Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about male bull elephants or, more specifically, Megan Fahy’s soliloquy about them in episode 3 of this season’s The White Lotus, and what happens once they come of age: “...and then the bull elephant has to, like, wander through the jungle by himself for the rest of his life. I feel sorry for men, y’know? It’s like they think they’re out here doing something really important but really they’re just wandering alone.” Most days, I tend to agree, until that is, I encounter evidence to the contrary, like this delightfully tender interview featuring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Brendan Fraser—marked by special appearances from both of their tear ducts (mine, too).
On Tuesday, Interview magazine published a surprisingly candid conversation between the two nineties-era heartthrobs (and longtime friends!) that had the pair discussing everything from Fraser’s harrowing turn as Charlie in The Whale: “I gave everything that I thought I knew how to do.” to Prinze Jr’s complex relationship with his own father, the late Freddie Prinze: “I don’t know how to say this the way I want to without breaking down completely, but I don’t hate him anymore.” And, like any true thespian, they got emotional about a mutual desire to disappear completely into a character: “It’s not really me. It’s the mask.” At more than one point, Prinze Jr. and Fraser are so moved by their own conversation that they both admit they’re either on the verge of breaking down or already weeping.
In a particularly noteworthy exchange, Prinze Jr. confides that he visits the cemetery where his father—who chose to end his life in 1977—is buried on a monthly basis, and gushed that after he saw The Whale, he “took” Fraser’s performance with him.
PRINZE: Listen, after watching this movie, even at 46 years old, there was a level of anger that I still had toward my father and the choices he made, and I don’t know how to say this the way I want to without breaking down completely, but I don’t hate him anymore. I love him for every choice he made, the good ones and the bad ones. I don’t blame him for the way things played out. We’re all programmed to interpret art differently and there’s no wrong answer. But to see a daughter scream at her dad and punish her dad and say things that I know for a fact were word-for-word things I screamed at a plaque on a wall in Forest Lawn cemetery behind Warner Brothers studios—I still go there every month and talk to no one, but I went yesterday and I didn’t say a word. I just sat there and had the biggest, stupidest smile on my face. That’s what this film did for me, specifically the performance between the father and the daughter and how honest, truthful, and simple it was in the most complicated relationship you could possibly have. And it demands the audience to be just as truthful. If you can’t handle it, you may have to walk out. It may be too much for some people, and that’s okay. But it still should be seen for as long as you can take it. The reason I asked you was because I took so much of Charlie. I stole that from you. And I’ll never give that back. Never.
FRASER: It’s yours.
PRINZE: Thank you. It helped reshape things that I perceived were broken, and instead they were just damaged. So when I say hippie-dippie things like, “I owe you a debt of emotional gratitude,” I mean that.
FRASER: No, what you just said is beautiful. I feel it.
PRINZE: I know you do.
At another point, Prinze Jr. asks Fraser about the highs and lows of his career, gently alluding to the sexual assault claims he made against Phillip Berk, the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which resulted in an industry “blacklisting.”
FRASER: I’ve always had a problem with the aspect of the business that positions artists against one another as competitors, but we rate things by human nature. And even how it’s rated and all the semantics, I can’t pretend to understand it because the truth is no one knows—wild-card things happen all the time. But it is good work if you can get it. I hope I never lose sight of that.
PRINZE: What you just said made me think of self-worth and how so many artists struggle with it at different times in their careers, where they may not feel worthy of the roles or the praise they’re receiving. Is that something you’ve gone through?
FRASER: Yeah, I’m no different from anyone else, recognizing that I am the luckiest guy I know. Let’s be clear about that. But yeah, there are dips and notes and cycles to everything. Ups and downs happen. I don’t know if I’m living testament of it turning around in the sense of this being a comeback for me, because I feel like I’ve always been around. Whether anyone tried to get rid of me, I don’t know, but they’re going to have to try harder because I don’t scare that easily.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: What’s the big deal about these two semi-retired himbos mining their innermost thoughts and bonding over shared trauma in print? Though some might think our heartthrob quota has been met by newer, shinier stars, I’d argue it’s time we respect our elders. Apart from these two, few men had the audience of the nineties in a chokehold so taut, one barely cared that most roles saw them portraying a dopey yet endearing caveman, a devil-may-care adventurer, or a jock and/or prom king with a superficial sadboi complex. Even less could deliver lines like, “I only gamble with my life, never my money,” or “Oh, there was major wiggage,” with enough charm to elicit an almighty eye-roll and a delighted grin. These were mere boys doing the most with nineties-era Hollywood’s least. And today, they’re shockingly emotionally intelligent and self-aware men—perhaps even in spite of it.
In case all of the aforementioned wasn’t enough, in a final exchange, Fraser reveals how tight their bond truly is.
PRINZE: This film doesn’t take anything from you, it only gives to you as an audience member. This is such a beautiful story that you’ve told and I’m eternally grateful for you, brother.
FRASER: You and Sarah Michelle hold a very special place in my heart. You were there for me when I needed it. I’ll never forget that.
PRINZE: You’re the best, dude. This was a privilege to get to speak with you today.
Brother! Dude! What can I say? I laughed. I cried. I felt compelled to call my own dad, though I just saw him days ago. Hell, it’s all so heartening that it’s convinced me to give men another go. While the majority may not possess the capability to save me from a vengeful mummy or deliver a navel-gazing monologue whilst keeping a hacky sack mid-air, leave it to Prinze Jr. and Fraser to give us living proof that they can do other very important things like feel feelings and articulate them. In fact, they’re actually pretty good at it.