Why did Brendan Fraser retire? His decline explained

Brendan Fraser

Brendan Fraser’s comeback has been a delight to behold: the beloved actor stars in the hotly anticipated The Whale and will appear alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s 2023 film Killers of the Flower Moon. Fraser is expected to be nominated for the Golden Globes – a fitting reward for his stirring comeback – but he’s stated he won’t attend the ceremony. 

“I have more history with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association than I have respect for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” Brendan told GQ. “No, I will not participate. My mother didn’t raise a hypocrite. You can call me a lot of things, but not that.”

Fraser’s history with the HFPA explains why he retired. Read on to find out more. 

Brendan Fraser retired for several years due to an alleged sexual assault by a former HFPA president

In late 2016, Fraser participated in an interview with AOL to promote his role in the upcoming season of The Affair. Try as he might, Brendan couldn’t hide that he was hurting. He’d lost his mom to cancer days before the interview, but the root of his pain was an alleged sexual assault by former HFPA president Philip Berk. 

“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 described the assault to GQ in 2018. Berk wrote in his memoir that he pinched Brendan’s behind in jest, which Fraser denies. 

Fraser told his wife about the assault but decided against going public about it. Philip apologized, but he didn’t admit to any wrongdoing. The assault sparked Fraser’s rapid decline. He said:

“I became depressed. I was blaming myself and I was miserable – because I was saying, ‘This is nothing; this guy reached around and he copped a feel.’”

Years of stunt work caught up with Fraser as his heavily-injured body began to disintegrate. The many surgeries affected Fraser, but it feels like he could have dealt with them without the mental anguish stemming from the alleged assault. The depression and the injuries prompted Fraser to retire:

“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.”

Fraser said speaking about the assault liberated him, but he still wants an apology from the HFPA

The Time’s Up and #MeToo movements motivated Fraser to speak out despite worrying about the potential fallout. Fraser explained:

“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. Maybe I am over-reacting in terms of what the instance was. I just know what my truth is.”

The interview didn’t prompt much of a response from Hollywood and the HFPA, but fans worldwide rallied behind Fraser. “It was people saying they like me,” Fraser told GQ in late 2022 about the response the 2018 article received. “I was like, ‘Is this good, is this problematic? I don’t know. What did I do to earn this?’”

Brendan said he felt exposed now that his secret had gone public, but he also felt liberated. “It was a weight removed,” Fraser said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t get triggered every now and then, but then I come hang out back here.” Fraser told GQ that shooting arrows at the archery target in his backyard calms him. 

Fraser admitted that discussing the assault, which happened nearly two decades ago, is still difficult. “I would admit to feeling a little bit of a heart palpitation discussing this with you right now,” Fraser said.

Brendan feels he deserves an apology from the HFPA. After promising to investigate Fraser’s claims, the association reportedly asked Brendan to sign a statement reading:

“Although it was concluded that Mr. Berk inappropriately touched Mr. Fraser, the evidence supports that it was intended to be taken as a joke and not as a sexual advance.”

Fraser refused to sign the statement. Philip remained a voting member of the association until he was dismissed in 2021 for calling BLM a ‘racist hate movement.’ “I knew they [the HFPA] would close ranks,” Brendan said. “I knew they would get ahead of the story.”

The HFPA told GQ they’ve apologized to Fraser twice; Brendan says the apologies haven’t acknowledged Berk’s crimes. Fraser said he would only accept an apology from the association if it felt sincere:

“According to the rules of engagement, it would be my responsibility to take a look at it and make a determination at that time, if that became the situation. And it would have to be, I don’t know, what’s the world I’m looking for… sincere?”