SAG Awards nominee profile: Brendan Fraser (‘The Whale’) could finally pick up bookend

After a career that’s spanned over 30 years, Brendan Fraser has finally scored his first individual nomination at the Screen Actors Guild Awards for his portrayal of Charlie, an immensely obese online teacher in Darren Aronofsky’s film “The Whale.” While the Best Actor nomination may be his first individual one, it’s not his first time at the SAG Awards. 17 years ago, he won the Best Cast in a Motion Picture prize for being part of the ensemble of “Crash,” which would later claim the Oscar for Best Picture.

Like Fraser, all of his fellow nominees in the lead actor category are celebrating their first individual SAG nomination: Austin Butler (“Elvis”), Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), Bill Nighy (“Living”) and Adam Sandler (“Hustle”). Farrell has a corresponding nomination for Best Cast for “Banshees” and both Butler and Nighy have received previous nominations in that category as well. Butler was nominated as part of the cast of “Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood” in 2019 and Nighy was recognized as part of the ensemble of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” in 2012.

“The Whale” is based on a play that was written by the film’s screenwriter, Samuel D. Hunter, and centers on Charlie, a severely overweight recluse who earns a living as an online college professor. His one friend is Liz (Hong Chau), a nurse who is constantly urging him to visit a hospital as he’s at a high risk of congestive heart failure. As he knows he doesn’t have much time left, he attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink), who is still angry at him for leaving her and her mother when Charlie fell in love with a male student of his. As Charlie tries to reconnect with Ellie, he still finds himself dealing with the grief he has from when his partner, Alan, took his own life. While Fraser does utilize a fat suit in his performance, the grief and pain that Charlie feels is something that he communicates effortlessly. His character may start off as one that you feel disgusted and uncomfortable just looking at, but as we learn more of his story and what’s lead him to the point that he’s currently at, you empathize with him for all that he’s been through and Fraser brings out that amazing humanity in Charlie.

Fraser isn’t the only recognition for “The Whale” at SAG this year. Hong Chau also got nominated for Best Supporting Actress, showing that there’s support for the movie beyond just Fraser’s performance. Both have also received corresponding Oscar nominations too, even though the film underperformed there by missing nominations for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay.

There are still several things that are working in Fraser’s favor. Most importantly, he has the most emotional narrative of the nominees in the category, having been a huge box office star through the mid-2000s but not getting big roles for more than a decade. In addition, he’s also picked up several critics’ prizes and won the Critics’ Choice Award for this performance. Combine that with having the longest screen career of the nominees in his category, except for Nighy, and Fraser could be in prime position to take home the Actor in February.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “SAG Awards nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2023 contenders in film and TV.

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