American actor Brendan Fraser has claimed that his career faltered after he was groped by a South African-born Hollywood bigwig.
In a new interview with GQ, titled Whatever Happened to Brendan Fraser, the 49-year-old star revealed that the incident had a profound impact on his personal and professional life.
According to Fraser, the sexual misconduct took place in 2003, when he was known not only for his leading roles in popular films like George of the Jungle but also for his good looks and chiselled body.
He recounted running into Philip Berk, a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which hosts the Golden Globes, at a luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
In the midst of crowded room, claims Fraser, Berk grabbed his behind. “His left hand reaches around, grabs my ass cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint [the area between the anus and testicles]. And he starts moving it around.”
Fraser said he was overcome with panic and fear. “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.”
He went home and told his wife and reported the incident to the HFPA, asking for an apology. Berk, who admitted to pinching Fraser’s behind “in jest” in his memoir, wrote a letter to Fraser in response but has not accepted that he did anything wrong.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Berk was not only the head of the HFPA but is also a “South African-born journalist”. His memoir was titled With Signs and Wonders – My Journey from Darkest Africa to the Bright Lights of Hollywood.
Fraser said the incident led to depression, self-blame and “made me retreat. It made me feel reclusive.” He also suspects he was blacklisted by the HFPA which may have in part led to his career faltering after making the hit 1999 movie The Mummy.
“Am I still frightened? Absolutely. Do I feel like I need to say something? Absolutely,” he told GQ. “Have I wanted to many, many times? Absolutely. Have I stopped myself? Absolutely.”
Fraser added: “And maybe I am over-reacting in terms of what the instance was. I just know what my truth is.”
Berk said that Fraser’s “career declined through no fault of ours”. He told GQ: “My apology admitted no wrongdoing, the usual ‘If I’ve done anything that upset Mr Fraser, it was not intended and I apologise’.”
In a statement, the HFPA said it “stands firmly against sexual harassment” and insisted that it “continued a positive working relationship with Brendan, which includes announcing Golden Globe nominees, attending the ceremony and participating in press conferences”.
It also wrote that, “this report includes alleged information that the HFPA was previously unaware of and at this time we are investigating further details surrounding the incident.”