Daniel Franzese says Brendan Fraser is a “lovely” actor but doesn’t understand why the upcoming film The Whale didn’t choose to cast a gay actor with a larger body in Fraser’s leading role.
While speaking to People, the Mean Girls and Looking star said he felt conflicted about Fraser’s casting in the Darren Aronofsky A24 film, which is based on Samuel D. Hunter’s 2012 play of the same name and follows a gay man trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Franzese expressed that he likes and is happy for The Mummy and Killers of the Flower Moon star, whose performance is being described as his big screen comeback. Still, the actor and comedian said he’s “conflicted.”
“I love Brendan Fraser, [so] I’m very conflicted. Seeing him get up so modest in Venice and have that moment, I was very happy for him. He’s a lovely man. And it’s great,” he said. “But why? Why go up there and wear a fat suit to play a 400-lb. queer man?”
Franzese noted that both queer actors and people in Hollywood with larger bodies have fewer roles written for them already without having to contend with straight actors in body suits for creatively significant, career-impacting roles.
“To finally have a chance to be in a prestige film that might be award-nominated, where stories about people who look like us are being told? That’s the dream,” he told the magazine. “So when they go time and time again and cast someone like Brendan Fraser, me and the other big queer guys, we’re like, ‘What the … ?’”
The Glow and Recovery Road actor went on to note that it was the kind of role he would have “loved” to read for if offered the chance. “Who knows more about being an obese queer man than an obese queer man?” he stated. “But I guess you can go ahead and wear a fat suit and do what you got to do and get your Oscar. We’ll just sit here, waiting.”
Franzese also addressed why he thinks queer actors haven’t historically gotten to play queer roles on screen, pointing to fear over the reception of gay representation in the narrative within the international market that can be compounded by the actor themselves being gay.
“The biggest problem we have right now in our industry is that people like me and my colleagues can’t really sell movies overseas if we are actually queer because the world is homophobic,” he said. “Even if America is ready for a gay person in the lead like that, they have a hard time selling the movie overseas, so they get scared.”
He added: “It’s going to take risk-takers and real trailblazers to let us cut our teeth in these roles as actors, so we, too, can have a shot at a full career in Hollywood.”
In an August interview with Vanity Fair, Fraser noted that after stepping into the fat suit, “I learned quickly that it takes an incredibly strong person inside that body to be that person. That seemed fitting and poetic and practical to me, all at once.”
He also shared what The Whale director Aronofsky told him about the decision to cast him in the part. “He said he wanted an actor to reintroduce,” Fraser explained. “And I wanted to be reintroduced.”
Aronofsky’s search for someone to play the role was a decade-long endeavor, beginning when Aronofsky first saw Hunter’s play. As Hunter worked on the film’s screenplay, Aronofsky grappled with the “taxing” process of finding the actor the director believed could offer “both star power and authenticity,” according to the magazine.
“I thought about every movie star playing Charlie, and it never made sense or clicked,” Aronofsky said.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to reps for Fraser and Aronofsky for comment.