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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?

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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.

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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

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Posted on March 2, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 228 Comments.

  1. 15 Actors Who Desperately Need A Hit

    http://whatculture.com/film/15-actors-who-desperately-need-a-hit?page=2

    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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  4. Actor/actresses that were truly blackballed?

    https://www.datalounge.com/thread/18083149-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.

    —Anonymous

    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.

    —Anonymous

    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.

    —Anonymous

    reply 81 36 minutes ago

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  5. BRENDAN FRASER: THE MOVIE STAR THAT HOLLYWOOD FORGOT

    https://tribecafilm.com/stories/brendan-fraser-movie-star-encino-man-school-ties-the-mummy-scrubs

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

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  6. The Real Reason Hollywood Dumped Brendan Fraser

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