This has been quite the whirlwind year for Brendan Fraser. From winning an Oscar for his role in “The Whale” and sparking what many have coined a “Brendanaissance,” to now finding himself as the target of social media critique for his intentionally heightened portrayal in Martin Scorsese’s crime drama, “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
Fraser’s performance in the highly anticipated film certainly stands out, and while it may be unconventional, it’s worth noting that he’s taking a page from one of the greatest actors of all time—Marlon Brando. Although the two never shared the screen in a widely released film, they did both lend their voices to the unreleased animated project, “Big Bug Man.”
This animated venture, conceived by Bob Bendetson, a writer for “The Simpsons,” follows the journey of Howard Kind, a confectionery company employee voiced by Fraser. Through a fortuitous insect encounter, Kind gains extraordinary abilities, transforming into the eponymous superhero. The concept is akin to a fusion of Spider-Man and Willy Wonka, and it’s an idea that certainly piques interest.
Securing Marlon Brando for a role in the production was a significant achievement. The legendary actor provided the voice for an elderly character named Mrs. Sour. Although a relatively small part, it marked a memorable day of recording for Brando, conducted in the comfort of his home in June 2004.
According to Bendetson, as recounted in The Guardian, Brando expressed that voicing Mrs. Sour was “the most fun I’ve had since playing Julius Caesar.” In a charming dedication to the role, Brando even donned a dress, a blond wig, and applied full makeup to fully inhabit the character. Given some of the colorful anecdotes about Brando’s later-career on-set behavior, it’s heartening to learn about his wholehearted commitment to this animated role.
Reportedly, Brando’s agent and manager had informed Bendetson that it had always been a dream of Brando’s to portray a woman in an animated film. For reasons known only to Brando, this was a cherished aspiration of his. Bendetson also added that Brando was remarkably humble, emphasizing that he didn’t wish to be treated as an icon, except for the kind gesture of receiving Persian caviar. Such is Hollywood.
At the time of the recording, Brando relied on oxygen for six hours a day due to his declining health. He passed away in July 2004 at the age of 80, with “Big Bug Man” standing as his final performance. Unfortunately, this hand-drawn film has never seen a wide release, remaining in obscurity and unable to be included in the canon of Brando’s illustrious filmography.
In light of Fraser’s bold portrayal in “Flower Moon” as a bullish and morally ambiguous attorney, it’s evident that his performance can be viewed as a nod to Brando. While it may diverge from the nuanced work seen elsewhere in the film, Fraser admirably embraces the character’s unscrupulous nature.
In conclusion, the scrutiny on Fraser should be tempered. When you’re collaborating with one of the preeminent directors of our time, you deliver the performance that aligns with the director’s vision. Regardless of Twitter’s opinions, “Killers of the Flower Moon” undoubtedly deserves a place on any list of the best Brendan Fraser movies.