Remember Brendan Fraser? The handsome leading man that battled mummies, was miraculously thawed from ice after millions of years, and played the titular George in George of the Jungle?
He was everywhere through the 90s and then, one day, he wasn’t. And the actor, who has recently re-emerged in an FX series produced by acclaimed director Danny Boyle called Trust, has given GQ a reason why he abruptly disappeared.
He was groped, he says, by Philip Berk, former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that hosts the Golden Globes, in 2003 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. After that, Fraser says he isn’t sure if he was actively blacklisted or if the experience caused him such confusion that he simply retreated away from film. Either way, the situation had the same effect: Fraser stopped making movies.
In the aftermath of the encounter, Fraser thought about making it public. But ultimately, “I didn’t want to contend with how that made me feel, or it becoming part of my narrative.” But the memory of what had happened, and the way it made him feel, stuck with him. His reps asked the HFPA for a written apology. Berk acknowledges that he wrote a letter to Fraser about the incident but says, “My apology admitted no wrongdoing, the usual ‘If I’ve done anything that upset Mr. Fraser, it was not intended and I apologize.’ ”
According to Fraser, the HFPA also said it would never allow Berk in a room with Fraser again. (Berk denies this, and the HFPA declined to comment for this story.) But still, Fraser says, “I became depressed.” He started telling himself he deserved what had happened to him. “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 knows now that people wonder what happened to Brendan Fraser, how he went from a highly visible public figure to practically disappearing in the public mind, and he’d already told me most of it. But this, he says, is the final piece. The experience, he says, “made me retreat. It made me feel reclusive.” He wondered if the HFPA had blacklisted him. “I don’t know if this curried disfavor with the group, with the HFPA. But the silence was deafening.” Fraser says he was rarely invited back to the Globes after 2003. Berk denies that the HFPA retaliated against Fraser: “His career declined through no fault of ours.”
This is something that only those who experience sexual harassment or abuse can really understand — the feeling of worthlessness, either from an inability to have stopped it, or the feeling later that it may have been deserved. Fraser allowed the situation to eat at him until he was no longer comfortable doing the work he had once been praised for.
Fraser told GQ the experience had him questioning “who [he] was and what [he] was doing.” “Work,” he says, “withered on the vine…In my mind, at least, something had been taken away from me.”
He wasn’t worthy of being Superman. He wasn’t even worthy of being Brendan Fraser. And this feeling ate at him as the decade wore on, and he starred in movies he was less and less proud of, and his body deteriorated, and his marriage fell apart, and he kept thinking about what had happened to him in the summer of 2003: “The phone does stop ringing in your career, and you start asking yourself why. There’s many reasons, but was this one of them? I think it was.” And that, he says, is why he ultimately disappeared for a while. “I bought into the pressure that comes with the hopes and aims that come with a professional life that’s being molded and shaped and guided and managed,” he says now. “That requires what they call thick skin, or just ignoring it, putting your head in the sand, or gnashing your teeth and putting on your public face, or just not even…needing the public. Ignoring. Staying home, damn it. You know, not ’cause I’m aloof or anything, but because I just felt I couldn’t be a part of it. I didn’t feel that I belonged.”
For his part, Berk has said he wrote a letter to Fraser about the incident but “admitted no wrongdoing.”
Other celebrities have called Berk out on Twitter, albeit for less serious violations, and have welcomed the return of Fraser.
I recommend this interview highly. I, too, was blacklisted by that individual at #HFPA after nine Golden Globe nominations. During a press junket with HFPA, he asked if I would support Hillary Clinton if she ever ran for president. Never nominated again. https://t.co/fnAX5GM4Io
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) February 22, 2018