Here’s Why The Video Of Brendan Fraser’s Standing Ovation Is So Meaningful To Survivors Of Abuse

The actor, who stars in The Whale, has returned to the spotlight after a despairing step back from public life.

Brendan Fraser

by Georgia Aspinall |
Published on

Videos of Brendan Fraser receiving a standing ovation at this year’s Venice Film Festival have gone viral this morning following the actors long period out of the spotlight. The 53-year-old has been continuously working since his 90s rise to stardom, but has remained markedly more private since the late noughties. Why? Well, that’s what everyone seems to be Googling today.

Brendan Fraser has more than 100,000 searches this morning in the UK alone, according to Google Trends, but it’s not just for the fact there is Oscar buzz around his latest performance – in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale, a psychological drama about a man living with obesity. On further inspection, the most highly searched for term for the actor is ‘Brendan Fraser assault’, followed by ‘Brendan Fraser sexual assault’ and ‘Brendan Fraser abuse’.

The searches are in large part due to the Twitter storm around his standing ovation, where the actor is being widely celebrated for his bravery returning to stardom after opening up about experiencing alleged sexual assault in a GQ interview in 2018. The moment is of keen significance after Fraser spoke thoughtfully about the way in which his experience of alleged assault caused him to withdraw from public life and, he believes, may have resulted in him being ‘blacklisted’ in Hollywood.

What happened to Brendan Fraser?

According to GQ’s 2018 profile with Fraser, the alleged assault happened in 2003 during the height of his fame. He claims that Philip Berk, a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, approached him at a luncheon and, after reaching out to shake his hand in a crowded room, groped him. In Berk’s own 2014 memoir, he recalls pinching Fraser’s bum ‘in jest’, but Fraser describes the following: ‘His left hand reaches around, grabs my ass cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint. And he starts moving it around.’

Fraser says his reps asked HFPA for a written apology, which Berk acknowledged in the 2018 GQ article. ‘My apology admitted no wrongdoing, the usual “If I've done anything that upset Mr. Fraser, it was not intended and I apologize”’ he said. He also disputed Fraser's account: ‘Mr. Fraser's version is a total fabrication.’ The HFPA declined to comment at the time. Berk was expelled from the HFPA in 2021 after emails were leaked to the Los Angeles Times where he referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as a ‘racist hate movement’.

Speaking of the alleged assault, Fraser told GQ that his immediate reaction was nausea. ‘I felt ill,’ he recalls. ‘I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry.’

He chose not to make the allegation public at the time because ‘I didn't want to contend with how that made me feel, or it becoming part of my narrative’ but says he became depressed and began to blame himself for what happened. He started to retreat from public life and due to his experience in Hollywood after the incident, wondered if the HFPA had blacklisted him. ‘I don't know if this curried disfavour with the group, with the HFPA, but the silence was deafening,’ he said. Berk denies any retaliation, telling GQ ‘His career declined through no fault of ours.’

Now, Fraser is receiving much-deserved support for his career achievements. His standing ovation at Venice Film Festival is testament to that, and while it’s important to note that legally, the incident remains an allegation, Fraser speaking out about sexual assault in any capacity is a powerful moment for survivors. Many people can relate to the feelings Fraser recalls in his GQ interview, and thus many will understand that this moment is much more meaningful than a man returning to the Hollywood spotlight.

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