If you were a child in the ’90s, you probably counted at least one Brendan Fraser film among your favorites. The Mummy, George of the Jungle, Encino Man – all were popular. But then Fraser got older and just… disappeared. No more box office hits; no more anything, in fact. Then in early 2018 a shocking interview with Fraser hit the internet. And it explained everything.
The story of how Fraser began his career seems like a lighthearted one – but on closer inspection it appears that he was always a man living on the edge. Indeed, when Fraser first started working as an actor, he embraced the danger sometimes associated with the job. If there was a difficult stunt that needed to be done, he would do it.
For instance, when he was cast in his first movie role, as a sailor in the aptly named 1991 film Dogfight, Fraser was asked to do a fight scene. And not only did he not mind doing it, but he was also happy to be hurled into a pinball machine for his art. Fraser ended up bruising a rib, and he got a mere 50 bucks for his trouble.
However, he didn’t have to be hurled into arcade games for long. Fraser landed his breakout film role in 1992’s Encino Man. In the movie, he played an ice-entombed caveman who is defrosted in the present day – a silly fish-out-of-water story, it’s true, yet one made unexpectedly palatable by Fraser’s performance. The film received terrible reviews but ultimately succeeded at the box office. And it put Fraser on the path to stardom.
Stardom then duly arrived with 1997’s George of the Jungle. The snappy children’s comedy established Fraser as not only a talented leading man, but also as a bit of a sex symbol. His physique was on display throughout the movie, and people liked what they saw. Fraser arguably had all the qualities of an A-list actor, and he was well on his way to being one.
Next up came The Mummy – which, while a hugely successful movie, was an utter nightmare to film. The cast found themselves working in scorching-hot conditions, with dangerous spider and snake encounters an all-too common problem. Fraser suffered more than most, too. Indeed, things went drastically wrong during one stunt that featured Fraser’s character strung up in a noose. Terrifyingly, a problem with the tension in the rope meant that the actor was close to being hanged for real. Fraser in fact stopped breathing and nearly died.
The Mummy proved to be so popular, though, that it spawned two sequels as well as a prequel – and even a rollercoaster ride at Universal Studios. For a while, then, Fraser combined his franchise work with Oscar-winning fare like the 2004 film Crash. But unfortunately, a series of high-profile flops, including Inkheart and Furry Vengeance, began to affect the promising actor’s career.
Fraser had once been everywhere, but suddenly he was practically nowhere. Neither his fun kid-friendly movies nor his serious Oscar-winning films were a presence in cinemas anymore. “Whatever happened to Brendan Fraser?” was the question on everyone’s lips. But when the answer suddenly presented itself on February 22, 2018, it was more distressing than anyone had imagined.
Fraser had sat down with GQ magazine and explained everything in detail – and it was a grueling read. It turns out that the stunts the actor had once been so famous for had taken a huge toll on his body, for one. “I believe I probably was trying too hard, in a way that’s destructive,” Fraser said. “By the time I did the third Mummy picture in China I was put together with tape and ice.”
In fact, Fraser had been trying to repair his battered body for seven years. As anyone who’s undergone major surgery will tell you, that sort of ordeal doesn’t leave a lot of time for movie work. And Fraser had endured a lot of major surgery. His list of procedures included a laminectomy, a partial knee replacement and even an operation to repair his vocal cords.
“I felt like the horse from Animal Farm whose job it was to work and work and work,” Fraser told GQ. “I don’t know if I’ve been sent to the glue factory, but I’ve felt like I’ve had to rebuild s*** that I’ve built that got knocked down and do it again for the good of everyone. Whether it hurts you or not.” Yet the constant surgeries weren’t the only things that Fraser had suffered.
Fraser had gotten divorced in 2009, and this clearly had an effect on him. In 2013 he even needed to request that his financial obligations to his ex-wife and three children be reduced because he simply wasn’t earning enough anymore. Then 2016 was also an incredibly rough year for the actor. Fraser’s mother died of cancer, and just days after the funeral he found himself promoting TV show The Affair.
It was clear that Fraser had had a very rough time of it over the past decade or two. But there was one more revelation that he had left to make – and it was something quite disturbing. He had never talked about it in public before, he explained to GQ, because he didn’t have “the courage to speak up for risk of humiliation, or damage to [his] career.”
Fraser alleged that a man called Philip Berk, one-time president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, had groped him in 2003. Berk himself had in fact once admitted to pinching Fraser’s behind. He’d said as much in his memoir – but the actor’s description of the incident was far more detailed and upsetting. “I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry,” he explained.
In the interview, Fraser wondered aloud whether his actions after the alleged attack – his spokespeople requested a written apology from the HFPA – had led to him being blacklisted by the industry. “I don’t know if this curried disfavor with the group, with the HFPA,” he said. “But the silence was deafening.” Fraser says he subsequently became depressed – and naturally this is a factor that has hindered his acting career.
When GQ emailed Berk to ask him about the incident, however, he insisted that Fraser’s story was “a total fabrication” and also that “his career declined through no fault of [theirs].” Of course, Fraser is not by a long shot the first famous actor to have come forward in recent years with a story of sexual assault. In a series of allegations that rocked Hollywood in 2017 and beyond, powerful movie producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of multiple counts of sexual misconduct.
And indeed, in the GQ interview Fraser offered public support to Weinstein’s accusers, some of whom he knows personally. “I haven’t spoken to them in years, but they’re my friends,” he said. “I watched this wonderful movement, these people with the courage to say what I didn’t have the courage to say.” Needless to say, though, that as soon as news of Fraser’s own allegation spread, the internet reacted with horror.
Many people who themselves had made sexual assault allegations against powerful men came out in support of Fraser. Rose McGowan was among them, as was Fraser’s School Ties co-star Anthony Rapp. “My heart goes out to [Brendan], and I applaud his courage in coming forward to share his experience,” Rapp wrote on Twitter.
Then, the day after the GQ interview, the HFPA released a statement. “The HFPA stands firmly against sexual harassment and the type of behavior described in this article,” it read. “This report includes alleged information that the HFPA was previously unaware of, and at this time we are investigating further details surrounding the incident.”
Hopefully, now that people know about the alleged circumstances that potentially contributed to his departure from the limelight, Brendan Fraser will be able to get himself back fully into the acting game. After all, as his earlier success proved, he’s clearly a talented performer. And he does in fact have a few projects coming up, including a role in the Danny Boyle-directed TV series Trust. If and when his comeback happens, then, it really could be something.