What happened to Brendan Fraser? After years of hardship and personal drama, the Mummy actor is making a comeback and creating Oscars buzz in The Whale, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival

Brendan Fraser poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film The Whale during the 79th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, on September 4. Photo: Invision/AP
Hollywood’s beloved action and comedy hero, Brendan Fraser, has made a comeback to the big screen after being away from the movie field for several years. His role in the new film The Whale, directed by Darren Aronofsky, landed him some heart-warming praise and got him a six-minute standing ovation at the film’s premiere in Venice for which the actor broke down in tears.

Fans and netizens consider him to be a strong contender for the next Oscar awards ceremony and say that his return to Hollywood is well-deserved.

During the peak of his success, being one of the highest-paid actors of the time for blockbusters like The Mummy, George of the Jungle and Bedazzled, Fraser completely disappeared from the movie scene.

Brendan Fraser and Leslie Mann in George of the Jungle (1997). Photo: IMDB

But what exactly happened to the fan favourite actor while he was at his height of his fame? According to numerous reports, Fraser faced many hardships, which caused him to suffer in silence. However, he believes that he was probably blacklisted by Hollywood for one specific reason … because of an alleged sexual assault against him, per Evening Standard.

So, where has he been all this time?

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He sustained multiple injuries in The Mummy films

Hollywood stars Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz and John Hannah in The Mummy (1999). Photo: Handout

While the movie was all action-packed fun with Fraser portraying the tough and oh so handsome Rick O’Connell, the actor suffered several major injuries during the shooting of the three films. During the filming of The Mummy in 1999, Fraser was almost choked to death during his hanging scene in the opening of the movie, as per The Things. His co-star Rachel Weisz recalled that he stopped breathing and even needed CPR.

And that was just one mishap. The injuries he received from the ancient Egyptian-themed films led to multiple surgeries including a laminectomy, a back procedure to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves; a partial knee replacement; more back surgeries to bolt compressed spinal pads together; vocal cord repair and other procedures, as per People magazine.

Brendan Fraser in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008). Photo: IMDB

“By the time I did the third Mummy picture in China [in 2008], I was put together with tape and ice,” the actor told GQ magazine. Fraser mentioned that he spent seven years in and out of the hospital, which could have prevented him from auditioning and acting in other films.

He spoke out on sexual harassment

Daffy Duck, Jenna Elfman, Brendan Fraser and Bugs Bunny are shown in a scene from their new live-action adventure comedy film Looney Tunes Back in Action. Photo: Reuters

The nail that hammered and closed off Fraser’s acting career was his sexual harassment allegations against one of Hollywood’s big shots. In 2018, Fraser claimed that he was sexually assaulted by Philip Berk, the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2003, as per GQ magazine.

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Fraser recounted that the incident made him feel sick and spiralled him into feeling depressed. Berk denied the claims against him and said he only pinched Fraser’s behind as a joke.

But Fraser said that the incident made him reclusive and he withdrew from the public eye. He said that his phone stopped ringing and there were no more casting calls for him, as per GQ. He also claimed that he was rarely invited to the Golden Globes, which the HFPA hosts.

His dramatic split from his wife

Brendan Fraser with his ex-wife Afton Smith and his sons Griffin Arthur Fraser and Leland Francis Fraser. Photo: @_brendan_fraser_/Instagram

Just as his professional life took a hit, his private life also resulted in a blow when his ex-wife, Afton Smith, split from him in 2007. Fraser was then required to pay around US$900,000 for child support, as per the New York Post. Six years after the divorce, Fraser allegedly asked the court to reduce the payment as he said he was no longer able to afford the hefty sum due to lack of work.

But Smith wasn’t buying any of it and accused the actor of “fraud”, saying he was hiding assets, according to the report. Her allegations went nowhere and the court ruled that he could lower his alimony if he started making less than US$3 million annually, per Cheat Sheet.

The emergence of the “Brenaissance”

Brendan Fraser in season three of Doom Patrol. Photo: HBO Go

However, Fraser had unrelenting support from his fans both during the heights of his fame to his down-lows. His legions of fans helped keep up the actor’s legacy, especially whenever swashbuckling films were mentioned on social media.

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When Fraser slowly started returning to the screen in 2018, his fans took to TikTok and announced the actor’s return, dubbing it the “Brenaissance”.

He had a couple of movie and TV roles – most notably Doom Patrol in 2019, Danny Boyle’s acclaimed drama Trust (2018), as well as Steven Soderbergh’s film, No Sudden Move (2021).

Tom Cruise rebooted the Mummy franchise, but didn’t receive the same amount of critical acclaim as Brendan Fraser did in the original. Photo: Universal Pictures International
Tom Cruise rebooting the classic favourite Mummy franchise also prompted discussion of Fraser’s legendary Rick O’Connell. Fans demanded the actor come back for a fourth film after Cruise’s Mummy flop. Critics also noted how Fraser’s role was better than Cruise’s, citing that the former’s character was better written and better played, as per TV Over Mind.

The Hollywood comeback

Brendan Fraser in a scene from A24’s The Whale. Photo: A24/AP

After several years of hardship and suffering, Fraser has made a proper comeback with Darren Aronofsky’s psychological drama The Whale. His spectacular performance received a six-minute standing ovation when the movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival screening, as per CNN.

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With his return to the big screen, there’s also buzz that the actor could possibly be on the list for the next Oscar awards.

Fraser will also be playing a prominent role in the Martin Scorsese-directed film Killers of the Flower Moon alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.
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  • Fraser shed tears as he got roaring applause at the Venice Film Festival for his role in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale – but where’s he been this whole time?
  • He suffered backstage injuries, stood up against alleged sexual assault and went through a messy divorce … but now he’ll star in Killers of the Flower Moon with Robert De Niro