You saw him as a large, gorilla-like caveman. You saw him as a volcanologist hurtling toward the center of the earth. You definitely saw him as a quippy adventurer warding off accursed mummies in the heart of Egypt.
But perhaps you saw him in the Oscar-winning film “Crash” or the movie adaptation of the beloved children’s novel “Inkheart.” Maybe it was in “G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra” or in 2003’s live action “Looney Tunes: Back in Action.”
If you’ve seen a movie in the last 20 years or so, chances are you’ve seen Brendan Fraser. He looks like a typical Hollywood actor: tall, blue-eyed, strong-jawed, long brown hair. While he’s not particularly striking or imposing, the subtle air of awkwardness and silliness that he produces in his performances makes him, somehow, memorable, endearing, even.
In the span of 23 years, Brendan Fraser has performed in 48 feature films. Of them, 18 were fantasy-adventures. The rest were some variation of comedy, and a few dramas here and there. He’s been once nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Actor, twice nominated for the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Actor, twice nominated for the Chicago Film Critics Association award for Most Promising Actor and, as part of the ensemble cast for the movie “Crash,” won the Screen Actors Guild Award. His films have garnered over $2.5 billion in the box office.
Brendan Fraser undoubtedly fulfills each of the major archetypes that would (in any other case) distinguish him as a highly successful movie star. He’s got looks, he’s prolific, award-winning, he’s carried several mega-franchises and his films consistently make a ton of money.
And yet, for all his charm and proven track record, Fraser seems to have disappeared from cinema in recent years. He rarely appears on talk shows and his cameos are fewer and fewer. Oddly enough, the few successful movies he has made in the last few years – “Escape from Planet Earth” and “The Nut Job” (both generic kiddie flicks) – did almost nothing to restore his leading man status.
Even more odd, Fraser hasn’t done anything that would normally jeopardize a famous actor’s reputation. He’s avoided controversy, politics and bad relationships all together. He speaks fluent French, serves on the Board of Directors for a non-profit humanitarian organization called FilmAid International and he’s even a well-respected amateur photographer. In other words, he’s the same talented, fun-loving actor now as he was in his blockbuster days.
So where is Brendan Fraser? What happened to George of the Jungle? The slayer of pharaohs? The actor who didn’t – couldn’t – make a huge flop or stir any kind of anger in Hollywood or self-destruct?
Most would say, “Well, the truth of it is he just got old. Age and movie star status don’t correlate. He must’ve aged out of the spotlight.”
To them I would answer: he’s the exact same age as James Bond star Daniel Craig. He’s only two years older than two-time Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner, and he’s only got Bradley Cooper beat by six years. Meanwhile, Fraser’s three years younger than Robert Downey Jr., five years younger than Brad Pitt and seven years younger than George Clooney. Age has little to do with it.
But others would say, “Oh, he’s done too little in the past few years.”
He made six films in 2013.
Still others would say, “Oh, he’s done too much in the past few years.”
He made one movie in 2012 and one in 2014.
The Brendan Fraser Puzzle (as it should be called from now on) is troubling. The numbers and the context don’t add up: he should be as popular today as he ever was. In light of the relative success of his most recent films, in light of the fact that he was, and still is, a fantasy-adventure Hollywood staple and in light of the fact that he practically lives and breathes the same spirit of enthusiasm that he portrays in his movies, Brendan Fraser’s gradual slip from the spotlight just doesn’t make sense.
And so, sadly, the question remains: Where in the world is Brendan Fraser?