Why Brendan Fraser Left Hollywood—and Why He Returned

In an exclusive look at Brendan Fraser's conversation with Willie Geist on Sunday TODAY, the actor recalled feeling "ignorant" about Hollywood before his career turnaround. Take a look.

By Gabrielle Chung Feb 23, 2023 12:00 PMTags

Brendan Fraser is ready for his close-up.

The 54-year-old, who found major box office success during the '90s and early aughts, came roaring back into the scene with his criticially acclaimed performance in Darren Aronofsky's The Whale. The role, which required him to step into the shoes of a reclusive English teacher struggling to make amends with his daughter, ultimately earned the actor his first Oscar nomination at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Now, in an E! News exclusive look at his appearance on Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist, the star shared why he took some time away from Hollywood before his current career resurgence.

"I've never been that far away, but I did step out of the spotlight for a spell there to sort some things out in my life and to take stock of who I am, where I'm going, and what my aspirations are," he told host Willy Geist. "I've learned that it's going to do me good to work smart instead of work hard."

Taking a pause also allowed Fraser to get "a lot more comfotable in my own skin."

"For that, I feel so much more receptive and gratitude for the positive attention that I'm receiving at this time," he said of the buzz surrounding his work in The Whale. "It's really humbling." 

Stars Who Quit Hollywood

So, what prompted the return to the limelight? According to Fraser, the "feeling like I don't have anything to prove."

"For me, currency is confidence and I didn't always have that," he explained. "It ebbs and flows, but feeling like I'm at home in myself makes me have a stronger sense of ownership over the work I've done and what I'm capable of." 

Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images

Recalling how he struggled with self-doubt despite his booming career, Fraser continued, "I was kind of on a merry-go-round and wanted the music to stop. It can get a bit much."

Explaining that he was "kind of ignorant" of how Hollywood worked at the time, The Mummy alum said his hectic work schedule didn't leave much time for himself.

"I had a real 'make hay while the sun shines' kind of outlook," he added. "I didn't have much of a social life."

Manny Carabel/Getty Images

Since the revitalization of his career, Fraser has earned acting nods for the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, and, last month, he took home the title of Best Actor at the 2023 Critics Choice Awards.

While Fraser said he's "grateful" for the recognition, he also attributes his accomplishments to "a healthy dose of dumb luck."

As he quipped to Geist, who has also sat down with Oscar contenders like Austin Butler and Michelle Yeoh for his Sunday TODAY series, "Never underestimate the power of dumb luck."

Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist airs on NBC at 8 a.m. ET.

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