Why Tom Cruise Can't Match Brendan Fraser in 'Mummy' Greatness
Cruise is a star, but our boy Brendan's a character.
Another franchise about the undead is coming back to life. Most press sources would have you believe that the Tom Cruise-led reboot is a positive turn for the franchise, which began back in the 1930s in the Universal Studios monster movie era. But really, the loss of Brendan Fraser from the silver screen is something over which we should be causing riots, weeping on the shoulders of former lovers and swearing we’ll do better this time, if they’d only give us a chance.
Make no mistake: The Mummy is nothing without my boy Brendan, and it’s not just because I’ve spent the total of a full calendar year on The Mummy ride at Universal Studios in Florida because there’s rarely a line and it has real fire and a video of Brendan Fraser included in the ride experience. Don’t be an idiot, just admit he’s the best. And if you really need some convincing, well, I’m here to help.
Brendan Fraser is the unheralded master of overacting.
Along with Bill Paxton, who managed to ham it up in Twister and Titanic during the same calendar year, Brendan Fraser has no chill whatsoever on the big screen. That’s not to say that ol’ couch-jumping Cruise is a walk in the park, but he has proven time and time again that he’s able to tone it down.
I defy you to find me a Brendan Fraser performance with nuance (minus School Ties). You will not find it. He was George of the Jungle, he was nominated for a “Most Promising Actor” award in 1993, and you’re lying to yourself if you think he was good in Crash.
Rick O’Connell is the single worst hero of any movie, ever.
Again, this is where Fraser shines — he’s a smug bastard and he knows it, and Tom Cruise is going to bring a measure of levity and self-awareness to the role that is uncalled for. In the original 1999 Mummy, Fraser consistently, and confidently over-pronounces “Anubis” as “An-nyoo-biss” in a way that clearly indicates he did not research anything about ancient Egypt to prepare for the role. He plays Rick the American Adventurer with a level of confidence and unbuttoned-bloused arrogance that is nearly comical, and you can tell just by looking at him that in spite of the entire franchise taking place in Egypt, he’s only going have have sex with blonde women.
That said, the role of Rick in 1999 was offered to Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck before the producers eventually settled on Fraser. The exact reason Tom Cruise refused the role in the late ‘90s is unknown, but here’s what I like to picture: Cruise rejects the role in the same room as Fraser, gets on his tiptoes, kisses Fraser on the cheek, and says, “Keep it warm for me, buddy.”
Was Tom Cruise ever in a poorly received live-action Looney Tunes movie in 2003?
He was not. Point for Brendan!
Brendan Fraser made a tragic statement about the new casting.
Okay, so full disclosure: Brendan Fraser is still working, and currently stars on The Field on Showtime. He’s doing fine, and was recently asked about the casting decision for the new Mummy franchise, which releases its first adventure in June of next year. His response was as diplomatic as it was devastating.
“I am flattered as Tom Cruise is a really big movie star,” he said. “There were many movies made before the one that I was lucky to be a part of. I am certain that this one will be unique.”
Clearly, Brendan went through many drafts and viewings of the 1999, 2001, and 2008 Mummy movies before coming up with this statement, and it also reads more like an email than something said in person. Here’s the rest of the statement:
“I have met Tom before and he is a nice guy. He will be great and the film will be exciting. I will buy the ticket to watch it on the opening day.”
Is he not going to be invited to the premiere? Oh my God. We need to keep an eye on Brendan.
Fraser was made for campy movies.
Looking at Brendan Fraser’s resume, the fact that he was ultimately chosen as the swarthy Rick O’Connell makes complete sense. A cursory overview — he played George of the Jungle in the 1997 live-action adaptation and mostly just performed a series of pratfalls in a loincloth; he played Dudley Do-Right the same year The Mummy in 1999; he has been in notably terrible movies like Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Dickie Roberts: Child Star and, of course, Encino Man. Fraser is not unlike Nicholas Cage in his erratic performances and taste in projects, but without the whole Oscar win thing.
Given the time and point in his career Fraser was at in 1999, The Mummy was a perfect opportunity to become a dashing action star a la Cruise, as opposed to the goofy roles he’d inhabited before then. Instead, Fraser stuck to his guns and made a character out of Rick O’Connell, a bold move that made his career.
Cruise is, of course, the king of the blockbuster, as the megastar of the Mission Impossible and Jack Reacher franchises, but no franchise has defined him as The Mummy has defined Fraser. Tom Cruise is a star; Brendan Fraser is a character actor. And that character is the heart and soul of The Mummy franchise, whether he’s actually in the film or not.
[Author’s Note: While not relevant to the piece, it should be known that Brendan Fraser’s sons are named Griffin, Holden, and Leland. Like, get over yourself!]