Brendan Fraser Explains His Screen Absence

Set to appear again onscreen in FX’s “Trust” next month, actor Brendan Fraser sat down for an extended interview with GQ Magazine to discuss a variety of topics, and to answer the big question that many have asked in the past decade – what happened to him?

Rising to fame in the early 1990s with the likes of comedies like “Encino Man” and “Airheads,” the buff star became one of the biggest stars in the world thanks to the success of blockbusters like “The Mummy” trilogy, “George of the Jungle,” “Journey to the Centre of the Earth ” and more serious acting work in the likes of “School Ties,” “The Quiet American,” “Gods and Monsters” and “Crash”.

And then, about ten years ago, he was suddenly ‘done’. The actor would still pop up in a small film every now and then, but the ‘star’ that was Fraser was gone. So what happened? It turns out the answer comes down to numerous factors that went beyond a few film flops.

One was physical injury. Going from project to project doing a bunch of very physical stunts began to take its toll to the point that he was in and out of hospitals for almost seven years, and by the time of the production of the third “The Mummy” in 2007 he was a physical wreck:

“I was put together with tape and ice – just, like, really nerdy and fetishy about ice packs. Screw-cap ice packs and downhill-mountain-biking pads, ’cause they’re small and light and they can fit under your clothes. I was building an exoskeleton for myself daily. I needed a laminectomy. And the lumbar didn’t take, so they had to do it again a year later.”

On top of the laminectomy (which involves removing vertebrae to relieve spinal pressure), there was a partial knee replacement, bolting of various compressed spinal pads together, and even vocal cord repair.

Before this GQ profile, his first interview in years was conducted for AOL in late 2016 and was an awkward sit that started a ‘Sad Brendan Fraser’ meme – and it turns out there was a very real reason for it as his mother died of cancer just days before the interview.

Cutting back to ten years ago though, his reclusiveness went beyond the physical. In fact it was also psychological and partly stems from an apparent incident in 2003 involving Philip Berk, a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association which hosts the Golden Globes.

Attending a luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Fraser was on his way out when Berk pinched Fraser’s bottom in jest. Fraser says it went beyond a pinch:

“His left hand reaches around, grabs my ass cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint. And he starts moving it around… I felt ill. I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry.

In the aftermath, Fraser thought about making it public but “didn’t want to contend with how that made me feel, or it becoming part of my narrative.” His reps asked the HFPA for a written apology and received one from Berk, even though it admitted no wrongdoing. Fraser says he became depressed, started blaming himself:

“I was blaming myself and I was miserable – because I was saying, ‘This is nothing; this guy reached around and he copped a feel.’ That summer wore on – and I can’t remember what I went on to work on next. [It] made me retreat. It made me feel reclusive… I don’t know if this curried disfavor with the group, with the HFPA. But the silence was deafening. [Work] withered on the vine for me. In my mind, at least, something had been taken away from me… Am I still frightened? Absolutely. Do I feel like I need to say something? Absolutely. Have I wanted to many, many times? Absolutely. Have I stopped myself? Absolutely.”

That went on to impact him personally. Fraser began to interpret losses of roles, such as Superman in 2003 for a version that was to be directed by Brett Ratner, as personal failures. He felt like he didn’t belong, leading to him starring in movies he was less and less proud of. His body deteriorated, his marriage fell apart and ended in divorce in 2009, and other personal life stuff involving raising kids and moving house came into play.

Now though he’s on something of a comeback trail. Following a celebrated guest stint on Showtime’s “The Affair” in 2016, he’s now a part of “Trust” and soon the “Three Days of the Condor” TV remake. For the full piece, check out GQ.com