In the 90's, Brendan Fraser was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. He was in blockbuster hits like Encino Man, The Mummy and George of the Jungle - it seemed like he would have a long career as a leading man. But then he just disappeared. Sure, he's acted regularly in the 2000's and 2010's, but it's nothing like his previous box office dominance. Nostalgic Fraserheads have wondered why his career fizzled out so quickly - was it simply a unlucky string of bombs? (And why has there been no big comeback?)
A journalist from GQ caught up with the actor, and he opened up, sharing a story of shocking sexual abuse that he believes derailed his career. The incident took place in 2003, at a luncheon with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (aka the organization that throws the Golden Globe Awards.) The former HFPA president, Philip Berk, allegedly touched him in an extremely inappropriate way. "His left hand reaches around, grabs my ass cheek," says Fraser. "And one of his fingers touches me in the taint. And he starts moving it around."
At first, Fraser felt frozen, overwhelmed with panic. Then he snapped out of it, removed Berk's hand, and left the event, rushing back home. "I felt ill," said Fraser. "I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry...I felt like someone had thrown invisible paint on me." He confessed to his wife what happened, but he couldn't bear to tell the police, or go public. "I didn't want to contend with how that made me feel, or it becoming part of my narrative," the actor explained.
Berk denies copping a feel, and calls Fraser's version of the story "a total fabrication." In his memoir, Signs And Wonders, he describes his action as more innocent - a "joking pinch." (Doesn't seem that funny the way Brendan described it). He later sent Fraser a letter of apology, which indicates he must have been guilty of something. But Berk claims his letter was "the usual ‘If I've done anything that upset Mr. Fraser, it was not intended and I apologize’"). So, sorry-not-sorry. Yes, we've heard that slimy, disingenuous response a lot lately.
Fraser says the HFPA promised him he would never be in the same room as Berk again. But life didn't go back to normal. His career declined, and he felt devastated. "I became depressed," says Brendan. "I was blaming myself and I was miserable." Berk was invited back to the Golden Globes every year - including this year, with the symbolic all-black attire and ubiquitous #TimesUp pins - but Fraser has rarely been invited back. He believes he may have been blacklisted. Berk denies it, of course. But it's possible. In many #MeToo stories, the victims express a fear that their powerful abuser might hurt their careers. (Allegedly, Harvey Weinstein blacklisted actresses Mira Sorvino, Annabella Sciorra, and Rose McGowan.)
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have mostly focused on women, with good reason, but it's important to remember that men such as Brendan Fraser, Terry Crews, and Corey Feldman have suffered horrific abuse as well. "Am I still frightened? Absolutely," says Fraser. "Do I feel like I need to say something? Absolutely. Have I wanted to many, many times? Absolutely. Have I stopped myself? Absolutely."
Well, at least he has the courage to share his harrowing story today. Now, let's get that Brendan Fraser comeback rolling. We are long overdue for Encino Man 2.