Brendan Fraser — things you didn’t know about The Whale star

Brendan Fraser at TIFF 2022
Brendan Fraser (Image credit: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Brendan Fraser was a reliable presence on the big screen. The actor made his name with movies like The Mummy franchise, George of the Jungle, Airheads and Gods and Monsters

However, though the actor never really stopped working, Fraser’s career took a bit of a step back in the 2010s. That has led to what people are calling a renaissance for the former well-known leading man.

Starting with a supporting role in Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move, Fraser’s comeback went into high gear with the 2022 movie The Whale, which has garnered the actor Oscar buzz. Add on top of that an upcoming role in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon and Brothers, written by Blue Ruin’s Macon Blair and Tropic Thunder’s Etan Coen. He was also set to be a part of the much discussed canceled Batgirl movie for HBO Max.

Fraser is a familiar presence for many, but we’ve collected a number of fun facts about the actor that you may not have known.

1. Fraser wore a 50-300 pound bodysuit for The Whale physical transformation

Brendan Fraser in The Whale

Brendan Fraser in The Whale (Image credit: A24)

The movie that is headlining Brendan Fraser’s Hollywood comeback is The Whale, where he plays the reclusive, severely obese English teacher Charlie, who attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Charlie is supposed to weigh around 600 pounds. While some movies may have opted to go with computer-based special effects in this era of highly capable CGI, The Whale went practical, creating a prosthetic suit for Fraser to wear during his scenes (with some CGI touches to finish the look).

While in a Vanity Fair piece Fraser describes the suit as "beautiful" and worthy of a spot in London’s Tate Museum, it wasn’t the easiest thing to act in. Depending on the demands of the scene, Fraser would carry an additional 50 to 300 pounds wearing the suit and saying that wearing parts of the suit were "like a straight jacket." Members of the crew were on hand to assist Fraser in moving around and when taking off the suit, it's reported he suffered vertigo-like symptoms from the dramatic change.

However, all of that helped inform Fraser’s performance. "I learned quickly that it takes an incredibly strong person inside that body, to be that person."

2. Fraser starred in Dudley Do-Right in part because his great-grandfather was a Canadian Mountie

Fraser starred as the dim-witted but pure spirited Canadian Mountie Dudley Do-Right in the comedy titular 1999 comedy based on the old cartoon series. The role was a natural fit for Fraser who had previously played wide-eyed characters in movies like George of the Jungle and Blast from the Past, but there was also a personal reason for Fraser to take on the role, as he described to the Chicago Tribune.

"My great-grandfather was a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, so it’s personally very satisfying for me to play the part," Fraser said. "I felt a strong sense of heritage and that I was also carrying on a tradition of dumb-luck heroes. I also know quite a bit about my great-grandfather. I’ve read a lot about him and his picture is in every book on the Mounties — he’s the tall guy with a big handlebar mustache and he always got his man."

3. He was up for a role in Modern Family

In an alternate world, perhaps Fraser would never have had to make a comeback because he would have spent years on the hit TV series Modern Family. IMDb’s video series Casting Call shared that Fraser was one of the many actors considered for the role of Phil Dunphy, the goofy dad memorably played by Ty Burrell in the series. Imagining Fraser in that role is a classic Hollywood what if.

That’s not the only one by the way, in a GQ profile on Fraser in 2018, the actor revealed that he was at one point considered for the role of Superman when the franchise was being rebooted in the mid 2000s. However, that iteration — with Brett Ratner attached to direct — did not come to pass, eventually turning into Superman Returns starring Brandon Routh.

4. Fraser’s stunt work caused him a number of injuries

Brendan Fraser in The Mummy

Brendan Fraser in The Mummy (Image credit: Universal Pictures/RGR Collection/Alamy Stock Photo)

Whether it was The Mummy movies, George of the Jungle or Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Fraser would often do as many of his own stunts that he could. Unfortunately that began to take a toll on him. In a 2018 GQ profile, Fraser said that his body began to fall apart.

"By the time I did the third Mummy picture in China, I was put together with tape and ice," he said. "I was building an exoskeleton for myself daily."

The injuries over the years required multiple surgeries, including on his back, knees and vocal cords. GQ says that the actor was in and out of hospitals for almost seven years.

This, along with the toll of dealing with being a victim of sexual assault detailed in the GQ piece, were likely contributing factors to us seeing less of Fraser on screen in the late 2000s and 2010s.

5. Fraser is passionate about photography 

While Fraser has been entertaining people in front of the camera for years, the actor has found his own joy behind one with photography. This would often include taking photos behind-the-scenes of his movies and other projects with an old polaroid camera. "I like the feel of a camera in the hand," Fraser told the Los Angeles Times.

That LA Times article came as Fraser was set to open a month-long exhibit of his photography at a downtown Los Angeles gallery in 2003.

6. Fraser has done multiple audio book narrations

You can experience a different kind of Brendan Fraser performance with the pair of audio book narrations that the actor has done. Fraser has narrated the audio books for two Cornelia Funke fantasy books, Dragon Rider and Inkspell. Fraser has an on-screen connection to Funke’s work, as he starred in the movie Inkheart, which is based on the author’s writing. 

Brendan Fraser Fact File

Here are some frequently asked questions about Brendan Fraser:

How old is Brendan Fraser?

Brendan Fraser was born on December 3, 1968, which as of publication makes him 54 years old. 

How tall is Brendan Fraser?

The actor is six foot two inches.

Who is Brendan Fraser’s ex-wife?

Brendan Fraser was previously married to Afton Smith. The two reportedly maintain a close relationship and have three children. 

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.