You may have been pleased with the recent news that Brendan Fraser was cast in an upcoming FX series called “Trust,” but you weren’t as pleased as the denizens of r/SAVEBRENDAN. The meme-heavy subreddit, which boasts some 22,000 dedicated subscribers, has a singular purpose: to return the “Encino Man,” “George of the Jungle” and “The Mummy” star to his former glory. Results have been mixed so far.
Speaking of “The Mummy,” you can probably guess how Fraser’s acolytes feel about the upcoming reboot starring Tom Cruise; you might even feel the same way. 1999’s swashbuckling action-adventure was exemplary popcorn entertainment, fun without being mindless and thrilling without being dour; early reviews indicate that the remake is, well, something else entirely. Fraser’s version did what a lot of similar films fail to do these days: start a new franchise based on an existing property without coming across as a blatant cash grab.
“The Mummy” simply felt like a movie, which has become increasingly rare of summer blockbusters in recent years — especially those belonging to cinematic universes, as this new iteration does. Ours is an especially nostalgic age, and what Fraser devotees appear to be longing for is a return to an ever-so-slightly simpler time when Hollywood fare at least gave the appearance of being ever-so-slightly less cynical. In that sense, the star of “Blast from the Past” makes as much sense as an avatar of film-industry sincerity as anyone else.
The actor, whose boyish charm had mostly been displayed in more comic roles prior to his performance as the mummy-fighting Rick O’Connell, was the ideal face of what ended up being a trilogy. Though not quite an everyman, he was also a far cry from traditional action stars of the era like Bruce Willis, Will Smith and, well, Tom Cruise — his next film wasn’t a “Mission: Impossible” or “Die Hard” sequel but “Dudley Do-Right.”
As in his prior roles, Fraser brought to “The Mummy” the sense that he didn’t quite belong in these extraordinary circumstances but was capable, if pressed, of navigating his way through them. His performances didn’t quite repeat themselves, but it was always easy, as a viewer, to occasionally see through the character and focus on Fraser himself — and, crucially, this had the effect of enhancing his movies rather than distracting from them.
In tone and content, the subreddit devotes to him gives off an ironic vibe that bears an unfortunate resemblance to r/the_donald. A petition its users launched to “bring Brendan Fraser back into film/television” topped out at more than 46,000 signatures, and the group has also claimed responsibility for helping raise the actor’s IMDb STARmeter. Its sidebar reads, in part, “I for one am sick of looking at the pain and dispair [sic] in Brendan Fraser’s eyes caused by his ex wife Afton Smith and the completetly [sic] unjustified Alimony system – the Man is nothing more than a lingering husk of the former fun loving goofball we grew up with and adored.”
That vaguely sexist — and, one imagines (or at least hopes), partially ironic — mission statement points to Fraser’s 2007 divorce as the true turning point in his career, essentially arguing that the $900,000-per-year he owed to his ex-wife for alimony and child support was a ruinous burden whose toll was as exhausting mentally as it was taxing financially.
An equally speculative conclusion — that the actor simply stopped receiving as many high-profile offers after getting a bit older and appearing in a few box-office bombs — is apparently less fun to ponder. Fraser has always come across as not only a normal guy but a decent one; there’s something poetic about casting him as a movie hero–turned-victim, especially as it affords him an opportunity to stage a third-act comeback.
Which isn’t to say that there’s no hope or that Fraser (who’s been a frequent presence on TV in the last few years) can’t transition into more roles like the one he just scored on “Trust” — especially if r/SAVEBRENDAN is only the tip of the fan-support iceberg.
At a recent “Wonder Woman” screening in New York, for instance, IndieWire’s own William Earl heard a fellow audience member yell “Where the fuck is Brendan Fraser?!” after a trailer for the new “Mummy.” Others in the crowd were amused by the outburst, which seems to have echoed their own sentiments. Maybe if more people start asking that same question, Hollywood will give them a satisfying answer?