In the years since the release of the Indiana Jones film franchise, many have tried to replicate Harrison Ford's particular brand of swashbuckling sentience from those movies.
Choose your fighter. Is it Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code? (Too brainy.) Or Chris Pratt in Jurassic World? (Not brainy enough.) Many have attempted to tread in Ford's footsteps, but in fact only one has succeeded — Brendan Fraser in The Mummy.
Rarely has the appeal of a character so perfectly been conveyed than in the scene in which Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) whines about having to work with Fraser's difficult, emotionally unavailable explorer character Rick O'Connell. "Personally I think he's filthy, rude and a complete scoundrel," Weisz says, not realising, of course, that Rick is walking right behind her.
Has cinema ever had a glow up quite like this one? Fraser's Rick transformed before our very eyes from a dirty, grotty man locked in a Cairo prison cell to a suave explorer in a pristine white linen suit, a man possessing both the brains and the brawn to find a long lost Egyptian burial ground before an ancient, mummified priest enacts his revenge upon the world.
Those big, wide, piercing green eyes, that head of implausibly floppy hair falling across his forehead, just so. Evelyn is rendered speechless. Can you blame her?
The Mummy, along with its sequels, established Fraser as a (capital M) Movie Star. But these days, the actor is rarely seen on the big screen and his most famous role of recent times is a supporting character on a later season of The Affair. There's a tragic reason behind the actor's disappearance from Hollywood.
But could he be making a return?
The early days
Fraser was born in the US to two Canadians and spent his childhood moving almost every other year. The family-of-six — Fraser has three older brothers — lived in California, Seattle, Ottawa, the Netherlands and Switzerland before he even finished high school. As a result, Fraser speaks fluent French.
It's tempting to draw broad conclusions from such a childhood: kids who move around a lot don't always have a lot of friends and spend more time with themselves, thus honing a flair for the dramatic. Broad conclusion, sure, but in Fraser's case it was true.
He graduated from high school in 1990 and went to New York to pursue acting, but after a brief detour to Los Angeles, he dropped out and stayed on in Hollywood to build a career in film.
The roles came fast. It was 1991 when Fraser first acted in a film, a movie called Dogfight starring River Phoenix, after which Fraser received his Screen Actors Guild membership and "an extra 50 bucks", as he told GQ, because he happily conceded to being thrown into a pinball machine during a fight.
"I think I bruised a rib," Fraser recalled. "But I was like: 'That's OK! I'll take it. I can do it again. If you want, I'll break it. You want me to do it again?'"
Fraser is handsome in the way that an athlete is handsome: earnest, approachable and universal. It's like a computer algorithm designed a man that would appeal to as many people as possible.
No wonder, then, that Fraser made a name for himself as beautiful men out of time in films like Encino Man — in which he played a caveman who is unfrozen in modern day California — or 1997 hit George of the Jungle, which touched on similar themes, just more muscly.
If you thought Alexander Skarsgard was ripped in The Legend of Tarzan, try watching Fraser's abdominals contract as he swings from vine to vine in George of the Jungle.
As Weisz, his eventual love interest in The Mummy, put it: "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."
The mummy and beyond
The Mummy played to all of Fraser's literal and figurative strengths.
The 1999 film is an adventure high on derring-do requiring a star who could take up space with his sincerity, give life to a script largely composed of wise cracks, and look great in cream linen while he was doing it.
The film would live or die on its leading man, and luckily for The Mummy, they hired Fraser.
His Rick has the arsenal to blast his way through some bad guys and the historical know-how to impress Evelyn, and he can do both of those things in the same scene. Fraser's chemistry with Weisz sizzled, a believable opposites-attract romance given the way the two of them couldn't keep their eyes off each other.
The movie was a global behemoth, making $416 million from an $80 million budget — the kind of return that those in the motion picture business call "a success".
Unsurprisingly, Fraser signed on to make two more sequels, at least one of which was a good decision. But Fraser also made some bad choices around that time, starring alongside Elizabeth Hurley in the remake of Bedazzled, for which he pocketed a $10 million paycheque off the back of The Mummy, and the family-friendly films Monkeybone, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Dudley Do-Right.
These movies were not a success either professionally, personally or financially.
In fact, all of the international travel to film and promote these movies, and all the stunts that they required were beginning to incapacitate Fraser. He told GQ that he estimates he spent seven years of the '00s in and out of hospital.
When he was filming The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor in China in 2007 — Weisz did not return and was unceremoniously replaced by Maria Bello — Fraser said he was "put together with tape and ice".
"Screw-cap ice packs and downhill mountain-biking pads, 'cause they're small and light and they can fit under your clothes," Fraser told GQ. "I was building an exoskeleton for myself daily."
In the '00s, Fraser underwent surgery on his knee, his back and his vocal chords.
The man was literally falling to pieces.
Allegations of sexual assault
In 2003, Fraser attended a lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel thrown by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The HFPA is the group that throws the Golden Globes and is comprised of a number of foreign critics, including some from Australia.
As Fraser was leaving the event he went to shake hands with Philip Berk, former president of the HFPA. According to Berk's memoir and The New York Times, Berk then pinched Fraser's butt. As a joke, Berk has explained. But according to Fraser, per GQ, there was nothing funny about what Berk did.
"His left hand reaches around, grabs my a** cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint. And he starts moving it around." (Berk told GQ that "Mr Fraser's version is a total fabrication.")
"I felt ill," Fraser continued. "I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I Thought I was going to cry … I felt like someone had thrown invisible paint on me."
The incident threw Fraser into a deep depression, and the actor credits it with the decline in his career. He sought out an apology from Berk and the HFPA and received one that "admitted no wrongdoing", as Berk put it.
Fraser believes that he has rarely been invited back to the Golden Globes because of the incident. "I became depressed," Fraser told GQ. "I was blaming myself and I was miserable — because I was saying, 'This is nothing; this guy reached around and he copped a feel.'"
Though he told people at the time, including his agents and his then-wife, Fraser didn't go public with his allegations of sexual assault until the 2018 article in GQ. He was emboldened, he said, by the #MeToo movement and the allegations of abuse shared at the time by his friends and colleagues including Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and Mira Sorvino.
"Am I still frightened? Absolutely," Fraser told GQ. "Do I feel like I need to say something? Absolutely. Have I wanted to many, many times? Absolutely. Have I stopped myself? Absolutely … And maybe I am overreacting in terms of what the instance was. I just know what my truth is."
Career decline impale
It is true that in the late '00s Fraser's career declined.
In lieu of film work, Fraser began to appear on television in shows like Scrubs and the cartoon Fairly Odd Parents. There was a role as a real estate agent plagued by animal antics in the truly grim Furry Vengeance. In 2013, Fraser tried to lessen the $900,000 in annual child support he paid his ex-wife on account of his reduced income.
And then, in 2016, Fraser joined the third season of The Affair as an enigmatic prison guard. If he felt out of place to audiences, radiating charisma and the legacy of his star power in this angry, sexy show, that was kind of the point.
Fraser's presence was supposed to feel disruptive, his performance unsettling and completely compelling. Suddenly, it felt like Fraser might be staging a comeback.
But the road from season three of The Affair hasn't been smooth. For one thing, it doesn't help when you are turned into a meme during the press for the show you're billing as your comeback. In 2016, Fraser appeared in an AOL video interview as if he was on the verge of tears. He was.
In 2018, Fraser revealed that the interview took place just after the death of his mother. But in 2016 the internet did not know that fact. They just saw a sad video of a man and turned it into a much-circulated meme.
And for another, some of the projects that Fraser booked after the television show's success haven't proven as fruitful as they seemed on paper. Trust, the Danny Boyle-produced series about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III was plenty star-studded. But even Hilary Swank and Donald Sutherland, and a lavish set design, couldn't help the show find an audience.
Right now, Fraser has a few films on the docket. One of them is an Indian production and another co-stars Marcia Cross and is billed as a "Czech Sci-Fi" about a man who can see his past lives. Maybe the comeback isn't happening. Or maybe it's just yet to come.
Regardless, the 20th anniversary of The Mummy is the perfect time to revisit Fraser and his career. Go to Netflix and cue it up. You're in for a treat.