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James Corden Reveals He Almost Starred in ‘The Whale’ with Tom Ford Directing

The long-gestating adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter's play went through several director-star combinations before Darren Aronofsky cast Brendan Fraser.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 02: James Corden attends the Los Angeles Premiere Of Prime Video's "Mammals" at The West Hollywood EDITION on November 02, 2022 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Momodu Mansaray/Getty Images)

James Corden

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Few movies released in 2022 are as defined by a single actor as “The Whale.” Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s play of the same name has earned mixed reviews, but the Brendan Fraser’s performance as a 600-pound man has received overwhelming praise.

In her IndieWire review of the film, Leila Latif wrote that: “without Brendan Fraser’s innate charm and ability to project gentle sadness through the slightest flicker of his huge blue eyes, ‘The Whale’ wouldn’t have that much else going for it. Faultless performances from Morton and Chau illuminate complicated relationships with Charlie, a man at once lovable, frustrating, and dishonest.”

She continued: “For Fraser, ‘The Whale’ is a confident leap forward into the movie-star status that he rightfully deserves. For the normally more muted Venice audience who typically scramble for the exit the moment the film ends, just the sight of Fraser’s name at the end credits made the crowd turn back to the screen to cheer and applaud the actor’s triumphant return. If that rapturous applause carries on throughout awards season, that may prove the most wonderful and moving moment of this whale’s journey.”

But the movie almost looked very different. During the ten years that Aronofsky spent developing the film, a variety of other actors were considered for the role. While Aronofsky optioned the rights to Hunter’s play a decade ago, he did not always plan to direct the film himself. And several of the other filmmakers who considered helming the project almost took it in a very different direction.

For example, when fashion legend and “A Single Man” director Tom Ford was flirting with the project, he planned to give Fraser’s role to none other than James Corden. While speaking to Deadline to promote his new Prime Video series “Mammals,” Corden explained how close he came to starring in the film.

“I was going to play that part, and Tom Ford was going to direct,” Corden said, though he noted that the project collapsed because Ford demanded too much creative control.

Corden also revealed that George Clooney considered directing “The Whale” at one point, though he exited the project because he was only willing to make the film if he could cast an unknown actor who actually weighed 600 pounds.

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