Brendan Fraser talks Oscar win, gay character in ‘The Whale’

Brendan Fraser is the sixth heterosexual man to win a best actor Oscar for portraying a gay man.

Fraser took home the gold statue on Sunday at the 95th Academy Awards for his role in “The Whale.”

Fraser plays Charlie, a 600-pound reclusive gay English professor who gained weight after his lover’s death. Charlie struggles with his health and tries to reconnect with his daughter. Charlie is estranged from his family after he falls in love with a man.

Darren Aronofsky directed “The Whale,” and has defended having Fraser wear a fatsuit. Earlier in the evening, Adrien Morot, Judy Chin and Annemarie Bradley won the best makeup and hairstyling Oscar for “The Whale.”

The film is based on Samuel D. Hunter’s 2012 stage play of the same name.

Brendan Fraser, Oscar

Brendan Fraser is ushered backstage after winning the Oscar for best actor during the 95th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday. Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Fraser tearfully accepted the award to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. He thanked director Darrin Aronofsky for “throwing him a creative lifeline and hauling him aboard ‘The Whale.’”

Fraser also acknowledged Hong Chau (who was nominated for best supporting actress for her role of Liz, Charlie’s nurse and friend). “Only whales can swim at the depth of the talent of Hong Chau,” Fraser said.

He finished his acceptance speech by thanking his sons and wife.

Moments after winning the Oscar, Brendan Fraser went backstage to the press room, where he fielded questions.

A reporter from Out magazine told Fraser that he’s had a lot of gay fans during his career, and that “the gays love you.”

The room burst into applause and whistles. 

Fraser chuckled, and a voice in the crowd yelled, “It’s true.”

“I love you right back,” Fraser replied, 

“Charlie is so much more than just a gay man,” Fraser told Out when asked about playing the complicated gay character.

“He’s a father. He’s an educator. He’s a truth seeker, and that he fell hopelessly, inconveniently in love with whomever is immaterial,” Fraser said.

“He’s someone who found love, lost it, and then found it again. I think that’s something that we can all take a page from. With perseverance, if you put one foot in front of the other, like Charlie did, go to the light. Believe me, if I can do it, you can too — good things will happen.”

The five previous straight actors have won best acting Oscars for playing gay roles:

  • Tom Hanks for “Philadelphia” in 1993
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman for “Capote” in 2005
  • William Hurt won for “Kiss of the Spider Woman” in 1985
  • Rami Malek won for “Bohemian Rhapsody” in 2018.
  • Sean Penn for “Milk” in 2008

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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