Brendan Fraser’s name might be most often associated with his work on major high-tech Hollywood movies like The Mummy series, George of the Jungle, Looney Tunes: Back in Action and Journey to the Center of the Earth.
But in conversation, his thoughtful, halting speech and meaningful insights on his most recent role, that of John Crowley in Extraordinary Measures, are reflective of the emotional depth that he has brought to films like Gods and Monsters, School Ties and Crash.
You’re a Canadian-American actor, but as you and all your brothers have recognizably Irish names [Kevin, Regan and Sean], there must be Irish heritage there somewhere. Do you know anything about your family’s Irish history?
I was in Dublin years ago and when I was first being introduced to the press, I was asked, “Is your name really Brendan Fraser?” Like it was some sort of joke. Is there Irish heritage? Yeah, I’m sure. It goes [way] back. [And] Scottish, German, Czech. . . I’m certain some French Canadians came through there too.
Your career has always included a balance of family-friendly action movies, comedies and more serious, socially compelling dramas – I’m thinking of Gods and Monsters, School Ties and Crash. Can you talk about the progression of your
acting and how you decide which roles to take? What drew you to Extraordinary Measures?
I’m always trying to diversify my roles. It keeps it interesting for me – same for the audience, I hope. I look towards working with more established directors and actors. I’m quite enthusiastic about all the best new technology that cinema has to offer, starting with 3-D and more recently in terms of CGI. But in particular [I’m enthusiastic about] a film like this one, which has none of those bells and whistles. Extraordinary Measures is the story of what a family will do to save their children, and the lengths to which they’ll go when the odds are stacked up against them.
In my view, John [Crowley] is quite a remarkable individual, one of the most principled people I’ve ever met. And in terms of accomplishments, look at what he’s done in the field of progressing the science of enzyme replacement treatment. But he says his wife Aileen deserves all the medals, which gives you an indication of the kind of guy he is. He’s tenacious, he won’t take no for an answer, and it was a challenge to portray that. I don’t sound like him, we certainly don’t look alike – I’m told he’s very good looking – he’s the head of a pharmaceutical company, and I’m an actor.
I wanted to ensure that I had an opportunity to take a run at the part – not in terms of headlines in a periodical. The story broke in The Wall Street Journal – but in terms of how is it possible that an individual – John [Crowley] is very much alive, a living entity – with a Harvard MBA raised some hundred million dollars, practically single-handedly, in order to save his kids’ lives? And, well, we just worked backwards from there. It became a screenplay after it became a book by Geeta Anand, and now we’ve got a film. Harrison [Ford’s] character is a composite of three, maybe four different scientists and certainly they work together as a metaphor for the core, so much of the ideology scientifically.
Also the determination that [Ford] made as a character choice to provide the edge to press up against, the grit, the hard-nosed stubbornness that turns into a begrudging respect in the relationship between these two men, but sort of through a not-so-subtle stag battle.