The Whale, Brendan Fraser's big returning film as a leading man, is off to a rocky start.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the film is based on the 2012 play of the same name by Samuel D. Hunter. It follows Charlie, a reclusive, 600-pound English teacher who wants to reconnect with his estranged daughter.
But before the film even premiered, there was already controversy.
The lead character is gay, and Fraser is not. Some celebrities have spoken out against the casting purely for that reason. "I also have real problems with the fact that they cast a straight actor who is not very fat, and [who] used prosthetics to represent fatness, in the film," Bros star Guy Branum told PRIDE. "I think it allows people to talk about that character as an object in a way that wouldn't be possible if it were an actual fat person who you had to look in the eyes."
Fraser also dons a fat suit for the role, a choice that had many viewers and critics calling out the film for perpetuating fatphobia. However, Aronofsky stands by the choice.
"Actors have been using makeup since the beginning of acting - that's one of their tools," he told Yahoo. "And the lengths we went to portray the realism of the make-up has never been done before."
He seemed to not see the issue of the accusations, saying he made sure to make the suit realistic with the makeup artist "because if it's going to look like a joke, then we shouldn't do it."
Aronofsky wanted to change the perception of fat people with the film. "People with obesity are generally written as bad guys or as punchlines," he said. "We wanted to create a fully worked-out character who has bad parts about him and good parts about him; Charlie is very selfish, but he's also full of love and is seeking forgiveness. So [the controversy] makes no sense to me. Brendan Fraser is the right actor to play this role, and the film is an exercise in empathy."
Hunger author Roxane Gay called the project "an inhumane film about a very human being" as well as "exploitative and at times cruel," concluding that it turned the character of Charlie into a "carnival sideshow."
The Whale is out in theaters now. Watch the latest trailer below.