The cover story for the March 2018 issue of GQ is a deep dive profile of Brendan Fraser, which explores why the once leading man seemingly disappeared from Hollywood about a decade ago, only to turn back up in recent years as a cable drama series character actor. Unfortunately, there’s no simple explanation for Fraser’s somewhat self-imposed ostracization, which involves everything from surgeries after years of grueling stunt work to the crumbling apart of his marriage with actress Afton Smith.
After spending time with GQ staff writer Zach Baron in New York and London however, in a candid phone conversation Fraser hesitantly detailed what he felt was the final straw that made him want to retreat from the spotlight. In the summer of 2003 Fraser had been attending a Hollywood Foreign Press Association luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
As Fraser began to make his way out of the event, he encountered former HFPA president Philip Berk, who reached out to shake his hand. Berk later wrote in a memoir that “in jest” he pinched the actor’s ass, but Fraser has a shockingly different recollection of the incident. “His left hand reaches around, grabs my ass cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint,” he told Baron. “And he starts moving it around.”
Fraser went on to say that the incident left him depressed and miserable.
Fraser says the experience messed with his sense of “who I was and what I was doing.” Work, he says, “withered on the vine for me. In my mind, at least, something had been taken away from me.” This past fall, he watched other people come forward to talk about similar experiences, he says. “I know Rose [McGowan], I know Ashley [Judd], I know Mira [Sorvino]—I’ve worked with them. I call them friends in my mind. I haven’t spoken to them in years, but they’re my friends. I watched this wonderful movement, these people with the courage to say what I didn’t have the courage to say.”
The real irony came when — during the recent Golden Globes ceremony, which is hosted by the HFPA — he saw Berk sitting in the audience amid a sea of black dresses and Time’s Up pins as he watched the event on TV:
“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.”
In an email to GQ, Berk, who is still a HFPA member, called the allegation a “total fabrication” and HFPA declined to comment for the story.
At the time of the incident, Fraser’s reps had demanded a written apology from the HFPA, which Berk admits to having written but claims: “My apology admitted no wrongdoing, the usual ‘If I’ve done anything that upset Mr. Fraser, it was not intended and I apologize.'”
Fraser’s story seems remarkably similar to that of Terry Crews, who first alleged back in October of 2017 that he had been sexually assaulted at a party by a “Hollywood honcho” who was quickly revealed to be high-level talent executive Adam Venit. Venit was since relieved of his position and Crews went on to file a sexual assault report with the Los Angeles Police Department.