The Whale has resurrected Brendan Fraser‘s career, garnered a truckload of awards chatter, and raised some standard questions about representation in Hollywood. Since the main character, Charlie, is a 600-pound gay man, why not hiring a gay actor? Or an obese one? In a world where leading roles large actors and gay actors are fewer and farther between, why pick Fraser over someone else?
Within the sprawling Variety feature on the likely Oscar winner and the career-reigniting director, Darren Aronofsky responded to the question by detailing the work the production went through to find their star.
“There was a chapter in the making of this film where we tried to research actors with obesity,” said Aronofsky. “Outside of not being able to find an actor who could pull off the emotions of the role, it just becomes a crazy chase. Like, if you can’t find a 600-pound actor, is a 300-pound actor or 400-pound actor enough?”
The director also worried whether a 600-pound actor could handle the grueling production schedule.
“From a health perspective, it’s prohibitive,” said Aronofsky. “It’s an impossible role to fill with a real person dealing with those issues.”
This addresses one vector of identity, but not the other. However, the answer might be lurking in Aronofsky’s explanation of his surprise that the entire world seems to love Fraser.
“I just needed the right actor for the role. But it’s amazing to see how people respond to him. I think they’re going to be impressed by how the same actor who played all those honest, innocent characters back then is portraying this complicated, messed-up person.”