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Brendan Fraser: his devastating departure from Hollywood explained

The actor has been hugely praised for his role in The Whale

Brendan Fraser in a blue tuxedo
Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
Updated: 6 March 2024
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Brendan Fraser has been a familiar face on our screens for decades. Beloved for his roles in blockbusters like The Mummy, George of the Jungle and Bedazzled, the actor was booked and busy before seemingly disappearing from Hollywood movies altogether.

The star appeared in TV shows like The Affair and Trust before landing the lead comeback role in The Whale – a role which earned him the ultimate accolade of Best Actor at the Academy Awards. Ahead of his return to the Oscars as an awards presenter, discover the circumstances surrounding his exit from Hollywood...

WATCH: Brendan Fraser's changing looks through the years

Why the actor quit Hollywood

Speaking to GQ back in 2018, Brendan gave a candid interview about stepping away from Hollywood, both willingly and unwillingly for a plethora of reasons, including accusations of a horrifying sexual assault by the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Philip Berk. This accusation led to depression and a suspicion that he had been blacklisted from the HFPA as a result of his accusations.

Speaking about the incident with Philip, he remarked: "I felt ill. I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry… I became depressed… It made me feel reclusive."

Brendan Fraser at a film premiere© Steve Granitz
Brendan alleges that the incident took place in 2003

He added: "I don't know if this curried disfavour with the group, with the HFPA. But the silence was deafening… The phone does stop ringing in your career, and you start asking yourself why. There are many reasons, but was this one of them? I think it was."

Philip mentioned the incident in his 2014 memoirs, but claimed it was "in jest".

Health struggles

Brendan also struggled with difficulties surrounding his health, particularly while filming The Mummy 3. The star revealed that he suffered years of injuries from the stunts he performed in his various starring roles. Speaking about his health during filming, the father-of-three explained: "By the time I did the third Mummy picture in China I was put together with tape and ice—just, like, really nerdy and fetishy about ice packs." Brendan needed multiple surgeries following the production including a partial knee replacement and operations on his back.

Brendan Fraser in a black suit© Robert Prezioso
Brendan required entensive surgery following the third Mummy film

Speaking about casting Brendan in The Whale, director Darren Aronofsky said: "Casting Charlie was a huge challenge for many different reasons. I considered everyone, all different types of actors. Every single movie star on the planet. But none of it ever really clicked, it just didn't move me, it didn't feel right. A couple of years ago I caught a trailer from a low-budget Brazilian movie, I saw Brendan in it and a lightbulb went off."

Marriage troubles 

Brendan and actress Afton Smith were married for nine years, after meeting when the star made it to Hollywood. The couple called time on their relationship in 2007, with a publicist releasing a shared statement at the time saying that "they continue to maintain a close and caring friendship". The pair divorced in 2009 with Brendan initially paying $50,000 (£41,000) in spousal support.

Brendan Fraser holding Afton Smith's stomach© Jeffrey Mayer
Kylie and Afton split in 2007

However, he sought to have this amended in 2013 citing that he wasn't earning enough for the payments. The divorce took an acrimonious turn as Afton claimed that Brendan was committing fraud and did have the income. However, they came to a modified spousal support agreement.

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