So, what happened to Brendan Fraser, whose starring role in 1999’s “The Mummy” propelled him to international stardom before falling into relative obscurity in the early aughts? Allegedly, the actor was sexually assaulted by the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) in 2003, causing him to back away from Hollywood.
In a long profile for GQ centered on his return to TV in “Trust”, Brendan Fraser claims that former HFPA president Philip Berk sexually assaulted him while at a luncheon in 2003 in a similar incident to one alleged by actor Terry Crews against a Hollywood agent.
“In the midst of a crowded room, Berk reached out to shake Fraser’s hand,” GQ began. “Much of what happened next Berk recounted in his memoir and was also reported by Sharon Waxman in The New York Times: He pinched Fraser’s ass—in jest, according to Berk.”
Fraser alleges that Berk did much worse than just a jocular pinch: “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.”
Despite being overcome with panic and fear, Fraser eventually removed Berk’s hand.
“I felt ill. I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry,” says Fraser, who immediately went home and told his then-wife, Afton, of the incident.
Berk, who still remains a member of the HFPA, disputes Fraser’s claims and told GQ in an email: “Mr. Fraser’s version is a total fabrication.”
At the time, Fraser’s reps demanded Berk issue a written apology, which he wrote, though he claims to have admitted no wrongdoing. “My apology admitted no wrongdoing, the usual ‘If I’ve done anything that upset Mr. Fraser, it was not intended and I apologize,'” says Berk.
Fraser thought about making the incident public but opted not to in fear of it “becoming part of my narrative.” Fraser claims that HFPA said it would not allow Berk in a room with the actor again; Berk denies this, and the HFPA declined to comment.
Whatever the case, Fraser claims the ordeal led him into a state of depression as he began to tell himself that he deserved what happened to him.
“I became depressed,” says Fraser. “I was blaming myself and I was miserable—because I was saying, ‘This is nothing; this guy reached around and he copped a feel.’ That summer wore on—and I can’t remember what I went on to work on next.”
Fraser says he then began to retreat from the Hollywood scene and wondered if the HFPA had helped blacklist him.
“I don’t know if this curried disfavor with the group, with the HFPA,” says Fraser. “But the silence was deafening.”
Fraser claims he was rarely invited back to the Globes after 2003. Berk denies any retaliation being done: “His career declined through no fault of ours.”
Obviously, the #MeToo movement provided some motivation for Fraser to come forward. The pain of his secret was further driven home this past Golden Globe Awards when the cameras showed Berk in the room.
“Am I still frightened? Absolutely,” says Fraser. “Do I feel like I need to say something? Absolutely. Have I wanted to many, many times? Absolutely. Have I stopped myself? Absolutely.”