A Merry Romp: Brendan Fraser on Stand Off

The actor talks about his new hostage thriller, the reboot of The Mummy, and suggests remaking of Encino Man with Pauly Shore.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Ten minutes is not enough time to talk to Brendan Fraser. We could ask about any number of film classics like Gods and Monsters or The Quiet American, but we had to pick our moments and we hope you feel we chose wisely. Fraser’s latest movie, Stand Off, opens in theaters Friday and is currently available on demand. Fraser plays a man caught in a botched robbery, whom the police think is the leader of the criminals. Terry George co-wrote and directed the movie set in Northern Ireland. We got to speak with Fraser on the phone last week and he was having a great time from the beginning of the call.

CraveOnline: I realize this is your second hostage movie.

Brendan Fraser: Airheads and if you count Monkeybone, maybe the third. I’m kidding.

So you’ve done the comedy version and now this is the serious version of a stand off.

Have you seen it? I guess it didn’t make you laugh then.

Of course there’s a light touch, but I mean it’s not like Airheads.

Yeah, that was more like touched with a sledgehammer. [Laughs] I was just thinking about Crave, who you’re writing for before you got on the line. Things we want, we must have, our desires, hunger.

Can you relate to craving?

Crave. You have to do it. It has a lot to do with art in general. There’s a notion that got floated by some philosopher: Why must we waste our hunger on food? It was in reference to things that we want and need to do. I don’t know who that was. That popped up from my days as a student. Anyway, look, I guess I should talk about this film. I have a tangential personality.

Yeah, I guess you’d say it was a serious version of what you could construe as anything about a hostage crisis being funny. This is a film about what happens when you try and just calm down and talk to each other. See how that goes, beyond mere negotiation. That’s purposeful for many reasons and meaningful for many reasons also given that it was shot in Northern Ireland, in Belfast, certainly the sight of a great deal of sadness in recent years. Or as they refer to it, The Troubles. But there’s a way forward. It’s in place and it’s a city that’s cosmopolitan. It’s taking steps. It wants to get along. I know that. I feel like I lived there. I worked there for three or four months in total and it’s a tightly knit community for sure.

Terry George is its son for certain and a world-class filmmaker, hands down. His Oscar for The Shore was a family story of his that he shot in his backyard. Terry’s such an interesting man and such a good guy, and I assure you this material in the hands of probably any other filmmaker may not have yielded the same result or even come to fruition. Not just by virtue of the access that we could gain by going and shooting in little sleepy townships.

You’ve excelled at a lot of big visual effects movies. Was it nice to get back to one that was just about the acting?

The answer is yes. There’s always acting involved in heavy special effect-y movies too. Sometimes it may be less and less depending what the movie’s about. You couldn’t even pick it out of a lineup, you wouldn’t know that there’s some kind of CG treatment to something unless it’s pointed out to you because we take it for granted now. I came of age in the last 21/22 years in filmmaking where we were suspending our disbelief, averting the eyes when a special effect came up or we would get excited for it because “I didn’t know they could do that.” Now everything’s, in a way, par for the course and I support it. I think it’s quite brilliant and a wonderful direction that analog to digital or horse and cart to automotive sensibility in broad arguments that could be made about the direction that films have gone in.

With a picture like this, it is about the people and it was about being there and living through the long dreary nights that go into working a nighttime schedule, that can be grizzly and grueling but you love it anyway. So often, I remind myself that if this stuff is easy then everybody would be doing it. Not everybody can or would be able to but it’s a privilege and if you aren’t enjoying yourself, it shows. It really shows because your job gets easier once it stops feeling like a job.

It must not have been easy because you shot Stand Off in 2011. What was the process of getting it out?

Getting it out is what we’re trying to do at the moment. You can find it on demand, other media releases, limited art house, but having it come to fruition, I understand the genesis is that it was quite a formidable, frightening, dark screenplay about a man on the run with a baby who winds up holed out. I don’t know, I never saw that draft, but it just goes to show that if you build it they will come. If you take that idea and put it in the hands of someone such as Terry George who can flesh out the ideas behind it and make it more about family reunion and less about the bang bang, shoot ‘em up which it’s not, then your audience will follow and find it. I met with the producer, I met with Terry. I really would have to scratch my head and think about how those come about but what I do know is that it required a commitment for an American actor, i.e. me, to sign on and join my new best friends forever in Ireland for a merry romp across parts of Belfast for four months. Oh boy, did I ever meet some interesting people.

Now they’re talking about rebooting The Mummy. Were you finished with that series and playing Rick O’Connell? Did you feel satisfied and finished with your trilogy, or was there ever a chance of a fourth?

I wasn’t approached for it. I would certainly entertain the idea, and I know for sure that I will be there on opening day to get the good seat. Unless they call me for some in-joke, nudge-nudge, wink-wink reason to walk an actor through a cameo in the background a la Hitchcock or something. I don’t even know if it’s necessary, but how do I feel about that? I’m supportive of it. I think it’s going to be great. It’s good source material. So many films based on the mummy were made even before that. I don’t think for a minute that Steve Sommers and the current company were the ones who really brought it to any interest or prominence. Those characters were around in the cabinet of Universal monsters and have been for almost 100 years now.

Lastly I have to ask, how do you look back on Encino Man?

22 years ago. With great fondness. That, a reboot! They’ve got to make a remake of that. You’ve got some pull. You work for an awesome website. Hit up that blogosphere. Should Link come into the 21st century? [Laughs]

Who would you cast as the new Link?

Pauly [Shore] definitely.

It’ll come full circle.

[Laughs] Yeah, we’re going to do a limited Broadway run of a play. We’re just going to trade parts. [Laughs] Scene-to-scene. 

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind The Shelf Space Awards. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.