Remember, the Brendan Fraser Renaissance Began With Doom Patrol

Remember, the Brendan Fraser Renaissance Began With Doom Patrol

People are ready for Brendan Fraser to make his comeback. By all accounts, that will happen with The Whale, Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming film starring Fraser as a 272 kg. English teacher trying to reconnect with his daughter, which buzz suggests has already put him in contention for a Best Actor nomination. But what all these people waiting for a “Fraserenaissance” to begin don’t realise it already did, and it began with Doom Patrol.

Those who know Fraser as the leading man in The Mummy franchise surely believe he seemed to disappear from the public eye for most of the ‘00s and ‘10s, although a look at his IMDb page reveals he did work in smaller roles sporadically. The actor said in 2018 that former Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Phillip Berk sexually assaulted him in 2003, and that privately speaking out about the matter had the repercussion of causing his career to suffer and for Fraser to suffer depression. But as 1998’s Gods and Monsters revealed early in his career, despite his early, silly comedies, Brendan Fraser is a genuinely good actor, and people are excited to see him make a comeback. Except he already did.

Fraser had a series of small, recurring roles on various TV series before he was cast as the voice of Cliff Steele, aka the DC Comics member of the Doom Patrol and semi-hero Robotman, in an episode of Titans. But that led to him starring (although primarily only voicing; he shows up as the pre-Robotman version of Cliff in flashbacks or meta moments like in the photo above) the character in a full-blown Doom Patrol TV series that premiered in 2019. The show only generated a small amount of buzz at the time, since it was initially only available on the DC Universe streaming service, but critics had universal praise for Fraser’s role as the flawed, tortured Steele.

Taking its cue from Grant Morrison’s bizarre, brilliant Doom Patrol comics of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, the show presented Steele as a famous, decadent, and selfish NASCAR driver who killed his wife while driving drunk and nearly killed himself. Instead, his brain was put into the body of a crude, homely robot, returning to consciousness only 20 years later. His anguish over being stuck in an unfeeling robot body is huge, but still far exceeded by the guilt he feels about killing his wife and being a horrible husband and father, not least because he was raised by the same. And while Cliff tries to work through his dysfunction (like all members of the Doom Patrol do), it’s not a cycle that can be broken in an episode, let alone a season. He can still be a dick, he can still be self-obsessed, and he can still ruin the new relationships he’s formed.

If that doesn’t sound appealing, then you haven’t watched Doom Patrol. Brendan Fraser conveys all of Cliff’s anguish and dickishness with such complexity and emotionality that he’s still the (metal) heart of the series, solely through Fraser’s voice. (No offence to Riley Shanahan, Robotman’s physical actor, but he’s meant to move like a herky-jerky robot without the ability to convey anything other than the broadest of gestures.) It’s a fantastic performance that keeps the character tragic, relatable, and still somehow loveable despite all his faults. Suffice it to say, it ranks among Fraser’s very best work.

Did Darren Aronofsky watch Doom Patrol and decide to cast the actor as the star of his next film? It’s unlikely. But he likely saw the Hollywood trades where Fraser was announced to be playing the villain Firefly in HBO Max’s eventually doomed Batgirl movie, a role the actor likely landed at least partially through his amazing work in the HBO TV series. After all, let’s not forget, like Hollywood did, that Fraser can be a really great actor when given the right material — and Doom Patrol, through its three seasons, has been the right material. So don’t worry about when the Fraserenaissance will begin. It’s already here.

Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.

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