Brendan Fraser alleges he was groped by an HFPA president and the fallout from it derailed his Hollywood career
Another Hollywood star is coming forward to say #MeToo, and he’s not holding anything back. Brendan Fraser, ’90s and early aughts action star, is opening up for the first time about getting sexually assaulted, and he believes that the fallout from the event completely derailed his career. If you ever found yourself wondering why Fraser, once a Hollywood action star and leading man, hasn’t really been seen in over a decade, this may be why.
In a new interview with GQ, Fraser alleges that he was groped by the former Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Philip Berk. The HFPA is the non-profit organization behind the Golden Globes and very powerful in Hollywood. At a 2003 luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Fraser says that Berk reached out to shake his hand on his way out of the hotel. “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 said.
This is the first time Fraser is speaking out about this moment, although Berk wrote about it in his memoir and it was also reported in The New York Times. Berk claims that he pinched Fraser’s ass “in jest.” But it was more than that for Fraser, who contends he was overcome with panic and fear. “I felt ill,” he said. “I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry. I felt like someone had thrown invisible paint on me.”
After the incident, Fraser immediately told his then-wife Afton Smith what happened, but he didn’t have “the courage to speak up” publicly “for risk of humiliation, or damage to my career. I didn’t want to contend with how that made me feel, or it becoming part of my narrative,” he said. Fraser had his rep ask the HFPA for a written apology, and the HFPA agreed they would never allow Berk in a room with Fraser again. But in an e-mail, Berk, who is still a member of the HFPA, denied Fraser’s account.
“My apology admitted no wrongdoing, the usual ‘If I’ve done anything that upset Mr. Fraser, it was not intended and I apologize,’” Berk said. “Mr. Fraser’s version is a total fabrication.”
When Fraser was watching the 2018 Golden Globes, he saw actresses wearing black to support the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, and saw actors wearing Time’s Up pins. But the broadcast showed Berk sitting in the room, and Fraser wasn’t there. The implications of this, to him, are huge.
"Am I still frightened? Absolutely," Fraser said. "Do I feel like I need to say something? Absolutely. Have I wanted to many, many times? Absolutely. Have I stopped myself? Absolutely."
And while Fraser acknowledges that other factors have also contributed to the decline of his career in the past decade, he maintains that what happened with Berk “made [him] retreat. It made [him] feel reclusive.”
"[I] became depressed, he said. "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...[Work] withered on the vine for me. In my mind, at least, something had been taken away from me...And maybe I am over-reacting in terms of what the instance was. I just know what my truth is."
Fraser also wondered if the HFPA had blacklisted him after the ordeal with Berk. “I don’t know if this curried disfavor with the group, with the HFPA. But the silence was deafening,” he said, noting that he was rarely invited back to the Golden Globes after 2003. But Berk denies that the HFPA blacklisted him, saying, “His career declined through no fault of ours.”
Fraser speaking up about his experience is so important. Not only will this help him begin to work through a traumatic experience and pave a path to recovery, it also underlines that men shouldn’t feel shame about being victims of sexual assault. It can happen to anybody, and the more we open our minds and listen to these stories, the better chance we have in preventing them from ever happening again.