Brendan Fraser says his 2003 groping incident was 'causing me emotional distress'

Brendan Fraser is poised for a career comeback — and potentially an Oscar — with his return to the big screen in Darren Aronofsky's The Whale. In a new interview with CBS Sunday Morning, the actor opens up about what made him step back from Hollywood in the first place.

Speaking to CBS's Lee Cowan, Fraser reflects on his leading man status throughout the '90s and 2000s thanks to roles in films like Encino Man, School Ties, George of the Jungle and, most notably, the blockbuster Mummy franchise.

"I think, that guy's really lucky," the 54-year-old says now of his younger self, adding with a laugh, "I think he's got awesome hair."

Fraser was a Hollywood heartthrob at the time, but says now that he felt like he didn't quite measure up.

"I felt at that time that it wasn't enough," he says. "I wasn't big enough, I wasn't cut enough, or any of those adjectives. And the person that I saw, and was trying to create, wasn't an ideal in my mind. And how do you contend with that?"

Brendan Fraser says the #MeToo movement inspired him to speak out about a groping incident. (Photo: REUTERS/Hannah McKay)
Brendan Fraser says the #MeToo movement inspired him to speak out about a groping incident. (Photo: REUTERS/Hannah McKay)

Fraser says he "needed the music to stop" — which meant stepping back from Hollywood.

"We can put actors on pedestals and then knock them off so quickly and so easily," he says. "It's almost like that's the game. So I just got rid of the pedestal. I just wanted to be myself."

But it wasn't just self-doubt that prompted Fraser's hiatus. In 2018, the divorced dad of three went public about a 2003 groping incident involving Philip Berk, the former Hollywood Foreign Press Association president. Though Berk has maintained that he merely pinched the actor's bottom as a joke, Fraser has described the touching as more invasive. (“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,” he told GQ in 2018.)

"It was causing me emotional distress," he says of the incident. "It was causing me personal distress."

He tells Cowan that up until that point, he had "played by the rules" with regard to Hollywood's power dynamics. What happened with Berk was a wake-up call — and a line in the sand.

"I felt like OK, now, suddenly, I've been violated and it has gone too far," he says. "And I will no longer abide this."

Fraser credits the #MeToo movement with giving him the courage to share his story.

"I spoke up because I saw so many of my friends and colleagues who at that time were bravely emerging to speak their truth power," Fraser tells Cowan. "And I had something to say, too."