Distinguished Decade of Achievement in Film Award: Brendan Fraser

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In 1992, a Hollywood newcomer named Brendan Fraser starred in two very different films. One, "School Ties," tackled themes of religious and social inequality and featured a cast of future stars like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

The other, a teen romp called "Encino Man," was about a defrosted caveman who helps two Southern California losers become cool. The films introduced audiences to the unique blend of physical comedy, goofy likability and real acting chops that Fraser's been displaying in boxoffice smashes (1999's "The Mummy") and critical successes (1998's "Gods and Monsters" and 2005's "Crash," for which he took home a SAG Award) ever since.

The busy actor and ShoWest's Distinguished Decade of Achievement in Film honoree spoke with Trisha Tucker for The Hollywood Reporter about the decade (and more) behind him and the year ahead.

The Hollywood Reporter: How do you feel about receiving this honor?
Brendan Fraser: I'm flattered. I guess it's cumulative. There's about 10 years of achievement in there somewhere (laughs). Let me put it this way: I'm used to giving out awards. I don't normally receive them. I'm very pleased.

THR: What film or experience stands out the most when you think back on the past decade?
Fraser: Certainly the film I'm most fond of is "Gods and Monsters." Ian McKellen was an inspiration for me when I was an acting student. I would watch him in these tapes he did of a one-man show called "Acting Shakespeare" that were in the school library. I never, ever would have imagined that I would have the opportunity to work with someone who I admired from when I was a teenager.

THR: Some of your biggest hits have been huge, CGI-driven films, and you've got several more (Universal's "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," New Line's "Inkheart") on tap this year. What draws you to these projects?
Fraser: I came of age, and arguably learned my craft, working on films that were really kind of a (CGI) training ground. For instance, I did a film called "Monkeybone" (2001), a very dark film about a cartoonist who gets overtaken by his own alter ego character, a gregarious and super-naughty claymation monkey. And that meant I absolutely had to believe that there was a monkey that was wreaking havoc with my life and that I saw him. And, of course, there's nothing in the room; you worked with puppeteers and very often just a little piece of tape for correct eyelines for camera. I'm told -- and this is a real high compliment -- that the guys at (Industrial Light + Magic) were always really impressed by that ability that I have (to act against CGI elements). I don't know where it came from, maybe my imaginary friends as a child or something like that (laughs), but it means that they can put the CGI element in -- a claymation monkey, a mummy, a monster, an object, a flame, an explosion, whatever -- more easily. I earned my stripes, in a way, so that I can feel confident in proceeding in working on more labor-intensive CGI films, and the industry and the filmmakers have confidence in me, too.

THR: What excites you most about your upcoming release, which you also executive produced, New Line's "Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D"?
Fraser: 3-D was used in the '50s and '60s to get people away from their televisions and back into theaters. It had a gimmicky quality, and the red-and-green lenses had the effect of making people a little ill. But the technology has come such a long way. "Journey" features something that audiences have not seen. It gives a sense of depth perception that is really quite uncanny. Making this, it really felt like we were on the cutting edge of where we're going. And hey, it's great to be first. With all due respect, this is like the geek's geek kind of movie. I am a wannabe geek.

THR: Well, this should definitely get you in the club.
Fraser: I hope so.  
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