What the Hell Happened to Brendan Fraser?

Brendan Fraser 2014

Brendan Fraser always seemed like he was one big movie away from being an A-list star.  All through the 90’s the media buzzed about his potential.  At the end of the decade, Fraser finally had a couple of big hit movies.  And yet, he still couldn’t cross over to the A-list.  More than a decade later, Fraser is still a respected working actor.  But the A-list potential has dried up.

What the hell happened?


Fraser’s first acting role was in a reenactment on America’s Most Wanted in 1988.  He appeared in a TV movie, Child of Darkness, Child of Light in 1991.  That same year, Fraser had a cameo role as a sailor who gets into a fight in the River Phoenix movie, Dogfight (pictured above, clip below)

fraser - encino man

1992 was a big year for Fraser.  First he starred in the comedy, Encino Man opposite Sean Astin and Pauly Shore.

Astin and Shore played teenage dopes in the Wayne and Garth mold.  They were kind of a poor man’s Bill and Ted.  Even that description may set expectations too high since the “funny one” was played by Pauly Shore.  At the time, Shore was a popular personality on MTV and Disney hoped to capitalize on that popularity with Encino Man.

Fraser played a caveman who awakens in the 90’s in Encino , CA.  Austin and Shore try to use their discovery of the caveman to become more popular at high school.  The movie follows the teen comedy formula to the letter.  It’s one saving grace is Fraser’s goofy performance as the prehistoric fish out of water.

Despite negative reviews, Encino Man was a hit.  As a result, audiences were subjected to years of Pauly Shore movies and a direct-to-TV sequel, Encino Woman.

Fraser went on to reprise his role as Link in a cameo appearance in Shore’s 1993 film, Son-in-Law.  He also played a soldier with the nick-name Link on his fatigues in Shore’s 1994 movie, In the Army Now.  Apparently that ended Fraser’s indentured servitude and he was spared the indignity of cameos in Jury Duty and Bio-Dome.

fraser - school ties

Later that year, Fraser starred in the drama, School Ties, opposite Matt Damon, Chris O’Donnell and Ben Affleck.

Fraser played a Jewish student who transfers to a private school on an athletic scholarship during his senior year.  The film is set in the 1950’s and Fraser’s character faces rampant anti-Semitism.  To protect himself, he hides his religion from his fellow students.

While filming, director Robert Mandel told the young cast that they would go on to be the next Brat Pack.  He was right in the sense that many members of the cast went on to be famous.  But fortunately they were not stigmatized with a label like the 80’s actors were.

School Ties received mixed to positive reviews and did moderately well at the box office.

1992 is basically a microcosm of Fraser’s career.  He would bounce between goofy comedic roles like Encino Man and more dramatic roles like School Ties.  On the one hand, few actors have the kind of range to pull off both broad slapstick and drama.  On the other, Fraser never seemed to find a niche.


In 1993, Fraser appeared in the movie, Twenty Bucks.

Twenty Bucks followed a $20 bill from an ATM machine until it is finally turned in to be shredded.  Over the course of the movie, the twenty dollar bill passes through the lives of several people played by Fraser, Linda Hunt, Elisabeth Shue, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Lloyd, William H. Macy and others.

Twenty Bucks got mixed reviews and barely appeared in theaters.  That same year, Fraser starred opposite Donald Sutherland in Younger and Younger, a comedy that was even less seen than Twenty Bucks.

Next: With Honors and Airheads


Posted on March 2, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 240 Comments.

  1. 15 Actors Who Desperately Need A Hit

    Brendan Fraser

    Once upon a time Brendan Fraser was the bad*ss lead of the Mummy franchise, and in 2004 appeared as part of the ensemble in Best Picture Oscar winner Crash.

    Post-Mummy, however, things haven’t been so great, and the only film he’s appeared in since 2008 to be a major financial success is 2014’s animation The Nut Job, which naturally wasn’t sold on the presence of him or any other actor.

    With Fraser’s rough alimony payments to his ex-wife and current status as an Internet meme, it’s safe to say that he needs that big, memorable supporting role, probably in a comedy film, to make everyone remember why they loved this guy in the first place. Perhaps then studios might be prepared to offer him starring work once again.


  2. Even though I’m sad Brendan Fraser went bad (you have probably seen my sadness on my comments on the previous page), he could still turn himself around. Fraser could have a second career in voice work like Mark Hamill and Will Friedle (Eric on “Boy Meets World”). He is a good voice actor, and I wonder if he ever considered doing that as a second career.


  3. Fraser was kind of out of place in the era he broke out it: he had leading man looks but also had charisma and could really do comedic roles. Hollywood at the time didn’t know what to do with him. Had he been a decade or two younger I think he’d fit much better into the modern movie scene. He was when you get right down to it, arguably the 1990s version of Chris Pratt with goofy affability.

    If you look at the two major roles he took right after “The Mummy”, they were both critically acclaimed. So there is a possibility that he wanted to switch to being a serious actor and it just didn’t happen for him. He had a chance at a comeback with “Journey..” after it did really well and he screwed himself over, by holding out for the original director and got replaced in the sequel by The Rock. He later injured his back a few years ago so can’t really do action movies anymore. But since that’s all he was really known for, Hollywood probably won’t hire him for anything else.


  4. Actor/actresses that were truly blackballed?

    I have no idea what happened with Brendan Fraser. He had a lot of work but it eventually dried up, and he also got fat and let his looks go (not sure if those things were related). It didn’t help that he kept doing stupid cartoon movies about getting attacked by woodland creatures–it became impossible to take him seriously after he started doing such Z-list work.


    reply 3 7 hours ago

    Brendan Fraser once had a promising career. He was very good in “School Ties.” Then had a hit with a kid’s movie “George of the Jungle.” He was excellent in “Gods and Monsters.” He had a successful action picture franchise with all those “Mummy” pictures. But he ruined his own career by making one junk movie after another. He lost his hair and got heavy. In recent years all he’s done is some voice work and some TV episodes and a straight to DVD film which he also produced. He had a nasty divorce. I think his career sank to a lot of bad choices and bad luck, not blackballing.


    reply 7 7 hours ago

    Fraser was injured when trying to clear his property after Hurricane Sandy. He said not being able to do stunts hurt his career.

    But he hadn’t been working much since 2008, either because he turned 40 or because he had some kind of problem — he would look terrible at red carpet events and act kind of odd, too. Drinking, I assume.


    reply 81 36 minutes ago



    Though he has been taken for granted and misused by Hollywood for years, Brendan Fraser is still a damn treasure.


  6. The Real Reason Hollywood Dumped Brendan Fraser


  7. For those keeping tabs on Brendan Fraser’s career (you know who you are), here’s his next TV role:


  8. The Precipitous Decline Of Brendan Frasier

    04-30-2017, 09:02 PM

    It seemed to me like Brendan Frasier, at one time, had a pretty good career going. Then it seemed like it fell off a cliff. Why?

    Lousy movie roles?
    Not that good an actor?
    Or some other reason?

    I was most impressed with him in “School Ties”.

    Yesterday, 12:18 AM

    I thought Brendan Frasier was going to be a major star years ago. Something went wrong, and he ended up in some bad movies.

    I thought he was great in ‘Gods and Monsters’, which remains one of my favorite films.

    Yesterday, 05:45 AM

    Originally Posted by phetaroi
    It seemed to me like Brendan Frasier, at one time, had a pretty good career going. Then it seemed like it fell off a cliff. Why?

    Lousy movie roles?
    Not that good an actor?
    Or some other reason?

    I was most impressed with him in “School Ties”.
    Well, he started losing his looks early and maybe he didn’t have the talent and/or connections to keep getting decent work.

    Yesterday, 06:31 AM

    He had great momentum with The Mummy, which he followed up with Dudley Do Right. Bad career choices.

    Yesterday, 11:46 AM

    I’ve read somewhere that his ex-wife took him to the cleaners and that was when he started taking crap roles, so he could keep up with child support payments. He also seems to have gotten the hair plugs to fend off the premature hair loss, which would inhibit his chances at the ‘leading man’ roles he was famous for.

    I loved him in the Mummy movies and thought he was perfectly cast. Maybe he couldn’t successfully break from that association?

    Yesterday, 05:14 PM

    Well, he started losing his looks early and maybe he didn’t have the talent and/or connections to keep getting decent work.

    It is not uncommon nor unheard of for actors to “peak” after a few short years in Hollywood. BF is not the first nor certainly will be the last actor who burst upon the scene, had a few good movie roles, then that was an end of things. Could say the same about Cuba Gooding, Jr. who won an Oscar and has done very little worth noting since IMHO.

    Anyone who follows “Hollywood” knows or should know very well that after the old studio system died it left actors and actresses to pretty much fed for themselves. No longer under contract that at least paid them regardless, so studios put them in films (good, bad or whatever) to at least get something for their money, today it is all about roles, box office draw, and of course politics (studio, not government).

    Ryan O’Neal by anyone’s predictions should have had a huge career as a leading man in Hollywood, but it didn’t turn out that way.

    For the record plenty of people are asking WEHT BF, and or wanting him back in films.

    Yesterday, 06:39 PM

    He appeared in the Affair as a creepy prison guard and was good n the role. Many actors have had stalled careers and later had a resurgence. Micheal Keaton and Mickey Rourke are good examples. We may see Brendan new active in the future.

    Today, 07:48 PM

    He’s aged out of leading man roles, and just needs a few years to become old enough to play other roles.


    • 14 Actors Who Desperately Need A Hit Movie

      Brendan Fraser

      From the late 90s through to the late 2000s, Brendan Fraser racked up a number of impressive box office hits, including George of the Jungle, the enormously successful Mummy trilogy, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

      In 2008, however, Fraser hit a brick wall, with his post-Mummy movies simply failing to catch light with audiences, and before long, he ended up being replaced for the Journey sequel by The Rock. How is anyone supposed to compete with that?

      Though Fraser did recently enjoy an acclaimed run on hit TV show The Affair, and he is currently working on other TV fare, his cinematic prospects are virtually nil at this point, all the more depressing as Tom Cruise just milked his Mummy franchise for another quick buck.

      At least Fraser’s status as a meme in recent years does increase the likelihood that Hollywood might give him another chance some time soon, and considering the brutal alimony payments he reportedly has to make to his ex-wife, it’s just as well.


  9. Good Bad Flicks: The Mummy (1999)


    • ‘The Mummy’: Why Tom Cruise Couldn’t Top Brendan Fraser

      The 1999 film harkened back to ‘Indiana Jones,’ while the new installment is more interested in setting up a shared universe.


      • The reason why Brendan Fraser wasn’t in The Mummy remake

        It would have been amazing to see Brendan Fraser back for more Mummy action in this year’s remake, but sadly, he didn’t make an appearance alongside Tom Cruise as the new lead. And in an interview with ET Online, director of The Mummy Alex Kurtzman explained exactly why a Fraser cameo never happened.

        According to Kurtzman, bringing Fraser, who portrayed protagonist Rick O’Connell in the ’90s Mummy movie series, back for a small role wasn’t ever an option. This was due to the gap of time between the last film and the recently released one. Logistically, it just wouldn’t work out.

        “We never really talked actively about bringing Brendan Fraser in, because he lived in a very different time period than the modern day and so he would be potentially not even be alive,” Kurtzman explained with a laugh. “Unless he himself were a monster, it didn’t seem like he would make a whole lot of sense. And if he were a monster, then we would have had a lot of explaining to do about why he was there.”

        But just because The Mummy didn’t include Fraser himself doesn’t mean it was totally without inspiration from its predecessors. The remake does contain a small Fraser easter egg, said Kurtzman: “We wanted to tip our hat to [Fraser], and there are two moments that do that in the film [including the Book of Amun-Ra, which Fraser’s character use to defeat Imhotep in 1999’s The Mummy].”

        The Mummy remake stars Cruise as Nick Morton, Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll, Annabelle Wallis as Jenny Halsey, Sofia Boutella as Ahmanet, Jake Johnson as Chris Vail, and Courtney B. Vance as Colonel Greenway. 

        It’s actually probably a good thing that Fraser isn’t included on the cast list, even in an unnamed cameo, as The Mummy is currently tanking at the box office, and has a 16 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (That’s arguably even more frightening than the titular monster.) If you’re wondering why the remake flopped, take a look at the real reason The Mummy wasn’t a success.


  10. Fading Favorite: Let’s Talk About Brendan Fraser

    When I sent out a tweet asking my followers to share their favourite examples of the Female Gaze in film and television, the responses were as varied as they were revealing. The usual suspects came up – Outlander, the Magic Mike movies, basically every Hollywood Chris – and a deeper discussion evolved on how to define the gaze as well as unconventional ways it could be implemented. Everyone got a look in, from Harvey Keitel in The Piano to the Amazons in Wonder Woman, but there was one name who kept coming up in huge numbers from my followers that surprised me.

    A Tumblr post gained popularity a couple of years ago for arguing in favor of George of the Jungle being the perfect example of the Female Gaze in film. It’s a convincing piece that lays out a detailed case, and it reminded a lot of women of this generation of how potent a figure actor Brendan Fraser was as a leading man for the short burst of time he dominated the big screen. Now, with Universal rebooting The Mummy yet again simultaneously as fresh franchise bait and a star vehicle for one of the industry’s most ubiquitous stars, audiences are returning to the Fraser films, remembering, free of the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, just how good he could be.

    The first thing to remember about the Stephen Sommers action-adventure take on the classic horror story is that it’s fun. The Mummy prides itself on its old-school approach to the genre, lifting elements from the same source material that inspired Indiana Jones. Sure, the special effects are ropey and the sequels offered diminishing returns, but a film that many critics wrote off at the time as a misfire has retained much of its audience enthusiasm by merit of being unabashedly enjoyable. It embraces the silliness, throws in a convincing romance, has a few genuine scares, and revels in its retro appeal. It’s an ideal vehicle for Fraser, and much of the film’s success can be traced back to his performance. Fraser’s Rick O’Connell is a hero who knows he’s the hero of an adventure romp: Cocky without being off-putting, charming yet not above getting messy, a gleam in his eye and a gun in his hand. Fraser seems keenly influenced by old Errol Flynn movies, but with a slapstick edge. Imagine if Robin Hood were ready to take a pie in the face at any moment. He’s also an immensely appealing partner in an equally balanced romantic pairing, something that’s depressingly rare in popcorn fare.

    Fraser as O’Connell shares many qualities with his performance in George of the Jungle, as well as several of his earlier comedic roles. The willingness to wholeheartedly delve into goofball territory is instantly endearing, and he does it so well. Tom Cruise may run, but Brendan Fraser pratfalls on a whole new level of skill. As the eponymous George, his physicality balances a fine line between Tarzan and Jim Carrey. He slams into trees, trips into the dirt, and has one particularly memorable post-shower scene that sent Tumblr ablaze a decade and a half later. His comedic styling seems out of time, a call-back to classic slapstick that is best exemplified in non-modern stories like George of the Jungle, as well as Blast From the Past and even Dudley Do-Right. It’s a performance that could so easily have come across as infantilized or too guileless, but there’s always a self-knowing smile on standby. Like a cartoon, it’s fun to see stupid things happen to him, but even more satisfying when he secretly has the upper hand. Fraser never seems to give anything less than 100%, even in mediocre fare like Bedazzled and the catastrophic flop Monkeybone, which grossed a mere $7.6m on a $75m budget.

    His dramatic chops were nothing to be sneezed at either, with standout performances in Gods and Monsters, where he played the Marine turned gardener who forms a tentative friendship with director James Whale (Ian McKellen), and The Quiet American, alongside Michael Caine, as a CIA agent sent to 1950s Vietnam to take care of America’s interests, which may be his most striking role. While his range is not expansive, he works well within those limitations and harnesses that sardonic sweetness so well used in comedy to great effect in roles like James Whale’s pseudo-companion or the idealistic American who views the turmoil of invasion and war in blindly black and white terms. Hell, he’s even pretty good in Crash.

    There’s a line in Roger Ebert’s review of Gods and Monsters, where he says, “Fraser is subtle and attuned to the role, but doesn’t project strong sexuality”. That’s something that I would argue only adds to his appeal – in his prime, he was undoubtedly sexy, but never overbearing in his physicality or condescending in his personality. With Rachel Weisz in The Mummy and Leslie Mann in George of the Jungle, you completely buy that this man sees these women as his equals, or possibly even his superiors, and he respects that. The default mode of the romantic subplot in modern blockbusters is that of a less interesting and more combative Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, where un-witty hostilities suddenly make way for male dominance and a happy ending. Fraser worked best as the romantic hero in an equally balanced game, giving the women a stronger dynamic to work with and for the ultimate final kiss to feel wholly earned. No wonder so many women see the Female Gaze in his most famous works.

    Fraser’s career went into decline around the time The Mummy trilogy ended. He worked consistently but never in a film as high-profile as the series that crowned him as a proper leading man. 2010’s Furry Vengeance, a film Fraser also executive produced, was a low-point, although he completely threw himself into 90 minutes of being attacked by wild animals. Maybe the roles weren’t there for him anymore, or maybe his contentious divorce got in the way (in 2013, Fraser petitioned the courts to reduce his alimony and child support payments, asserting he could no longer meet the high costs). Perhaps his greatest crime was simply to visibly age. In an industry where such a thing is an affront and Tom Cruise is forced to be distractingly ageless in the new take on The Mummy, there’s a strange kind of dignity in Fraser refusing to conceal how time actually impacts the body. No nips, tucks or laughable dye-jobs: Fraser just got older, and that seemed unforgivable to the industry, who have an assembly line of leading men waiting to be shipped for maximum efficiency. He’s a 48 year old father of three who looks like one – larger, a bit balder, his face softened at the edges – and that’s meant to be a bad thing.

    It does seem as though Fraser is on the up once again. He appeared in season 3 of The Affair as a menacing prison guard and received many positive reviews for his work. Apparently, creepiness is the accepted alternative to faded beauty. Next, he’ll take a leading role in Danny Boyle’s FX anthology series Trust, as the eccentric private investigator hired to return the kidnapped heir John Paul Getty III to his family, and then join the TV remake of Three Days of the Condor. It seems that Peak TV could be good for Brendan Fraser.
    In a recent TV interview, Fraser was asked about the new version of The Mummy, and while his answer was diplomatic, one couldn’t help but feel rather sad for Fraser. Fortunately, he can sleep soundly knowing that everyone likes his hero better than they like Tom Cruise.


    • This article needs a update. There is a big online following behind Fraser, it’s pretty insane to witness but they had a petition to get him more roles in Hollywood (it has 40,000 signers) and they protested against the Mummy reboot which caused it to flop badly, aside from no one really asking it in the first place:


    • Why most studios don’t want to work with these a-list stars

      By Sigal Charlie Stark, Apr 9, 2017

      Brendan Fraser

      Brendan Fraser could possibly do no better then the original Mummy sequel but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Fraser’s choice in roles were always unusually odd and to a certain extent, a bit abnormal. He lost all credibility with his former audiences following the release of 2 major flops – Extraordinary Measures and Furry Vengeance. Monkey Bone wasn’t really a good choice for the actor, either. Fraser’s acting skills tend to cost more money than they actually make in return. He’s just not a safe investment anymore.


  11. ENCINO MAN (1992)

    This comedy is simple and high concept. One of the reasons it might be remembered is that it is one of the first films of Brendan Fraser. Who here leases harm and comic timing in a role that is almost wordless but very physical. He would never again be quite this loose. As in future films he did have that easy comedic charm and used his body to his advantage in roles in movies like GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, DUDLEY DO RIGHT, BLAST FROM THE PAST and even THE SCOUT. He also seemed to run a parallel frantic career seeking to be taken more serious as an actor. For respectability and career longevity. Which one can understand. Even though he made cameos usually in future Pauly Shore comedies also. Showing he never forgot where he came from.


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