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Discussing the ‘Fat Suit’ at ‘The Whale’ Premiere


The carpet was blue. The poster was blue. The suits were blue.

That’s, until the actor Ty Simpkins arrived on the Latest York premiere of “The Whale” at Alice Tully Hall this week — in a magenta suit.

“I would like the summer weather back,” Mr. Simpkins, 21, explained of his selection to interrupt with the otherwise muted palette of the film’s forged and inventive team, who arrived on the red carpet — well, oceanic blue carpet — in navy suits and black dresses.

The moment of levity was at odds with the character Mr. Simpkins plays within the director Darren Aronofsky’s somber recent film, adapted from the play by Samuel D. Hunter and produced by A24. The movie centers on Charlie, played by Brendan Fraser, a reclusive, morbidly obese gay man attempting to reconnect together with his teenage daughter (Sadie Sink) after the death of his lover. (Mr. Simpkins plays a young evangelical missionary who tries to convert Charlie — and wrestles with a few of his own demons in the method.)

“The Whale” has received rapturous reviews at film festivals — including a six-minute standing ovation in Venice — and has been hailed as a comeback role for Mr. Fraser, whose profession faltered within the years after his success within the “The Mummy” (1999). Though Fraser is considered a front-runner to win his first Oscar for his performance, and the film will most certainly be nominated for best picture, it has also been criticized for Mr. Aronofsky’s decision to place Mr. Fraser in a so-called fat suit somewhat than forged an obese actor. The director has said that doing so would have been difficult.

When asked about his selection to make use of a “fat suit,” Mr. Aronofsky objected to the phrasing. “I wouldn’t use that word,” he said. “It’s prosthetics and makeup.”

The film’s makeup artists, he said, “were in a position to create this incredible illusion that not only works with the audience but I believe helped Brendan inhabit his character and convey it to life.

“Which you could be transported into the life of somebody who seems incredibly different than you and still learn something about yourself is why I like movies,” Mr. Aronofsky continued.

On the carpet and on the after-party, the film’s forged and inventive team discussed the themes the film tackles, the emotions it raises and what they hoped audiences would take away.

Mr. Fraser gained weight for the role, along with wearing the prosthetics, which added as much as 300 additional kilos to his frame. He has said that he prepared for the part by speaking with individuals who have struggled with eating issues, asking about their food regimen and the impact of their weight on their relationships.

“Fairly often individuals who live with severe obesity are disregarded and shut away and silenced,” said Mr. Fraser, 53, who attended the premiere with two of his sons, Holden Fraser, 18, and Leland Fraser, 16. “So it was my obligation — my duty — returning dignity and respect and authenticity.”

He continued: “The creative decisions we made — the makeup, the frilly costuming that I wore — with the assistance of the Obesity Motion Coalition, I’m pretty sure that we got here really near making a film with a essential character who hasn’t been seen in this manner, as authentically before, and I’m pleased with that.”

The film, which shows Charlie inhaling whole buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken and double-stacked slices of pizza — with ranch dressing added on top — and being subjected to relentless verbal abuse by his teenage daughter, can at times be hard to look at. But stories that push and challenge audiences remain essential, said Mr. Hunter, who wrote the film.

“In academia, there’s sort of a push for no more trauma-based stories, and I struggle with that,” said Mr. Hunter, 41, after posing for photos next to his husband, the dramaturge John Baker, on the carpet. “Not only because that’s discounting a broad swath of world literature — perhaps nearly all of it, actually the Bible — but additionally because I believe there’s utility in dark things through the lens of fiction.”

But Mr. Aronofsky desired to be clear: The film shouldn’t be meant to induce two straight hours of waterworks. “What’s surprising to many individuals is how funny it’s,” he said. “I believe when people see the heartfelt material, there’s a number of laughs.”

At an after-party on the heated outdoor atrium of the upscale French brasserie La Grande Boucherie on West 53rd Street, where sliders, artisanal cheeses and wine were served, David Byrne, the previous Talking Heads frontman, said it wasn’t the humor that had surprised him, however the humanity.

“It’s surprising, the quantity of heart in it,” Mr. Byrne, 70, said.

Over by a gleaming Christmas tree, the comedian Jim Gaffigan was still processing what he had just experienced.

“A movie that moves you that much, you wish to give a standing ovation to,” Mr. Gaffigan, 56, said, clutching a glass of wine. “But I feel just like the audience was so emotionally drained that we would have liked the walker.”

“Darren all the time does that,” he continued. “He accesses emotions which might be very credible, very personal. It’s going to take some time to process.”

Quick Query is a set of dispatches from red carpets, gala dinners and other events that coax celebrities out of hiding.

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