It’s been a rollercoaster year for Brendan Fraser. He won an Oscar for his work in The Whale and was well on the way to a career revival (Brendanaissance?), but now he’s social media’s latest whipping boy for his deliberately over-cranked turn in Martin Scorsese crime drama Killers of the Flower Moon.
Brendan Fraser certainly gives an unusual performance in one of the year’s most highly anticipated new movies (don’t forget to check out our Killers of the Flower Moon review). But perhaps he’s learned from one of the best actors of all time in that respect, as he once worked with the inscrutable and unpredictable Marlon Brando.
But wait, I hear you cry, those two were never in a movie together. You’re correct in the sense that they never shared the screen in a film anybody actually got to see. However, they did both get top billing in the unreleased animated movie Big Bug Man.
Big Bug Man was the brainchild of The Simpsons writer Bob Bendetson and tells the story of candy company employee Howard Kind, voiced by Fraser. He accidentally gets special powers when he’s bitten by bugs, becoming the titular hero. So it’s like Spider-Man meets Willy Wonka? We’re sold!
The production managed to get Marlon Brando to agree to being involved, with the acting titan providing the voice of an elderly lady called Mrs Sour. The small role meant just a day of recording, which took place at Brando’s home in June 2004.
According to Bendetson in The Guardian, Brando said voicing Mrs Sour was “the most fun I’ve had since playing Julius Caesar”. The actor apparently wore a dress, a blond wig, and a full face of make-up in order to get into character. Given some of the absurd stories about Brando’s on-set behavior in his later career, it’s very pleasing to hear how committed he was to this role.
“I was told by his agent and manager that it was always a dream of his to play a woman in an animated movie. For some reason, that was his dream,” Bendetson told CBS, adding that he “didn’t want to be treated like an icon”, except for a gift of Persian caviar. That’s Hollywood.
By the time of the recording, Brando was on oxygen for six hours a day due to his ill health. He passed away in July 2004 at the age of 80, with Big Bug Man as his last ever performance. Unfortunately, the hand-drawn movie has never been distributed and remains unreleased, unable to join the canon of Brando’s best movies.
Fraser’s performance in Flower Moon, as a bullish and brutish attorney, could definitely be looked at as a tribute to Brando. It does feel out of step with the nuanced work happening elsewhere in the movie, but Fraser really gets to grips with the character’s lack of morals.
In short, everyone needs to lay off Fraser. When you’re working with one of the best directors alive, you deliver exactly the performance he wants you to give. And whatever Twitter might think, Killers of the Flower Moon is going right on any list of the best Brendan Fraser movies.
For more of one of our favorite actors out there today, find out why Brendan Fraser got his big break because of Matt Damon. You can also learn about the time Brendan Fraser was in the mix for a Fantastic Four role or find out why Brendan Fraser’s fatsuit in The Whale left us conflicted.