The Toronto International Film Festival, unlike the Euro film fests, isn’t known as a place for standing ovations. As soon as those credits roll, they need to jump into a post-screening Q&A, clear the theater and get into the next screening.
But it was a different story tonight at the Royal Alexandra Theater as The Whale director Darren Aronofsky and the cast of the A24 film kept he standing ovation momentum going for what seemed more than three minutes (long by TIFF standards) as Brendan Fraser took the stage teary eyed in what his second major fall festival reception after Venice where he sobbed for six minutes.
Based on the Samuel D. Hunter play, Fraser plays a reclusive English teacher, with a penchant for teaching Moby Dick, who lives with severe obesity and attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter (Sadie Sink) as he struggles to stay alive.
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Yes, a lot of prosthetics went into the performance, but a lot of heart. And that’s what bowled Aronofsky over when he took a meeting with The Mummy franchise actor one frozen afternoon in January.
“To find the right actor at the right time, it’s not a calculation,” says Aronofsky.
“With Brendan it was purely the connection of seeing him as a human being, meeting him, and the energy from him. It was a deep gut feeling,” said the filmmaker.
“Actors that are hungry is a super important thing because all of these roles are difficult,” he continued, “you have to find the right actor at the right time to work hard.”
“I heard Darren was going to be directing a movie,” said Fraser, “We talked about the project. There was no script at the time. He told me it was about a man with a burden of regret and he’s been harming himself by overeating. And he wants to reconnect with his daughter, and let her know how much he loves her. He’s running out of time. Hey, look, those are really the only things I knew about it already. Those are objectives to play, big obstacles, and the substance that I know Darren would wrap his arms around and make an impressive piece cinema of.”
Despite all the make-up, Fraser told the crowd in order to play Charlie, “you had to be an incredibly strong individual to be that man. Because at the end of the day, I could take the apparatus off, and there was a bit of dizziness, and something about that stayed with me until we came back and did it the next day.”
“And sometime after we finished the film too, when you invest everything you can, and give it what you got as if it’s the first and last time you ever will again — something important can come of that,” the actor said before his voice cracked, “I think that with your help, we may be able to change some hearts and minds.”
A24 will release The Whale on Dec. 9.
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