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Brendan Fraser

by devnym

by Ashleigh VanHouten
photography by David Needleman

I’m an old fan of Brendan’s (since the good old days of Encino Man); I’m used to seeing Brendan play the somewhat naïve, enthusiastic nice guy, like his pre-historic character Link or his frozen-in-time character Adam in Blast from the Past. So I was surprised when his voice was subdued, low, almost gravelly. He said he was spending all his time practicing his lines and hadn’t had much chance to enjoy Manhattan on this, his most recent foray to the city. “To be honest I’ve locked myself into a room, closed the shutters, and have been really, really boring because I’m studying lines and drilling them into my memory. That’s all I’m living and breathing at the moment. I’ve never spent much time in New York, consecutively, but I’m seeing it with new eyes which is nice.”

I asked him to discuss stage and film acting, as he has plenty of experience in both. The major similarity he stressed was that acting should always be fun. “A play is serviced by the actors as a sounding board to the audience. The story in a film is serviced by actors, but so many other elements too, whether it’s set design or three-dimensional dinosaurs chasing you.” But there’s more to this gig than just fun. “Theatre is a commitment in more ways than just a schedule. You’re ultimately the master of your own domain as far as telling the story. As an actor on stage, it’s a far more multi-disciplined artistic form than film. But at the end of the day, actors like to work, and in this economy we’re all happy to have a job.”

About his upcoming re-emergence on the stage: “It’s an exciting, thrilling, risky, terrifying, sort of feeling, all in the best kind of way. What can I tell you? I’m really up for something fun to happen.”

Brendan has worked on some incredibly successful movies and he’s proven his versatility and staying power. As someone whom many actors admire, the question is, who does he look up to? It seems working with Sir Ian McKellen on Gods and Monsters made a big impression. “He is an actor who I looked up to as a role model when I was in training in [acting] college. I never dared to dream that I would meet the guy, let alone work with him. And he is lovely and a wonderful actor and so devoted to the craft of acting and to giving back to the community of actors.”

While Brendan was fairly subdued during our interview – perhaps thinking heavily on the lines he would be rehearsing as soon as he put down the phone – his voice came alive when he spoke of his three boys. “They wanna be firemen, Transformers, swordfish wranglers, video game testers,” he laughed. What if they want to be actors? “… It’s my responsibility as a parent to take it seriously, and if that’s what they want to do, hey, it’s their life; it’s their passion. It’s my job to support and love them and make sure they get what they need.”

As for the ultimate critics: do his kids like his movies? “I did Furry Vengeance because I knew it would make the kindergarten class laugh, and it did. I had fun making it and it was good feeling like I could take them to work. And they get to learn what grownups really do… It’s kind of hard to explain what daddy does for a living, since it’s different every day, and they have nothing to compare it to, like, ‘Doesn’t everyone get to do that?’” I asked if he was a critic of his own movies, and he honestly replied that he usually didn’t watch his movies more than once or twice, at a premiere or with his family. “I was there, I know what happened.”

If you’re wondering how Brendan handles the celebrity “bubble,” the intense media scrutiny that actors must endure, he seems almost oblivious, or at least indifferent. “I don’t really follow the frenzy behind celebrity. I’d rather devote my energy and brain cells towards doing my job the best I can.” He says he does keep up on current events, citing the online news site The Daily Beast as a great source that has “reinvigorated online publishing in a way that’s impressive. But there’s nothing like a newspaper; I love a copy of The New York Times with my Earl Grey tea. There’s nothing like getting your news on paper right in front of you rather than poking at your Kindle.”
The son of Canadian parents, he’s lived throughout Europe and Canada as well as the U.S. (“I feel like I don’t know where I’m from, but I assure you I pay my taxes,” he tells me dryly.) For someone who’s lived everywhere, where is home sweet home to Brendan? He answered, vaguely, “the Northeast. I’m there with Dorothy; there’s no place like home. And I mean close to the hearth, literally. I build a mean fire.” He does attribute his development as an actor in part to his upbringing, in that his family moved every two to three years: “Every few years I was in a new place, reinventing myself. In new places, I got to see something with fresh eyes each time. In my line of work, that’s something that you should be doing anyway.”

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