It used to be that back in the 90s and early 2000s, you couldn’t look sideways without catching a glimpse of Brendan Fraser’s face on a movie poster or TV screen. Encino Man was everywhere! Then a few years ago he sort of vanished, and the only public appearances he seemed to make were as a goofy Golden Globes GIF in a comment thread. Brendan was still around, of course, but not in the same way he was before. He spoke to GQ about disappearing, and he’s got a few explanations for why that is. You might have want to keep that GIF on standby to lighten the mood later, because one of the reasons for Brendan’s lack of exposure involves sexual harassment.
Brendan claims he needed a break after his body took a beating while filming the third Mummy film in 2008. He says he was covered in ice packs all the time, and eventually underwent multiple surgeries, like a knee replacement, and back surgery that didn’t really take. He also had a messy divorce. Then he got into heavy stuff.
Brendan alleges he was groped at a 2003 party at the Beverly Hills Hotel by Philip Berk, the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Brendan would have been 34 at the time. Brendan alleges that Philip reached out to shake his hand, but instead reached around, grabbed his ass cheek and poked a finger inside his crack.
“I felt ill. I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry.” He rushed out of the room, outside, past a police officer he couldn’t quite bring himself to confess to, and then home, where he told his then wife, Afton, what had happened. “I felt like someone had thrown invisible paint on me.”
“I became depressed. I was blaming myself and I was miserable – because I was saying, ‘This is nothing; this guy reached around and he copped a feel.’ That summer wore on – and I can’t remember what I went on to work on next.”
He tells GQ he thought about going public with the information, but he didn’t want that to become part of his “narrative.” His reps did ask the HFPA for a written apology, which Philip Berk gave him. Although Brendan says the apology was more of the “I’m sorry if you were offended” kind.
Brendan says the experience made him “retreat” from the spotlight, and that he wasn’t getting as much work as he was used to. He also says he was rarely invited back to the Golden Globes after that, and wonders if the HFPA wasn’t blacklisting him for confronting Philip.
Philip Berk recounted the incident with Brendan in his memoirs and later during an interview with The New York Times, although he claims he merely pinched Brendan’s butt. When asked for comment, he told GQ:
“Mr. Fraser’s version is a total fabrication. His career declined through no fault of ours.”
Excuse you Philip, but you don’t have to be so rude. You know what, I hope Brendan’s career does get better, if only to prove that allegedly grab-assy hater wrong. And sure, maybe also because I don’t know anyone who would turn their nose up at a Bedazzled sequel.