Brendan Fraser Starred In Another Oscar-Winning Film About A Whale

Brendan Fraser took the prize for Best Actor at the 95th Academy Awards. He was nominated for his performance as the 600-pound Charlie in Darren Aronofsky's "The Whale" — not everyone liked the movie, but seemingly everyone liked his performance in it. But this isn't the first Oscar winner featuring Fraser that had a "whale" as its subject. What was the first one? "Gods and Monsters," a 1998 biopic about James Whale (played by Ian McKellen), the director most famous for giving the world the first two Universal "Frankenstein" films.

Directed by Bill Condon, the film adapted "Father of Frankenstein," a speculative novel by Christopher Bram about Whale's death in the 1950s. Condon's script won Best Adapted Screenplay at the 71st Academy Awards. Bizarrely enough, "Gods and Monsters" actually does have some similarities to "The Whale" other than Fraser's presence and the cetacean-inspired naming. True to history, Whale is a lonely, openly gay man who's shut himself off from the world — much like Charlie in "The Whale." Pushed out of Hollywood for being himself, Whale knows he's at the end of his life.

Fraser plays the fictional Clayton Boone, Whale's gardener who strikes up a friendship with the old filmmaker. Boone is good-hearted but naive about anything beyond wholesome Americana, and so is unaware of Whale's true interest in him.

James Whale, Father of Frankenstein

McKellen was the natural choice to play Whale, as both are Brits who spent their careers openly gay. McKellen could portray the demons haunting Whale because he could personally understand the root of them. That's not to say McKellen was cast only because of his sexuality; he's one of the most brilliant actors alive and can slip into any character he wishes.

Fraser's role is twofold; Boone is both the eyes of the audience into Whale's life and the gaze object of the camera. Neither affords him the interiority Whale receives but Fraser still holds his own. McKellen would describe his co-star's acting while invoking Marilyn Monroe:

"I didn't appreciate Brendan's performance while it was happening. I've talked to somebody who worked with Marilyn Monroe and he said the same of her. You could only see it through the camera or on the screen."

While Boone meets Whale without any inkling of who he is, Fraser was honored to be acting opposite McKellen. He told The Los Angeles Times:

"The first time I met [Ian McKellen] in person, he was such a delight. He is such a lovely man. But he also said, 'Well, let's get to work now — we got to put our big boy pants on and go do this job. This is exciting and fun, but here we go.' He's a hero of mine. He's just brilliant."

While Whale and Boone's friendship ends in tragedy, Fraser and McKellen's friendship endured. McKellen even gave Fraser some advice on award acceptance speeches: "Be good, be brief, and be seated." Though McKellen's performance as Whale will go down as only Oscar-nominated (he lost Best Actor to Roberto Benigni in "Life Is Beautiful"), his heart must have swelled with pride after Fraser won for "The Whale."