Brendan Fraser Defends Wearing Prosthetics to Play Obese Man in 'The Whale': 'It Was Accurate'

"We felt an obligation ... it was accurate, that was what we strived for," Fraser exclusively told PEOPLE at the film's New York City premiere on Tuesday

Brendan Fraser attends a New York screening of "The Whale"
Photo: Taylor Hill/WireImage

Brendan Fraser is standing by using prosthetics to embody his character in The Whale.

In the film from director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), the actor plays a gay 600-lb. reclusive writing instructor who is struggling to reconnect with his teenage daughter (Sadie Sink) amid his failing health.

While Fraser's performance has earned raved reviews and standing ovations, many have argued the role should have gone to an actual obese male and questioned the decision to have Fraser wear a body suit for the part.

At the New York City premiere Monday night, Fraser told PEOPLE he would "absolutely" transform again for another role.

"I think it's one of the more exacting ways you can create a character and body," Fraser, 53, says of the process, "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, and in a costume that's just unfair."

"That's a personal view," he adds, "but we felt an obligation to ensure that it was cumbersome. It was accurate, that was what we strived for."

Brendan Fraser in The Whale
Brendan Fraser in The Whale (2022). Courtesy of A24

Aronofsky previously told Variety that finding an obese actor to take on the character became a "crazy chase," saying it was "impossible" to fill the role with someone "dealing with those issues."

Actor Daniel Franzese, who rose to fame in Mean Girls, has been among the critical voices about The Whale, telling PEOPLE that he was "very conflicted" about Fraser securing the part.

"To finally have a chance to be in a prestige film that might be award-nominated, where stories about people who look like us are being told? That's the dream," said Franzese, 44. "So when they go time and time again and cast someone like Brendan Fraser, me and the other big queer guys, we're like, 'What the ... ?' We can't take it!"

Samuel D. Hunter, who wrote the movie and the play it's based on, addressed the backlash to Entertainment Weekly.

"I wrote this play [upon which The Whale is based] because I felt like I'd never seen this story told," said Hunter. "I wanted to write this character from a place of love and write a character who had this unwavering faith in human beings as his life was kind of falling apart around him."

"Look, the history of portraying people suffering with obesity in cinema is not good, they are fundamentally objects of derision or jokes, or they're completely one-dimensional. I understand when presented with this at face value, a lot of people have a reaction," Hunter said, adding that he wants the film to be "an invitation" for viewers "to walk in this door and be with this guy."

"I think you kind of have to take the invitation, you know what I mean? You have to walk in the door," Hunter continued. "If you meet that invitation with a furrowed brow, then we're kind of at an impasse. But, if you do take that invitation and go inside, I think you'll find that this is the diametric opposite of the way obesity has traditionally been portrayed and dealt with in cinema."

RELATED VIDEO: The Whale Star Brendan Fraser Felt 'Sense of Vertigo' Removing 600 Ibs.-Man Prosthetic Suit

Back in October, Fraser — who reportedly worked with the Obesity Action Coalition for research — opened up to PEOPLE and EW about transforming into his character.

"I became accustomed to wearing Charlie's body pretty quickly," the actor, who carried between 50 and 300 extra pounds during the filming of The Whale, said at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. "I discovered that, once I took it off, I could still feel the sensation of wearing it, almost like an undulation."

The Mummy star added, "At the same time, once I took all the applications off at the end of the day, I felt a deepening sense of respect for people who live in that corporal being, because I could remove it like clothing and wardrobe and makeup, and their challenge to do that with their own body is not as sudden."

Brendan Fraser poses for photographers upon arrival for the premiere of the film 'The Whale' during the 2022 London Film Festival
Brendan Fraser. Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

He went on to explained that his experience in The Whale "gave me an appreciation for the incredible courage they have to possess themself with for their very survival, and it takes an incredibly strong-willed and physically strong person to live inside a body that is, in Charlie's case, hundreds and hundreds of pounds."

"In my mind, it looked like it belonged in the Tate Modern gallery," Fraser added of the mold that was created for him from digital scans of his body. "It was that striking to behold. I say this because it's important to have respect for those who do have that corporal being."

"I learned almost in a way, poetically, that you need to have incredibly strong will of spirit and body to inhabit a body the size of Charlie's, and that's an appreciation that I grew to respect more and more each day," he said.

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The Whale marks Fraser's first leading role since 2013's Breakout. The actor told Vanity Fair that he knew taking on the project would not be without its challenges, but that he was hopeful it would help him learn what he was "capable" of. "If there's no risk, then why bother?" he said.

It paid off for Fraser's family. The actor tells PEOPLE that "they were moved" by the film, "just as everyone else was."

The Whale premieres in theaters on Dec. 9.

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