In February 2018, Brendan Fraser spoke for a revealing profile with GQ writer Zach Baron. Fraser, who decided to leave the spotlight behind in the mid-2000s, discussed, hesitantly, an incident where former Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Philip Berk groped him at a 2003 event. Fraser revealed the uncomfortable details of the event to Baron:
“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… “Am I still frightened? Absolutely. Do I feel like I need to say something? Absolutely. Have I wanted to many, many times? Absolutely. Have I stopped myself? Absolutely.” On the phone, he breathes deeply. “And maybe I am over-reacting in terms of what the instance was. I just know what my truth is. And it’s what I just spoke to you.”
The admission drew comparisons to Terry Crews’ accusations against Adam Venit, who ultimately was not charged while Crews advances with a civil suit. Baron now has a follow-up to reporting on the incident which is unlikely to win the HFPA any leeway.
For the record, Berk has acknowledged, including a written apology, that he and Fraser had some sort of interaction, but that Berk dismissed it as a misconstrued “joke.” Unfortunately, but perhaps not unsurprisingly, Baron has found the HFPA is siding with Berk after conducting an internal investigation. The solution it proposed was essentially asking Fraser to stop talking:
After the HFPA finished its investigation, according to Fraser, the organization contacted him again and proposed issuing a joint statement, which said, “Although it was concluded that Mr. Berk inappropriately touched Mr. Fraser, the evidence supports that it was intended to be taken as a joke and not as a sexual advance.” The organization also apologized to Fraser in the proposed statement and suggested a forward-looking resolution: “All parties consider this matter to be concluded.” The HFPA wrote that it looked forward “to continuing to work with Mr. Fraser.” And presumably Philip Berk would remain a member in good standing of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and a Golden Globe voter.
Fraser simply said, “I don’t get the joke,” and he pointed out that intent doesn’t matter, it was a question of how it came off and how he felt. Or, as he explained to Baron, “I’m the only one who would know where I was touched on my body.” But Fraser also says that he sees his actions as “one brick in the path” and that someone else might continue on. Either way, it leaves the HFPA with some awkward questions to answer, not the least of which is why it’s declined to share its investigation with either Fraser or Baron.
UPDATE – 5:40pm EST: The HFPA has issued the following statement:
The HFPA continues to stand firmly against sexual harassment. As such, we have always taken Brendan Fraser’s allegations very seriously — both when he originally spoke out in 2003 and now again 15 years later. Back then, after an initial inquiry, we provided Mr. Fraser with the exact redress he sought — an acknowledgement of the transgression and an apology. Mr. Fraser continued to attend HFPA events including the Golden Globes. When Mr. Fraser raised the allegations again this year in the March issue of GQ, adding several previously unknown details, we conducted an internal review and then took it upon ourselves to commission an independent investigation into the matter to ensure impartiality. We’ve shared the results of that investigation with Mr. Fraser, and again apologized, but also conveyed our need to abide by the investigation’s finding that the exchange was not an intended sexual advance. We want to reiterate that the HFPA understands today—as it did 15 years ago—that what Mr. Fraser experienced was inappropriate.