“I had to learn to move in a new way”

Brendan Fraser, the star of ‘The Whale’ which premiered in Venice, says he had to ‘learn how to move in a new way’ to play the 600kg character Charlie.

Fraser takes on his most substantial role in years with Darren Aronofsky’s latest, in which Charlie slowly eats himself to death while battling congestive heart failure. An online English teacher (with the camera off), Charlie eats to escape the pain of losing the love of his life, his former night school student Alan, with whom he started a relationship after leaving his wife and then eight-year-old daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink). Within a week, he tries to reconnect with Ellie.

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“I developed muscles I didn’t know I had,” Fraser told reporters at a press conference in Venice on Sunday ahead of the film’s world premiere.

“I even felt a sense of vertigo at the end of the day when all the devices were removed. it was like stepping off the dock into a boat in Venice. That [sense of] wavy. It gave me an appreciation for those whose bodies are similar. You have to be an incredibly strong person, mentally and physically, to inhabit this physical being.”

Fraser wore a prosthetic suit for the role, which was also aided by a small amount of CGI. As he moves around the apartment, always with the help of a walker or a wheelchair, the transformation of the actor is amazing. A recent Vanity Fair article reported that Fraser carried an extra 50 pounds. up to 300 lbs. during filming. However, the film will likely draw controversy for choosing a slimmer, established star over a potentially less recognizable actor whose physique is more closely aligned with Charlie’s.

Asked by Variety why he chose to “reinvent” an actor like Fraser, who had been largely out of the limelight, instead of hiring an actor of similar stature to the character, Aronofsky said it took 10 years to cast the film, but did not “directly respond to the question about his casting choice.

“It took me 10 years to make the film and that’s because it took me 10 years to act the film. “Casting Charlie was a huge challenge for a lot of different reasons,” Aronofsky said.

“I thought of everybody — all different types of actors, every movie star on the planet. But none of them ever really clicked. It just didn’t move me, or feel good. A few years ago, I caught a trailer for a low-budget Brazilian film [movie], and I saw Brendan in the trailer and a light bulb went off. I hadn’t seen “Gods and Monsters” or “George of the Jungle.” Seeing him in there, it just clicked. I asked Brendan to come and meet me… it just clicked.’

Elsewhere in the press conference, when Fraser was asked about early roles like George of the Jungle, he said: “I looked different in those days. My journey to where I am now has been to explore as many characters as I can. And that presented me with the biggest challenge I wanted. By far I think Charlie is the most heroic person I’ve ever played because his superpower is seeing the good in others and bringing it out in him.”

The film’s title has also been criticized. While certainly provocative, it’s actually a reference to Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick,” which is a motif throughout the film. (Melville’s book is also known as “The Whale”.)

“The Whale” is based on a 2012 play by Samuel D. Hunter, who wrote the screenplay for the film. Hunter, who was also at the press conference, said he based the character on his own personal experiences with weight gain and depression earlier in his life.

“I wrote this character from a very personal place,” Hunter said. “I have a history of self-medicating with food and a history of depression. I used to be a lot bigger than I am now. I also went to a fundamentalist religious high school. I was a gay kid in a fundamentalist religious high school, which wasn’t easy… This might be my most personal [play]. I was afraid to write it. When I actually wrote it, I thought that the only way I can write it is to write it from a deep place of love and faith. I wanted to portray someone who had an unwavering faith in the goodness of human beings, despite everything that happened in his life.”

“The Whale” is Aronofsky’s last feature film after “Mother!” (2017). Set entirely in Charlie’s dingy apartment, it’s the most stripped-down effort we’ve seen in quite some time – if ever – from the director.

“The saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover is a really big theme in this movie,” Aronofsky said. “You can’t judge any of these characters by their first impressions. The way Charlie the English teacher constantly pushes his students to find honesty and truth to get past the cover, I found very inspiring.”

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