'I felt ill': Brendan Fraser describes sexual assault that nearly made him quit acting

Remember Brendan Fraser? 10 years ago, he was one of Hollywood's biggest stars. Then, he suddenly disappeared.

If you were a kid in the late '90s and early '00s, chances are you saw a Brendan Fraser movie. The comedy and action star catapulted to fame behind blockbusters like "The Mummy" franchise, "George of the Jungle," "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," and the Oscar-winning film "Crash."

But after 2008, he largely disappeared from major starring roles. His absence wasn't due to drugs, a sex-scandal, or illness — despite memes and even reported articles speculating about his career arc, with many blaming it on poor career choices.


Fraser revealed in a recent interview that an incident of sexual harassment led him to withdraw from his high-profile lifestyle.

Lately, the actor has gradually returned to more high-profile roles, and in an interview with GQ, he explained that the real reason he stepped back from the spotlight was because of being physically groped by Philip Berk, a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

In his own book, Berk admitted to "pinching" Fraser in the buttocks after an event, but Fraser says the incident was much worse. "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."

"I felt ill. I felt like a little kid," he told GQ. "I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry."

He said it's time to speak out, and other male victims of harassment are supporting him.

Berk has called the allegation a "total fabrication" but acknowledges he sent Fraser an apology letter after the incident when the actor complained to the HFPA. Fraser said he tried to bury his feelings about the incident, but he was moved into action after seeing actresses and actors speaking up at this year's Golden Globes.

“Am I still frightened? Absolutely. Do I feel like I need to say something? Absolutely. Have I wanted to many, many times? Absolutely. Have I stopped myself? Absolutely."

Despite his reservations, people seem to believe, and be genuinely moved by, Fraser's claim. Once the target of jokes, Fraser has become a catalyst for moving praise across social media.

He's also earned some public support from actor Terry Crews, who has publicly discussed experiencing a similar incident years ago.

"Brendan is amazingly courageous in telling this," Crews wrote on Twitter. "His assault experience is extremely similar to mine — ending with the assailant explaining away his actions. One man's 'horseplay' is another man's humiliation."

Victims of sexual harassment and assault often face deep shame and fear in speaking out. Speaking out takes courage.

Speaking out after experiencing harassment or assault can be an incredible challenge, often full of personal and professional risk. Though the majority of assaults are against women, men face their own similar challenges in overcoming shame, doubt, and repercussions for coming forward and speaking out. When men like Fraser and Crews speak out, they help clear the path for other men to come forward with their own stories.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.