Fraser, who transformed into a 600-pound man for the role by carrying between 50 and 300 extra pounds per scene, addressed the fatphobic criticisms at the film’s New York City premiere.
“I think it’s one of the more exacting ways you can create a character and body, and in this case the mandate that Charlie’s costume would respect the laws of gravity and physics as opposed to the many ways that we’ve seen that character depicted in films before as really a one-note joke,” Fraser told People, “and in a costume that’s just unfair.”
Fraser continued, “That’s a personal view, but we felt an obligation to ensure that it was cumbersome. It was accurate, that was what we strived for.”
“The Whale” is directed by Darren Aronofsky and has already garnered Oscar buzz for Fraser’s lead performance. Fraser worked with the Obesity Action Coalition to further understand the different body types, earlier calling his prosthetic suit “beautiful” and “arresting” enough for him to feel it belongs in London’s Tate Modern museum. The suit was crafted by Aronofsky’s frequent collaborator, Oscar-nominated digital makeup artist Adrien Morot. The film barely uses CGI and instead utilizes prosthetics modeled via digital sculpture and 3D printing.
Director Aronofsky also told Variety that it was “impossible” to cast an actor dealing with that level of mass in the role.
“It’s an impossible role to fill with a real person dealing with those issues,” the “Black Swan” filmmaker said. “From a health perspective, it’s prohibitive…There was a chapter in the making of this film where we tried to research actors with obesity. Outside of not being able to find an actor who could pull off the emotions of the role, it just becomes a crazy chase. Like, if you can’t find a 600-pound actor, is a 300-pound actor or 400-pound actor enough?”
“The Whale” opens from A24 on December 9. It also stars Hong Chau, Samantha Morton, and Sadie Sink and is adapted by Samuel D. Hunter from his 2012 play.