The Whale, a film by American director Darren Aronofsky
18 January 2023
The finer production details of a film are usually something I don’t pay much attention to. I’m primarily interested in the story, and the way it is told. Having said that, I don’t mind filmmakers talking about, say, visual effects, if it’s being discussed incidentally. Otherwise, that sort of thing is what film awards are for. But when a filmmaker talks about nothing other than production techniques, and little of the story, it makes me wonder. Do they really have nothing else to say about their work?
So far though, I cannot say I’ve heard a single word about the filming of The Whale, trailer, by American director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan). What has caught my eye though, are the stills of Charlie, the morbidly obese protagonist, a British teacher, portrayed by Canadian-American actor Brendan Fraser. At first I thought his appearance was the product of the post production unit, and the efforts of a skilled visual effects team.
But I was wrong. Fraser’s look is quite real, or somewhat so. For the role of Charlie, who weighs over two hundred and seventy kilograms, Fraser was required to put on a considerable amount of weight. This surely cannot be as easy as it might sound. Ten to twenty kilograms maybe, depending on an actor’s stature, but more has to be a challenge, and possibly even a health risk. Never let it be said that acting is an occupation merely requiring a practitioner to feign certain emotions.
In the end, Fraser did not gain sufficient weight, and was required to wear a fat suit, an under garment often used by actors — sometimes controversially — to alter the appearance of their weight. But the suit worn by Fraser was itself heavy. By adding dried beans and marbles to the outfit, its weight was said to have been over one hundred and thirty kilograms. The idea here, I imagine, was to make Fraser feel as heavy as he looked, for the sake of authenticity.
While his appearance, and efforts to put on weight, have attracted some criticism, early reviews of Fraser’s portrayal of Charlie have been generally positive to date. The Whale opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday, 2 February 2023, with the Australian premiere taking place at the Westpac OpenAir cinema, located at Mrs Macquaries Point, in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden, on the evening of Sunday, 22 January 2023.