At one point Brendan Fraser was at the top of the Hollywood food chain. Then that changed. But Brendan Fraser’s story isn’t like many actors who once were big then gave in to drugs and alcohol. His story is more introspective. The belief in one’s worth. He wasn’t (and still isn’t) a difficult actor to be around. However the years have taken a toll both physically and mentally on the once leading man. Hollywood is filled with predators who use their power to get what they want and they used it on Brendan Fraser.
Here’s how Brendan Fraser started and how he ended up where he is now.
EARLY RETURNS, BIG GAINS
Encino Man almost brought Brendan Fraser to the front of the line. True, it wasn’t his first job in Hollywood, a year earlier he had bit roles in pieces such as Child of Darkness, Child of Light, Dogfight, and Guilty Until Proven Innocent.
Put together at 6-foot 3-inches, muscular frame, steely god looks, Hollywood was trying to figure out how get his shirt off. They succeed with Encino Man and would capitalize on this and his ensuing films to get him to do George of the Jungle, a film where he spends most of his time flying through the air with ease in a loincloth.
In between Encino Man and George of the Jungle, Brendan Fraser had a legitimate few hits. There was School Ties, With Honors, Airheads, and The Scout. He tried his hand at a thriller with The Passion of Darkly Noon. He tried a rom-com in Mrs. Winterbourne. He even brought back Encino Man’s Link for a super brief appearance in Encino Man co-star Pauley Shore’s comedy In the Army Now. Hollywood life was good to Brendan Fraser and Fraser was good for Hollywood life.
Brendan Fraser would follow up his hunky but silly turn as George of the Jungle with the drama Gods and Monsters. His cache allowed for that. He was a dependable star on the rise, near the top, just about touching the pinnacle. He would return to the fish-out-of-water role in Blast from the Past and then finally make it to the mountain top of fame and box office bankability with his next, career-defining role.
BRENDAN FRASER IN THE MUMMY
If you listen to how co-star Rachel Weisz describes Brendan Fraser via NZHerald, you’d see how just about every woman at the time described him. “He’s got a pornographic body. He’s so massive – he doesn’t look that big on screen. I don’t mean fat, I mean muscular. He’s six-foot-three and his thighs … They’re enormous. He wears tight, jodhpurs-y trousers with big boots and his costumes are all really sexy. And that big back rippling under the shirt.”
This is how she described Brendan Fraser in The Mummy, the role that solidified Fraser as a true leading man. Hollywood loves to cash in on success or at least attempt to copy what has been successful and with three wildly successful Indiana Jones movies having already been made, producers were looking for that next Indian Jones-type franchise of their own. With The Mummy, Universal found it.
Brendan Fraser starred as adventurer Rick O’Connell, who meets up with Weisz’s Evy Carnahan and her brother Jonathan, played by John Hannah, as the brother and sister are on the hunt for the City of the Dead, Hamunaptra. This is quite possibly the closest thing we’ve had to another Indiana Jones since, well, Indiana Jones.
The role brought Brendan Fraser two more sequels, the first of those being another huge hit. The second one, well, let’s just say it didn’t fare as well as Universal and Fraser hoped it would.
BRENDAN FRASER’S BODY BREAKS DOWN
There are numerous ways Hollywood can take its toll. Long hours, physically demanding, mentally straining, age fading. For Brendan Fraser, it was the physical aspect of his demanding roles that finally caught up to him. In a wonderful piece by GQ’s Zach Baron, Fraser spoke about the toll his roles were taking on his body.
First, though, would be Brendan Fraser describing himself as close as he could to how Weisz did. “I look at myself then and I just see a walking steak.” True. But the years of physical comedy were catching up. “I believe I probably was trying too hard, in a way that’s destructive,” Fraser said. He could be talking both about the roles he had been accepting and the physical nature of said roles.
“By the time I did the third Mummy picture in China,” shot in 2008, “I was put together with tape and ice—just, like, really nerdy and fetishy about ice packs. Screw-cap ice packs and downhill-mountain-biking pads, ’cause they’re small and light and they can fit under your clothes. I was building an exoskeleton for myself daily.” Everything was catching up.
Multiple surgeries were on their way for Brendan Fraser. “I needed a laminectomy. And the lumbar didn’t take, so they had to do it again a year later.” He would also need a partial knee replacement. He had to have more back work which required bolting compressed spinal pads together. He even needed to have his vocal cords repaired. The dude was a mess. All in all, Fraser estimates he was in and out of various hospitals for almost seven years.
Injuries, back problems, and fading health wasn’t the only reason for Fraser’s fade from the limelight, but it was a big component.
BRENDAN FRASER AND #METOO
Hollywood, as we have known and continue to find out, can be quite creepy. According to Brendan Fraser, he has first-hand knowledge of this.
It happened in the summer of 2003 when Brendan Fraser was at a luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel, a luncheon being held by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). On his way out of the hotel, after the luncheon concluded, Fraser was called over by Philip Berk, who was the former president of the HFPA. In the crowded room, Berk reached out to shake Fraser’s hand and what happened next, well, according to Fraser, “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.” Fear and panic ensue.
Still, Fraser was able to remove Berk’s hand. “I felt ill. I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry.” Fraser bolted after the incident. He finally made it home to where he told his now ex-wife.
According to Berk, who responded to the GQ article by email, “Mr. Fraser’s version is a total fabrication.”
Brendan Fraser thought about taking the incident public but finally decided it’d be too much. “I didn’t want to contend with how that made me feel, or it becoming part of my narrative.” Fraser’s reps immediately asked for a written apology which Berk says he gave. But he never once admitted to the wrongdoing. Berk said, “My apology admitted no wrongdoing, the usual ‘If I’ve done anything that upset Mr. Fraser, it was not intended and I apologize.’” Hollywood.
Brendan Fraser became depressed. He began telling himself he deserved what Berk had done. The experience made him take a huge step back away from the limelight. He also began to wonder if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had blacklisted him. “I don’t know if this curried disfavor with the group, with the HFPA. But the silence was deafening.” Of course, in true form, Berk and HFPA came out with their own opinion. “His career declined through no fault of ours.”
THE ROAD BACK
Just recently (well, if you consider 2016 recent), Brendan Fraser began to gain some steam on the comeback trail. His career, to that point, had been filed with many misfires after the third Mummy film. He tried to recreate his O’Connell character with Inkheart. He tried funny again with Furry Vengeance. There was Stand Off, A Case of You, Hair Brained, Breakout, Gimme Shelter; all misfires.
Then the TV mini-series Texas Rising happened. Fraser got some good pub with that. And then The Affair. Fraser was asked to give his first interview in years, and it did not go well. Not even close. His appearance was sad because he appeared sad. He spoke barely in a whisper. So many things were said, the cruelty was shocking. His appearance became a meme and not a fun one.
As it happens though, there was a reason for his sad-looking appearance. He had just buried his mother. She had died of cancer a few days before his scheduled interview. “I buried my mom,” Brendan Fraser says. “I think I was in mourning, and I didn’t know what that meant.”
Meme be damned. Brendan Fraser is beginning that slow climb back up to stardom. The Affair brought him renewed recognition. He then joined the cast of Trust, then Condor. Titans came next and work was picking up. He was in the features The Poison Rose, Line of Descent, and The Secret of Karma. He joined the series Professionals and most recently has been on Doom Patrol.
The latest is that there’s talk of potential return to Rick O’Connell and The Mummy in what may be a TV series.
It’s nice to see Brendan Fraser getting work. It’s nice to see Brendan Fraser coming to terms with this struggles. It seems, finally, that Hollywood is ready to work with the once bankable star.