From his turn in fish-out-of-water tales like 1992's Encino Man and 1999's George of the Jungle to the successful The Mummy action franchise, Brendan Fraser spent much of the 1990s as an in-demand Hollywood star. After being out of the spotlight for a time, he’s preparing to make a comeback of sorts with roles in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi's Batgirl, and as the lead in Darren Aronofsky's The Whale, which are all due in 2022. For more on Fraser, including his run-ins with Superman and the Oscars, keep reading.
1. As a child, Brendan Fraser was always the new kid.
Fraser was born on December 3, 1968 in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Peter and Carole Fraser, both of whom were Canadian residents. Because Peter had a job with the Canadian Tourism Commission, the Frasers were often on the move; they spent time living in Amsterdam, Detroit, Toronto, Cincinnati, Seattle, and London, among other places. (Somewhat foreshadowing Fraser’s role in 1999’s Dudley Do-Right, Fraser’s grandfather was a Royal Canadian Mountie.) By the actor's own estimate, he enrolled at a new school almost every other year. Fraser would later say that transient existence prepared him for the nomadic life of an actor. “You become more resilient,” he said in 2003. “You work harder to communicate with people, whether you know the language or not. It makes it easier to get on a plane and go somewhere.”
2. His first role involved crashing into a pinball machine.
After attending Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, Fraser went to Hollywood and secured his first onscreen film role in 1991’s Dogfight, starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor. Fraser portrayed “’Sailor #1,” and told GQ he earned an additional $50 in stunt pay for allowing himself to be thrown into a pinball machine. “I think I bruised a rib, but I was like: ‘That's OK!’” he said in 2018. “’I'll take it. I can do it again. If you want, I'll break it. You want me to do it again?’”
Less rib-bruising roles followed, including a starring role in 1992’s School Ties—where Fraser’s character faced antisemitism in a boarding school (Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Chris O'Donnell co-starred)—and 1992’s Encino Man, in which an unfrozen caveman named Link (Fraser) encounters modern culture as well as Pauly Shore.
3. Fraser played Link from 'Encino Man' in another movie.
Following Encino Man, Fraser agreed to make a cameo as Link in co-star Pauly Shore’s 1993 film Son-in-Law. Fraser also played a soldier with the name tag “Link” in Shore’s 1995 film In the Army Now, suggesting the three Shore films share a connected universe of sorts.
4. Fraser's stunt work in action movies led to several surgeries.
With films like The Mummy franchise, Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008), and others, Fraser has spent a good portion of his career playing highly physical roles that took a toll on his body. As Fraser told GQ, by the late 2000s, he had endured several surgeries, including a laminectomy, a partial knee replacement, spinal procedures, and vocal cord surgery.
5. An animated ape may have hurt Fraser’s career.
In between The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001), Fraser made two films—2000’s Bedazzled and 2001’s Monkeybone—that both performed poorly at the box office. The latter, about an animator struggling with a lascivious ape, is believed to have slowed Fraser’s momentum in Hollywood somewhat. “The films he made in between the two Mummy movies really hurt his career,” Mummy director Stephen Sommers told Entertainment Weekly in 2009. “It got to be: Brendan Fraser, he’s great in a Mummy movie, but other than that ...”
6. Fraser helped an Oscar-winning film get made.
Following his turn in The Mummy franchise and 2003’s Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Fraser was at a career crossroads. While he had appeared in hit films and had name recognition, he was often being overlooked for more serious roles. But his marquee value helped 2004’s Crash get off the ground. According to Crash director Paul Haggis, the $7 million budget for the film was approved only after Fraser had signed on—even though Haggis had already gotten Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, and Matt Dillon. Crash wound up winning the Academy Award for Best Picture.
7. Fraser considered playing Superman.
In the early 2000s, Fraser was one of the big-name actors considered for a reboot of the Superman film franchise. While it didn’t get as far as a screen test, Fraser said that he had meetings with would-be director Brett Ratner about the role at Ratner’s home and that he felt slightly disappointed when the role ultimately went to Brandon Routh in 2006’s Superman Returns.
8. He’s a photography buff.
Around 1998, Fraser picked up a used Polaroid camera and decided to start taking photos of the exotic locations he was visiting while shooting films, including North Africa, Vietnam, and London. Fraser later exhibited some of his work in Los Angeles, with proceeds going to the local 24th Street Theater troupe.
9. He’s also an avid archer.
Fraser has said that the increasing prevalence of digital photography took some of the interest in that hobby away—so he turned to archery instead. While perhaps not quite as capable as Geena Davis (who almost made the 2000 Olympic team in archery), Fraser appears to be a talented archer. In 2014, he told Radio Times that he picked up the sport after working on an as-yet-unmade film project about William Tell. “Long story short, I picked up an English longbow and went out in the backyard, started firing at tree stumps, was horrible at it, lost a lot of expensive arrows and it kind of just started from there,” he said. “Although I don’t think I have the guts to actually hunt anything and kill it. There’s bullseye targets and big bags of sawdust in the backyard.”
10. Someone is pretending to be a Fraser associate on BrendanFraser.com.
While the internet is never in danger of not being weird, there is something peculiar about BrendanFraser.com, a website that purports to be the “official” home page of the actor, built by Fraser and “his hip friends.” Despite the claim, Fraser’s representatives told Insider.com that the actor has no affiliation with it. It doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2005.