Darren Aronofsky spent 10 years searching for the right actor to play Charlie in The Whale, a process he described as the “biggest hurdle” of making the film. “I spent a lot of time meeting and thinking about lots of different actors. People were also coming to me and suggesting different actors. But, [the choices] just didn’t get me out of bed in the morning to make it.”
When the notion of casting Brendan Fraser arrived, it felt different. “Meeting him as a gentleman and getting a sense of his presence, I was like, ‘This guy could pull it off.’ It was just a gut feeling,” Aronofsky said at Deadline’s Toronto studio. “We put up a reading of the script, and from that moment, it was like, ‘OK, we’ve got Charlie.’”
The Whale, adapted by Samuel D. Hunter from his own play, centers around a reclusive English teacher living with severe obesity who tries to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter after abandoning his family. The film stars Fraser alongside Hong Chau and Samantha Morton, as well as Sadie Sink and Ty Simpkins, who joined Fraser and Aronofsky in the Deadline studio.
Aronofsky introduced Charlie to Fraser as a man living with so many regrets that he’s been isolating himself and overeating. “He’s carrying an unhealthy amount of weight, but that’s less important to him. What he really wants is to reconnect with his daughter and let her know he loves her.”
For Fraser, the part was intimidating. Still, he says, “I have truly latched onto this notion in recent years that if something is easy, don’t go for it. Go towards the danger, go towards the risk, and listen to that voice inside you that says: you have to do this.”
Playing Charlie fit that bill. “I wanted to be a part of this man’s redemption tale, and I’ve always wanted to keep that feeling that we don’t know if he’s going to make it or not. That is what kept me excited every day to come to work.”
The Deadline Studio is sponsored by dr Liza + the[fix] and Watford Group. Special thanks to our partner Soluna.
Destiny Jackson contributed to this report.