of the biggest names in Hollywood to a recluse. And while he knew that this had been caused by his own self-esteem issues, he didn’t believe that he was the only reason. In fact, he believes that Berk was the cause of his career decline.

As the former president of the HFPA, Berk had a huge amount of power in Hollywood – and the organization even hosts the Golden Globes. After Brendan asked for an apology from Berk in 2003, he was rarely invited to the event again, with Brendan stating that “The silence was deafening… The phone does stop ringing in your career, and you start asking yourself why.” In his eyes, he had no option to retreat. But where did he go?

When Brendan Pressed Pause on His Acting Career, He Found Solace in His Horse and a New Life in New York

With a traumatic experience under his belt, a declining career, and eventual divorce and financial strain, Brendan Fraser decided to spend the next few years of his life really thinking about what he wanted. First of all, he wanted to move away from the stresses and strains of Hollywood. So, he moved to Bedford, New York, and in 2015 he took home the horse that he met on the History Channel series Texas Rising.

Spending time with his horse and enjoying a quieter life allowed Brendan to focus on strengthening himself mentally and physically, but he didn’t want to retreat entirely. He knew that he wanted to continue his career in the acting world, and he knew that he wanted to get back into the swing of things. So, to start off with, he started working on television shows rather than movies.

When Brendan Starting Working on TV Shows Again, Fans Called It the “Brenaissance”

Between 2014 and 2019, Brendan Fraser didn’t add any movie roles to his resume. But while he decided to forego big-budget productions, he did opt to work on smaller projects. These included television shows like Robotman, Doom Patrol, The Affair, Trust, and a few more. Brendan was obviously happy to be back in the game, but his fans were even more excited.

Although this foray into television hadn’t taken him back to his pre-career-pause fame, it did give fans the opportunity to fall back in love with him. They could sense that this was the beginning of something new and impressive, and so they decided to come up with a name that would sum up this new version of the actor. They called it the “Brenaissance.”

In 2019, Brendan Got Back Into the Movie Game and Was Cast in the Since-Canceled Batgirl Movie

After a few years of working in television, Brendan realized that he was meant to be an actor. And while he enjoyed the smaller screen, he missed the drama and the excitement of a big Hollywood production. So, he started auditioning for movies once again – and the chance of a lifetime came up in 2019 when he was offered the chance to take on the villain Firefly in the Batgirl movie.

Brendan thoroughly enjoyed being back on a movie set, he loved working with high profile directors again, and he loved the comradery of a movie set – especially when it was his birthday. And while this movie was supposed to be his resurgence into the world of Hollywood, his dreams were squashed when the movie was canceled by Warner Bros. in 2022. However, what he didn’t realize was that an even bigger opportunity was around the corner.

Two Years Later, Darren Aronofsky Decided To Reintroduce Brendan Through His Movie The Whale

Brendan Fraser’s luck really changed in January 2021, when Darren Aronofsky announced that he had found the perfect lead character for his new movie The Whale. He wanted Brendan to take the lead, and Brendan himself confirmed that Darren “said he wanted an actor to reintroduce. And I wanted to be reintroduced.”

The Whale shows Fraser in one of his first leading movie roles since 2013, as he takes on the role of a morbidly obese teacher who battles to maintain his relationship with his daughter and connect with the others around him. And while Brendan was hugely thankful for the opportunity, there’s no doubt that the role was incredibly taxing for him.

Brendan Had To Wear Prosthetics for the Role, and It Pushed Him Mentally and Physically to the Limit

While Brendan has certainly aged since his Hollywood hunk era, he’s not 600 pounds – which made playing a 600-pound man in The Whale extremely difficult. So, for this role, he was required to wear a prosthetic suit that allowed him to look much larger than he actually is. His makeover for the movie was dramatic, and Brendan had a lot to say about it.

He noted that making the movie forced him to develop “muscles I did not know I had. I even felt a sense of vertigo at the end of the day when all the appliances were removed; That [sense] of undulating. It gave me appreciation for those whose bodies are similar. You need to be an incredibly strong person, mentally and physically, to inhabit that physical being.” And while Brendan hoped his work on the movie would help to make it a success, he didn’t expect the response he got.

Brendan’s Performance in The Whale Landed Him a Six-Minute Standing Ovation at the Venice Film Festival

When The Whale finally premiered at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, eager eyes were on Brendan’s performance. Fans knew that this performance would either allow him the chance to proudly come back into the public eye or force him even further into the background. Amazingly, the film was an instant hit – and critics were especially impressed with Brendan’s comeback.

The audience was so blown away that they gave the actor a six-minute standing ovation, something that overwhelmed the actor. Although he tried to stay humble and quiet in his seat, he ultimately couldn’t hold back the tears. This moment went viral on social media, with everyday people and celebrities alike praising the actor. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wrote on Twitter: “Man, this makes me so happy to see this beautiful ovation for Brendan.”

Most People Believe That Brendan Is Sure To Get an Oscar Nomination for His Comeback Performance

With such an incredible response at Venice Film Festival, fans can’t wait for The Whale to finally be released in theaters so that they can see Brendan’s performance for themselves. In fact, most critics who have already seen it believe that Brendan’s appearance in the movie is so believable that he’s sure to get an Oscar nomination as a result. However, he’s not just sitting pretty and waiting for that to happen.

Being back on a big budget production and receiving such a warm welcome back has given Brendan the motivation he needs to continue his career and come back in a big way. Because of this, he’s already filmed his next two movies – both of which have allowed him to work with major players in the industry, such as Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Josh Brolin, and Peter Dinklage.

Although Brendan Struggled During His Career, He Believes That Something Good Has Since Come From It

With so much to look forward to now, it’s hard for Brendan to think back on the years gone by. After all, he suffered from depression during the years when he was allegedly assaulted, his body took a beating, he lost his mom, and he went through a divorce. Now, he’s set to have one of the biggest comebacks in Hollywood history.

Although it took years for the actor to feel ready to jump back in, he now realizes that “something good came out of something that was bad. Sometimes it takes a while for that to happen.” Thankfully, through it all, his fans have stuck by him, and they are now more than ready for the “Brenaissance” that they’ve been waiting for for so many years.