Brendan Fraser Shares How Fatherhoood Inspired His Hollywood Comeback in 'The Whale' (Exclusive)

The actor discusses his lauded new role in 'The Whale' and what's changed since the early years of his career.

Brendan Fraser is embracing the major moment he's having in his return to the spotlight.

"What can I say? I’m touched, I'm grateful," the actor marveled when he sat down recently with ET's Nischelle Turner to discuss his Hollywood comeback and his lauded role in director Darren Aronofsky's upcoming film, The Whale.

Joined by Samuel D. Hunter -- who wrote both the screenplay and the play the film is based on -- the actor discussed the harrowing drama, in which he stars as a morbidly obese man who is trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter, played by Stranger Things star Sadie Sink.

"I think as actors and writers and creators, we have to find these inspirations and tools that move us, that really give us a reason to do what we do," Fraser said of the story. "It's nice work if you can get it, let's be honest here, and every now and then a piece comes along if you're lucky that you find you connect with in a way that makes you care, and this is one of those films."

The actor also said that he connected with the story of fatherhood, and how that made the making of the film that much more meaningful. Fraser shares three sons -- Griffin, 20, Holden, 18, and Leland, 16 -- with his ex-wife, Afton Smith.

"I have kids now, and that really warrants how I make decisions, what I’m going to do -- and, whatever it is that I’m doing, how I feel about what I’m doing," he shared. "Somehow stakes get raised to such a point that something that may seem garden variety or normal takes on much more gravity."

"I spent the first, I don't know, 25 years of my career or so making films that I generated all the hope and aspiration and joy from what I believed to be coming from a character or a screenplay, and then some alchemy happens when you have kids and suddenly everything clicks," the actor added. "It somehow raises the stakes and somehow, for me at least, increases the authenticity of what we do."

Fraser describes his character in The Whale, a reclusive English teacher named Charlie, as someone who is "harming himself for his broken heart, and that's been through overeating."

"The point is he's a person, he's a man, and he's so much more than who he would appear to be to the world," he added. "It's so easy to be cynical and dismiss others that way when we know the challenge of connecting with those is what brings us closest together."

However, the trouble comes when Charlie's health begins to decline. "His time is limited," Fraser noted. "He wants very much to connect with his daughter. Because there's the tension that we're not always certain if he can, or if he's going to make it."

Sink and Hong Chau -- who plays Charlie's nurse and best friend, Liz, praised Fraser's commitment to his performance in the film, with both noting that something evolved in the actor's portrayal as they went through rehearsals that inspired the entire cast.

Fraser, as he has over the course of this new "Brenaissance," accepted the praise humbly, insisting, "You're only as good as the people you're working with. So whatever that was, I'm grateful to hear it, but I'm sure it came from paying attention to what they were doing and getting out of my head or away from the book as best I could."

"It was good to know what we were doing before we showed up at the built set, because, let's face it, it was a film that was made in the time of COVID for us. We were all under existential threat in our lives and somehow, strangely, that helped the production," he added. "It brought us closer together. We were even more careful with one another as a result, and this is really what insular aspects of this story are really about too."

The Whale is out in limited release on Dec. 9, and out wide Dec. 21.


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