As decades’ worth of harrowing secrets came out in the wake of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, several chilling patterns began to emerge. One of the most chilling was this: Actresses who had endured sexual assault and harassment from Weinstein, and who protested this terrible treatment, just sort of fell off the map. They weren’t getting roles anymore, or at least not roles as big as the ones that had flung them into Weinstein’s orbit in the first place. And that phenomenon is not limited to just one company—or, indeed, just to women—as is revealed in GQ’s new profile of early ‘00s leading man Brendan Fraser poignantly titled, “What Ever Happened To Brendan Fraser?”
In the profile, which opens with a lengthy description of Fraser rescuing a horse from the set of a History Channel series and bringing it back to his farm in upstate New York as a companion for his autistic son, Fraser tells writer Zach Baron something he’s never revealed publicly before: That, in 2003, he was forcibly groped by former Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Philip Berk at a luncheon. Berk claims a number of things about the encounter: First, he wrote in his memoir that the incident was just a joking pinch on Fraser’s butt; then, he boasted that the apology letter he wrote Fraser in 2005 at the insistence of Fraser’s reps was insincere; and finally, in a recent e-mail to GQ, he says that “Mr. Fraser’s version is a total fabrication.”
Fraser’s story, meanwhile, is consistent: He says that Berk humiliated and violated him (Fraser maintains that the groping went far beyond a pinch), that he blamed himself for what happened and became depressed as a result, and that he believes that the incident got him, if not blacklisted, unwelcome at HFPA events, which negatively impacted his career. (“I don’t know if this curried disfavor with the group, with the HFPA. But the silence was deafening,” he says.) Combined with the physical toll that stunt work was taking on his body, Fraser says, it was enough to make him retreat from Hollywood for a while.
Speaking to GQ, Berk says, rather coldly: “His career declined through no fault of ours.” Here’s what Fraser says:
Fraser says the experience messed with his sense of “who I was and what I was doing.” Work, he says, “withered on the vine for me. In my mind, at least, something had been taken away from me.” This past fall, he watched other people come forward to talk about similar experiences, he says. “I know Rose [McGowan], I know Ashley [Judd], I know Mira [Sorvino]—I’ve worked with them. I call them friends in my mind. I haven’t spoken to them in years, but they’re my friends. I watched this wonderful movement, these people with the courage to say what I didn’t have the courage to say.”
He was in a hotel room just weeks ago, watching the Globes on TV, Fraser says, as the actresses wore black and the actors wore Time’s Up pins in solidarity, when the broadcast showed Berk in the room. He was there and Fraser was not.
“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.”
It’s a sad and sobering story, worth reading in full. But there is one upside: Fraser also says he feels as if his career is finally getting back on track, thanks in part to his role on FX’s John Paul Getty III kidnapping series Trust. That premieres on March 25.