Brendan Fraser was a big-name in the ’90s. With starring roles in Encino Man, Airheads and The Mummy, everyone knew that wide-eyed face. But in the following decade, Fraser seemed to fall out of the spotlight.
In an intimate new interview for GQ, the actor provided a few reasons why: Stuntwork had taken a toll on his body, keeping him in and out of hospitals for seven years; the dissolution of his marriage to actress Afton Smith, with whom he has three children, forced him to pay hefty alimony and child support payments he can no longer afford; and a dip in self-esteem after taking one too many roles in projects he just wasn’t proud of.
However, there was one particular incident Fraser had never discussed before that he felt gave his career pause.
In the summer of 2003, Fraser claims that, while at the Beverly Hills Hotel for a lunch with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (which hosts the Golden Globes), he had a disturbing encounter with the HFPA president that left him emotionally scarred.
According to GQ: On Fraser’s way out of the hotel, he was hailed by Philip Berk, a former president of the HFPA. In the midst of a crowded room, Berk reached out to shake Fraser’s hand. Much of what happened next Berk recounted in his memoir and was also reported by Sharon Waxman in The New York Times: He pinched Fraser’s ass—in jest, according to Berk. But Fraser says what Berk did was more than a pinch: “His left hand reaches around, grabs my ass cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint. And he starts moving it around.” Fraser says that in this moment he was overcome with panic and fear.
“I felt ill,” Fraser said. “I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry.”
In an email to GQ, Berk called the incident “a total fabrication.” Fraser, for his part, reported the incident to the HFPA at the time, but the organization has declined to comment this week.
Moved by the current #MeToo and Time’s Up movement in Hollywood, Fraser chose to come forward now. At the time, Fraser said he became depressed and reclusive: “I was blaming myself and I was miserable — because I was saying, ‘This is nothing; this guy reached around and he copped a feel.’ That summer wore on — and I can’t remember what I went on to work on next.”
He speculated whether the HFPA had blacklisted him as roles dried up and he was rarely invited to the Globes, adding, “the silence was deafening.” Fraser concluded, “Am I still frightened? Absolutely. Do I feel like I need to say something? Absolutely. Have I wanted to many, many times? Absolutely. Have I stopped myself? Absolutely.”
But now, Fraser is in the middle of a healthy comeback, making a shift to television. Following a season-long arc on The Affair, he’s now starring in Condor and the upcoming Danny Boyle-directed series Trust.