Griffin Arthur Fraser, the firstborn of Brendan Fraser and his former wife, actress Afton Smith, has journeyed through an extraordinary life path. Born in 2002, Griffin was diagnosed with autism at an early age, an experience that has shaped not only his own life but also that of his family.
Autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder, manifests in a broad spectrum of symptoms and severities. It often affects social interaction, communication, and behavior, causing individuals to experience the world differently. Griffin’s autism diagnosis came when he was still a young child, and Brendan initially blamed himself for it. Speaking with Howard Stern in 2017, he said:
“The first reaction that I had was, ‘I want to know how to fix this. What’s the cure? What does this mean?’ I mean, you’re just hit with a baseball bat in the back of the head. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to turn out, and you blame yourself. You think, ‘My genealogy,’ or ‘I don’t know, I smoked weed in college.’ You start blaming yourself over the reasons why.”
Griffin has two younger brothers, Holden Fletcher Fraser and Leland Francis Fraser. According to a 2018 GQ interview, Griffin’s siblings don’t put themselves first around him, and they have always felt the need to protect him:
“Griffin’s rated on the autism spectrum. Um, and so he needs extra love in the world, and he gets it. And his brothers (Holden and Leland) ever since they were small; one was always the spokesperson, and the other was the enforcer. Griffin is a curative on everyone who meets him, I noticed. People have some rough edges to them. Or he just makes them, I don’t know…put things into sharper relief and maybe find a way to have a little bit more compassion. They don’t put themselves first so much around him.”
His eldest son’s experiences have informed Fraser’s personal and professional journey. Brendan does not believe that Griffin’s autism is a disorder but rather a beautiful spectrum. Actually, it turns out that his son even helped him connect with his character in ‘The Whale.’
Speaking to Interview Magazine in late 2022, Brendan admitted that Griffin’s condition has allowed him to understand what it is like to be close to a person living with a significant challenge, which he likened to obesity when portraying Charlie:
“He just turned 20. He’s a big kid. He’s six foot five. He’s got big hands and feet, a big body. I understand intimately what it is to be close to a person who lives with obesity. And because of the beauty of his spectrum—call it a disorder if you will, I disagree with you—he knows nothing of irony. He doesn’t know what cynicism is. You can’t insult him. He can’t insult you. He’s the happiest person and is, in my life and many others, also the manifestation of love. Being with my kids and their mom and our family has given me such love that if ever I needed to hold something of value up to try and translate that to what was important to Charlie, I didn’t have to look far.”
While chatting with Stern in 2017, Brendan also said Griffin’s life with autism helped her notice fans on the spectrum in the crowd and give them a little more love and time:
“There are those also who I can clock from across a convention hall, who I can tell right away that he’s on the spectrum. I can [see] that there’s somebody who needs a little more love, a little more time, because they’re Autistic, or they have Asperger’s. This is their world; this is where they belong.”
Griffin doesn’t appear to have any social media accounts, and he doesn’t generally appear in the spotlight. He did not join his siblings at the 2023 Oscars, where his father won his first Oscars award. However, Brendan didn’t forget to express his love for him in his acceptance speech.
During his 2023 Oscar win, Brendan dedicated a portion of his acceptance speech to Griffin. Looking up to the sky, he expressed his love for ‘Griffy’ with tears in his eyes. In his speech, Fraser metaphorically described his journey in the film industry as being akin to a deep ocean expedition where his children provided him with a breath of air:
“I just want to say thank you for this acknowledgment because it couldn’t be done without my cast. It’s been like I’ve been on a diving expedition at the bottom of the ocean. And the air on the line to the surface is on a launch being watched over by some people in my life, like my sons, Holden, Leland, and Griffin. I love you, Griffy.”
You can watch Brendan’s acceptance speech below.