A heartbreaking new profile from GQ may have just revealed why goofy, lovable ’90s action star Brendan Fraser has been out of the public eye for so long. The actor, best known for roles in films like George of the Jungle and The Mummy, has kept a low profile for the last decade or so, with many believing that a combination of factors — including a reportedly acrimonious divorce and falling out of favor with Hollywood — was the reason Fraser’s cachet had run out.
But within this new profile, which touches on Fraser’s exciting career renaissance with TV roles in The Affair and the upcoming FX limited series Trust, a troubling new detail emerges that could explain why Fraser has been out of the spotlight for the better part of two decades: he may have been sexually assaulted by former Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Philip Berk.
In the GQ interview, Fraser details over the phone an incident that he says happened in 2003 at a Hollywood Foreign Press Association luncheon. At one point, Fraser was called over by Berk, likely to chat. After shaking hands with Berk, Berk apparently “pinched Fraser’s ass — in jest, according to Berk,” GQ reports. “But Fraser says what Berk did was more than a pinch: ‘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 says that in this moment he was overcome with panic and fear.”
Fraser was able to extricate himself from the uncomfortable situation, but he was unable to talk about it for quite some time. “I didn’t want to contend with how that made me feel, or it becoming part of my narrative,” he told GQ. The entire incident “‘made me retreat. It made me feel reclusive,'” he noted. It seems to be implied, both in Fraser’s statements as well as the tone of the profile, that this alleged incident is partially behind Fraser’s retreat from the public eye for years.
It wasn’t until these recent months, with droves and droves of women and men coming forward to speak about their own stories of sexual assault and harassment, that Fraser even felt comfortable talking about what happened in 2003.
“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 told GQ. “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. […] And maybe I am over-reacting in terms of what the instance was. I just know what my truth is. And it’s what I just spoke to you.”
Berk has denied Fraser’s claims. “Mr. Fraser’s version is a total fabrication,” he said in an email to GQ. At the time, Fraser’s reps asked for an apology from Berk; Berk acknowledged to GQ that he did send Fraser a letter about it. However, he said, “My apology admitted no wrongdoing, the usual ‘If I’ve done anything that upset Mr. Fraser, it was not intended and I apologize.'”
That said, reading through Fraser’s claims and factoring in the anecdotal evidence in the piece, alongside notes about extensive surgeries he underwent to account for stunt work and physical exertion from his films and the fact that Fraser has been, for years now, a beloved but rapidly aging relic of the ’90s (career renaissance or not), it’s hard not to get misty-eyed. It’s good to see that Fraser is coming out on the other side with projects lined up and a positive attitude, but it’s never easy to hear that someone’s absence from the work and industry they love wasn’t really their choice.