“This is new for me, as things go,” Fraser quipped as he held his award. “Normally, I’m the guy at the podium who hands these things out. And I got pretty good at it. The trick is: Left-hand hold, right-hand shake.”
Fraser has earned rave reviews for his performance in The Whale, an adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s play about a 600-pound man grappling with the guilt of deserting his family while trying to reconnect with his daughter. The film also marks a major comeback moment for Fraser: Following his peak popularity in the early 2000s, he went through a divorce and grappled with injuries he suffered while performing stunts on The Mummy. In a 2018 GQ profile, Fraser also claimed he was sexually assaulted by Philip Berk, former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and said he believed he was blacklisted after raising the allegations to the organization (Berk has denied this).
While Fraser has picked up more work in recent years, he’s often been featured in ensemble casts, like the celebrated miniseries The Affair or Steven Soderbergh’s 2021 crime drama, No Sudden Move. While accepting the TIFF Tribute Award, Fraser noted that the accolades he’d received in the past have also come for his work in such projects, like when the cast of Crash won a Screen Actors Guild Award in 2004.
“Apart from being part of some pretty impressive and talented ensemble casts, I think that the last time that I waited to hear my name called aloud to receive an award was in grade four,” Fraser joked. “And it was from the Pee Wee Bowling League.” He then noted a few moments later that the name on the plaque he received wasn’t even his.
Fraser went on to thank Aronofsky and Hunter for taking “a chance on me” by casting him in The Whale and spoke about the film as “a redemption story.” Though noting the extreme difficulties his character, Charlie, faces, he highlighted his ability to “see the good in others when they can’t see that in themselves.”
Fraser continued, “He can bring that out in them. And I am a firm believer that we need a little bit more of that in this world. Because, it’s the audience that gives cinema life. So I must thank you for keeping me in the job that I love, because it’s nice work if you can get it.”
Growing visibly emotional, Fraser added, “I just want you to know how deeply I appreciate this affirmation. Thank you, thank you for this Tribute Award — it means a heck of a lot more to me than a participation bowling trophy.” He then ended with a quote from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, “I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”