He hasn't done the leading man thing since Looney Tunes back in 2003 but this summer, Brendan Fraser is making up for lost time, starring in back-to-back blockbuster-wannabes.
On July 11th, Fraser pops up in Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D playing a scientist who joins his nephew (Josh Hutcherson) and an Icelandic mountain guide (Anita Briem) for a trip to the Earth's core. Cue an avalanche of man-eating plants, giant flying piranha, glow birds and a rampaging T-Rex.
On August 1st, the actor returns to the $850 million-grossing Mummy franchise with The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. For that film, everybody's second favorite archeologist adventurer takes on a three-headed dragon and a certain tightly-wound troublemaker (Jet Li).
And if that's not enough to raise Fraser's profile, he's also completed two more flicks, both due in 2009: Inkheart and the G.I. Joe, the latter the center of much fan rumor and speculation on the Internet.
Newsarama recently sat down for a few minutes with the actor for a playful, sometimes goofy chat.
Newsarama: So Brendan, where have you been the last five years? It seems as if you've been on a long hiatus.
Brendan Fraser: Journey was shot two summers ago. It wasn't that it was tabled or anything but it's a larger question because of the delivery systems for 3-D are yet to be in place.
NRAMA: Did you take some time off for yourself?
Fraser: I had a little time there. I made another movie called Inkheart which was a New Line release that's coming out next year.
NRAMA: What kind of experience was that?
Fraser: It was a great experience. It's the first of a trilogy. Iain Softley directed it and I've seen it recently. It's a fable. It's luxuriantly designed. Very fantastical. It's about a little girl whose mother has been missing. Her father has the unusual ability to allow things to come to life when he reads about them in a book. In particular, there's one called 'Inkheart' that has caused a lot of nuisance in his life.
NRAMA: And then there's The Mummy 3?
Fraser: Right. The Mummy 3, August 1st. Be there or be square. That was shot last year too. What with release dates being what they are, and schedules, and the alchemy of it, someone way up higher on the food chain than me makes those calls. But I've been busy.
NRAMA: You've done so many movies with CGI. You could teach a class in the fine art of running from bad creatures.
Fraser: They're not all bad.
NRAMA: The flying piranha in Journey were pretty scary.
Fraser: They were hungry.
NRAMA: What was actually being thrown at you when you were imagining those flying fish?
Fraser: A blue football. I caught it occasionally if it didn't bounce off my forehead like it was supposed to.
NRAMA: So, are you an expert in CGI acting?
Fraser: Am I an expert? I have learned a considerable amount in the last 15 or so years that I've been lucky enough to work on films that have CGI intensive requirements. Along the way you pick up a few tricks. But you also have to forget those tricks and remember you're an actor. It's your job to perform and believe in what you're doing. The CGI geniuses do their thing, fuse it with your thing, and deliver it to the audience. Then everybody is happy.
NRAMA: Did the idea of shooting a 3D movie appeal to you?
Fraser: What happened was I got the screenplay and there was cover letter with it. 'Are you interested? This film is going to be shot in 3D.' My eyeballs popped out of my head. What is that? Last time I saw anything in 3D, it was 'Jaws 42'.
NRAMA: Did you see the original "Journey" with Pat Boone and James Mason?
Fraser: Pat Boone and the goose and the ukulele. I love that movie. I just had never read the book. So after I got the script, I went to Borders and I got a copy of the anthology. It was the last one that was there, I promise you. I crammed through it as quick as you can. I liked the idea of the movie being about this misfit trio. It's textbook screenplay writing, last time I checked. You set off with heroes and they kind of don't like each other that much but they're stuck in a sticky situation and they've got to work together. If they do or they don't depends on if or not they survive.
NRAMA: You responded to the human story.
Fraser: Right. [director] Eric [Brevig] and I both agreed that if you don't care about the characters and the story, you just wind up watching a fireworks display.
NRAMA: What about The Mummy? In this go-around there is a strong father-son dilemma at its heart as well?
Fraser: Rob Cohen, our new director, has a theory that when teenagers become [twentysomethings], fathers start looking over their shoulders to the days of yore. Relations get strained and the old bull and young bull lock horns. 'I know what I'm doing.' `You don't know anything, old man.' 'Maybe I do.' In the movie, they both end up eating their hats and hug and kiss. Like in Journey,'they get through the thick of the adventure together - and come out the other side stronger than ever.
NRAMA: You're 39. Aren't you a bit young to have a son who's in his 20s?
Fraser: You have to ask that question of Rob Cohen. Thank you for asking.
NRAMA: Was it tough decision to do a third Mummy movie?
Fraser: No! It took me 7 years to wait for them to call, dude!
NRAMA: What was the problem?
Fraser: I don't know. I have theories, which are probably bunk and I'll get in trouble for saying them. But maybe what happened is that GE went and looked at a flow chart and said, 'Wait, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns …hmmm, those make money. We need another Mummy movie!'
NRAMA: Do you see yourself at 65 coming back to this character like Harrison ford with Indiana Jones?
Fraser: Slow down. I do love the Indy. I met Harrison and gave him the brass balls award at the Spike Awards recently. You might have seen it. He's an actual hero of mine.
NRAMA: What did he say to you?
Fraser: Well, I gave him a pair of brass balls. Come on! He's a humble guy. He was just, like, 'Where is my car?' and he was gone.
NRAMA: You seem to have two careers. One in action films and another in more serious films?
Fraser: Diversity is key. I stand by it and think it's important.
NRAMA: Any movies lately which really impressed you?
Fraser: No Country For Old Men. It did everything it set out to do. That movie pulled no punches, and, frankly, it didn't condescend to its audience. It said, 'This is what we are telling, this is what you are going to get.' They hired outstanding talent, built it and audiences came.
NRAMA: Let's talk G.I. Joe?
Fraser: Oh man, you outed me! That was a cameo.
NRAMA: How did you get involved?
Fraser: Stephen [Sommers] was going to direct and called me when I was in Italy doing i>Inkheart and I was, like, 'Awesome!' I had a sort of open ticket to do whatever I wanted. My character choice is that I am Rick O'Connell's great, great grandfather.
NRAMA: So you get to be 104?
NRAMA: You're in aging make-up for G.I. Joe, then?
Fraser: No, I meant to say 'son'. I made a mistake. Grandson! Grandfather! I've been answering a lot of questions today.
NRAMA: So who do you really play?
Fraser: All I can say is that if you look up `G.I. Joe' on the Internet, whatever you read is not accurate.
NRAMA: Okay. Did you have 'G.I. Joes' growing up?
Fraser: Of course. I was a red blooded American-Canadian kid! My G.I. Joe wound up twisting from a tree from his parachute for an entire winter. I loved him!