UPDATE: Feb. 23, 2018 The HFPA has issued an official statement in response to Fraser’s account, writing, “This report includes alleged information that the HFPA was previously unaware of and at this time we are investigating further details surrounding the incident.”
Brendan Fraser has come forward with his own story of sexual abuse in Hollywood – in his case, allegedly at the hands of Philip Berk, the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the organization behind the Golden Globes).
Fraser details the incident, which took place during a 2003 HFPA luncheon, in an interview with GQ. As he and Berk shook hands, Fraser says, “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.”
The actor felt “ill,” and rushed home, where he told his wife. However, Fraser decided against going public with his accusation. “I didn’t want to contend with how that made me feel, or it becoming part of my narrative,” he says.
Fraser’s account is partially corroborated by New York Times journalist Sharon Waxman and by Berk himself in his memoir, With Signs and Wonders – though Berk described it as more of a joking pinch in the book, and insisted to GQ that Fraser’s account was “a total fabrication.”
Berk later wrote a letter of apology to Fraser (which Berk calls “the usual ‘If I’ve done anything that upset Mr. Fraser, it was not intended and I apologize’”), and, according to Fraser, the HFPA promised that he and Berk would never be in a room together again.
The alleged assault, however, had lasting ramifications. Fraser became “depressed” and blamed himself for what had happened. He withdrew, and the industry seemed to withdraw from him – to the extent that Fraser wondered if he’d been blacklisted by the HFPA. (Berk, for what it’s worth, denies this.)
Fraser, who had been a white-hot star through the 1990s and early 2000s, was rarely invited back to the Globes after 2003. His career declined and he faded from the public eye. Berk, meanwhile, remains a member of the HFPA and attended the most recent Golden Globes – which, of course, was the one with the all-black red carpet and the Time’s Up pins.
Even now, in the thick of the #MeToo movement, Fraser admits he’s scared to share: “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.”
Although most of the conversation about #MeToo has centered on women, Fraser, Terry Crews, James Van Der Beek, and other male victims have added their voices to the conversation as well.
We don’t know whether or not Fraser really was blacklisted by the HFPA (though we have seen in recent months that abusers will often punish their victims by derailing their careers). Either way, though, it’s clear that the event had a serious negative impact on his life and his career.
Fraser’s account serves as a devastating reminder of how much this industry has lost to sexual assault over the decades – of all the promising careers that were derailed or stalled by the emotional trauma of assault, and of all the personal lives that were destroyed by cruel men in power.