Brendan Fraser has been experiencing a recent renaissance in his acting career. He’s come a long way from being the lunk of a lead from The Mummy movies to delivering an award-nominated performance in The Whale, despite having been out of the spotlight for so long. With his revival, it’s worth looking at the legacy that led to this actor hitting the awards stage.
Fraser started with a small role as a seaman in the coming-of-age period film “Dogfight” (1991), but it wouldn’t take long for him to take on a leading role in 1992’s “Encino Man”.
Fraser starred in the titular role of that comedy film as a prehistoric caveman thawed for modern times, acting as a fish-out-of-water alongside teenagers played by Sean Astin and Pauly Shore. That same year, Fraser showcased his dramatic side by playing the Jewish prep school student David Greene in “School Ties”.
With his range established, Fraser’s career took off in the 1990s. He would appear in many films ranging from the savant baseball player of “The Scout” (1994) to a rock-loving loser in “Airheads” (1994). After starring in several horror films and dramas, Fraser became notable for taking on more mainstream roles in bigger productions. Playing the lead role in 1997’s “George of the Jungle” painted a picture of a man who was muscular and daring enough to be bound for action films. The comical adventure film based on the Jay Ward cartoon character also led to Fraser taking the lead in another Ward-inspired movie, “Dudley Do-Right” (1999).
Fraser hit the big time by starring in the major blockbuster event, “The Mummy” (1999), where he played the adventurous Rick O’Connell. The film was such a hit at the box office for its exciting fantasy that Fraser would reprise this role for “The Mummy Returns” (2001) and “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” (2008). Considering the franchise’s success, this would become Fraser’s most notable role for the longest time.
It was during the 2000s that Fraser began further embracing comedic performances. He’d been perfecting some of his comedic timing by taking on guest voice roles for The Simpsons and King of the Hill. His comedy movie roles often involved some form of visual effects he’d have to interact with, highlighting how well he could perform in VFX-laden productions like “The Mummy”. These comedic projects included “Bedazzled” (2001), “Monkeybone” (2001), and “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” (2003).
Fraser‘s life took a turn for the worse in the mid-2000s. Behind the scenes, Fraser had to undergo multiple surgeries for the many injuries he endured on physically demanding productions. He would become divorced from his wife with a bitter dispute over payments. Worst of all, Fraser had been sexually assaulted by Philip Berk, the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), during the 2000s. As if all that weren’t enough, Fraser endured his mother’s death and had significant health problems to contend with. This ultimately led to him bowing out of acting for many years in the 2010s. It seemed like the end of the road for this actor.
Fraser’s revival slowly came about in the late 2010s. He started by taking on more TV roles better suited for him. These roles included a prison guard on “The Affair”, James Fletcher “Chace on Trust”, and Cliff “Robotman” Steele on “Doom Patrol”. Fraser was so revered in these roles that it was enough to declare that this actor had returned.
2020 would be the decade when Fraser made a significant return to movies. He played a mobster in the 1950s crime thriller “No Sudden Move” (2021), directed by Steven Soderbergh. Around that same time, Fraser hooked up with another talented director, Darren Aronofsky, to play the lead role in “The Whale”. Even better, Fraser would take on a role for the canned-in-post-production Batgirl and the upcoming Martin Scorsese movie, “Killers of the Flower Moon”. Keep in mind that Fraser was still voicing the role of Cliff on “Doom Patrol” during these performances as well.
Fraser certainly doesn’t look like his old self nowadays. He’s a bit larger, and his health problems have placed those days of the buff action hero long behind him. Thankfully, he’s found better roles with better directors since those days. His role as the overweight Charlie in “The Whale” has done wonders for his career. He’s currently up for several awards nominations from the Academy Awards to over a dozen different critics groups.
This newfound love for the actor has led to what many call the Brenaissance. Even if he doesn’t win the Academy Award for The Whale, there are still plenty of great roles ahead of him for an actor who continues to entertain after everything he’s been through.