By Deborah Wilker
Moving Pictures mag | Summer 2010
What is it they say about the sound of one hand clapping? Brendan Fraser now knows the answer.
“You see what happens – you miss clapping your own hand — just once!” Just one missed clap. Is that all it takes?”
Apparently yes, that’s all it takes to blow up overnight these days. Just miss your own hand. No need to star in some 40 movies or gross nearly a billion dollars at the box office.
It was hardly a cataclysmic event – the four-second fumble that catapulted Fraser atop YouTube playlists a few months back. He was just minding his own business at the Golden Globes, a guest at the CBS table when the show cut to a shot of him laughing at a DeNiro quip – and then strangely missing as he went to clap his hands.
Within moments, enterprising netizens had sent the gaffe global. By morning “The Brendan Fraser Clap” was a lead story. Soon after, a fan posted his own humorously edited “Clap Remix” — set to Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.” More than a million views later . . .
“I guess in this age, things that would have largely gone unnoticed four or five years ago, are now what people want to see.”
The moment was, of course, about little more than a guy who freely acknowledges he was a bit out of his element. Fraser says the sight of his “own giant melon” on the big screen in the banquet room startled him for just a second. He began to point and temporarily “spazzed out.”
“I was just there as a guest of CBS. I’ve never really been nominated for anything or in the audience much. I’m really good at handing them out,” he says of industry awards. “I give great podium.”
Yet just a few weeks after speaking with ‘Moving Pictures’ – a conversation in which he discussed his recent tear-jerker with Harrison Ford “Extraordinary Measures,” his upcoming family comedy “Furry Vengeance,” and the coming sequel to “Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D” — Fraser did indeed receive a noteworthy industry award.
In February the newly formed International 3D Society recognized him in the category Best 3D Talent for his acting and producing roles in 2008’s “Journey,” a film which he help shepherd with great enthusiasm.
Fraser, who is well known to his fans as an accomplished still-photographer, Polaroid buff and all-around camera aficionado has picked the right moment to let his inner tech geek shine.
“Initially it was a very challenging process convincing the industry and the public that 3d does have a place,” Fraser said. “The challenge at first is that there just weren’t enough projection systems set up around the country. That’s why we had to go on the road and champion it and say ‘look this is good – this is worthy. This is relevant!’ ’’ he explained of the “whistle-stop” tour he and the film’s other producers embarked upon in pre-“Avatar” America. “We were preaching.”
“I think that our picture planted a flag in cinema that is on a par with other cinema milestones. We’re in a time when anything is possible. If you can imagine it, you can create it. And now you can do it in three dimensions, and it doesn’t have to be with those awful glasses that give you a headache.”
But before he gets too carried away with words like “cinema” and “milestone,” he stops himself from taking any of it too seriously.
In just a few weeks time he’ll be back on screen, co-starring with a raccoon, a couple of squirrels and other assorted forestry.
In “Furry Vengeance” (on which he is once again also a producer) he’s back to comedy – portraying a harried real estate developer whose plans to raze a nature preserve are met with high jinks and moral lessons from a group of cagey mammals.
Of course Fraser has been all over the creative map. He established himself in the early ‘90s with both the wacky Pauley Shore feature “Encino Man” and the sobering “School Ties.” Ever since, he’s become something of an expert at darting from genre to genre.
Truly silly early comedies “Airheads” with Adam Sandler and “With Honors” with Joe Pesci; the Oscar-winning “Gods and Monsters” in 1998 with Lynn Redgrave and Sir Ian McKellen; family flicks such as “Loony Tunes Back In Action” and “George of the Jungle;” the dramatic teleplay “Twilight of The Golds;” as part of the ensemble of the Oscar-winning “Crash,” and of course “The Mummy” franchise.
Lovable lunk, friend of cartoon animals, occasional action hero — he isn’t picky.
“I don’t want to be disingenuous when I tell you I am very grateful to be a working actor. It’s all I ever wanted to be. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world when I was a teenager and I didn’t even care what kind of actor,” he said about the way he chooses roles and weighs opportunities. He sincerely just likes to work.
He acknowledges there’s a lot of luck involved. “You can be as talented as anybody but unless you are also very lucky indeed – you are not going to succeed. Sometimes I need to be saved from myself,” he says of some of the roulette spins he has considered.
He has leant his voice to animated series’ such as “The Simpsons,” “King of The Hill,” “Duckman: Private Dick” and the kids’ show “Fairly Odd Parents.” He played Ben Sullivan on three episodes of “Scrubs” in 2002 and 2004, because he says it was just something he really wanted to do.
“Oh there’s always dissent in the ranks. Agents, managers, lawyers, studios. Your own screaming nagging conscience! Your therapist,” he says, his voice trailing into laughter. “I agonize over things.”
One choice he made rather swiftly however was accepting the role of John Crowley in the true-life film “Extraordinary Measures” – a modestly budgeted Lifetime-like drama for CBS’s somewhat experimental new features division. The movie, about a distraught dad (Fraser) who teams with a House-like physician (Harrison Ford) to research a cure for his terminally ill children, was not a box office success.
Fraser says he does not regret the decision.
“Now that the film has opened – I’m told by the studio that ‘it had difficulty in finding its audience.’ I guess that means that people didn’t go,” he says, softening the bad news with a smile.
“Maybe it just wasn’t what people wanted to see. Did they want to see a film about a father whose children’s days are numbered and who is in so much anguish, and so angry with the medical establishment and big pharmacology – he has to tread some morally ambiguous ethical waters?
“There’s always that X-factor that causes people to go to some movies and not others. Maybe they’ll all go to see “Furry Vengeance” because it’s about animals playing tricks on me? You never can tell.
“But I don’t know when I’d ever again have the chance to portray or encapsulate the essence of someone’s life,” Fraser said about Crowley, whose paternal earnestness he embodied so adroitly. “And working with Harrison Ford, that‘s always an opportunity to learn, so this was an opportunity not to be missed.”
Aside from the “Journey to the Center of the Earth” sequel, Fraser has long been attached to Oren Moverman’s “This Side of the Looking Glass.” Fraser said that working with Moverman — the Oscar-nominated screenwriter and director of one of the most lauded films of last year, “The Messenger” – is a priority.
“I know this has been the subject of many rumors for five or six years. I’ve wanted to do this movie for at least five years now. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed. From your mouth to whomever is reading this, I really want to do it. But ‘The Messenger’ has become such an important piece of American cinema now. He might move on to something else.”
Fraser said he believes that “at one point or another,” the two will work together. “Oren’s a friend, such an honest man and a solid humanitarian,” Fraser said, adding he’d do pretty much anything the screenwriter might ask of him.
Swing from a vine? Miss another hand-clap?
“For sure! It’s your job. It’s what we are paid to do. You create a reality where ever you are, whatever you may be doing. Whether you’re talking to a mummy or a misbehaving cartoon monkey – as long as you believe it your audience will too.”