Why Hollywood won't cast Brendan Fraser

Brendan Fraser seemed to be everywhere at the turn of the millennium. He was headlining goofy kids adventure comedies, leading a mainstream franchise, and nabbing roles in critically favorable films. When you put it all together, Fraser has one of the most impressive bodies of work in Hollywood, from his critically acclaimed roles in School Ties and Gods and Monsters, running all the way through mega-hits such as The Mummy and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Simply put, we love Brendan Fraser.

But his star power has dulled over the years, leading many to wonder: Why is Hollywood giving Fraser the cold shoulder? Could it really all have been because of that weird clap he did at the Golden Globes in 2010? Nah, there's a lot more to the story than that. Here's a look at some reasons this once-busy actor has been so absent from the screen scene lately and why we think he can turn it around.

Facing the flops

Fraser's bankability as a big name was called into question early on in his rise to fame. While the actor enjoyed some commercial successes, such as George of the Jungle (1997) and The Mummy (1999), he also suffered some serious stinkers at the same time, like Blast from the Past (1999) and Dudley Do-Right (1999), both of which had critics laughing for all the wrong reasons and certainly didn't draw much audience interest. 

The Mummy Returns (2001) gave him some much-needed momentum in the right direction, and he went on to nab a role in the critically-favored Crash (2005) before jumping into another action-adventure realm in Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008). But after that, his inability to drum up an audience seriously damaged his leading man reputation.

His goofy shtick didn't stick

Fraser's appeal as the lovable doofus in George of the Jungle didn't quite translate to other franchise hopeful films. Not only did Dudley Do-Right do wrong, but Monkeybone (2001) was a dissed and dismissed non-starter, and perhaps most tellingly, his attempt to lead a live-action take on the Looney Tunes animated world sputtered out with a lackluster reception to Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). Fraser gave the goofball game that had made him a name one more go with Furry Vengeance (2010), but that movie was a disaster on all fronts and solidified the fact that Fraser's silly screen demeanor just wasn't getting kids to the ticket booths anymore.

Burying The Mummy

While the first Mummy sequel debuted soon after the original installment and successfully capitalized on the excavation adventure craze, the third movie was slow going, despite the successes of the first two films. By the time The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) rolled along, audiences were over it and had moved onto other offerings of its ilk, such as Nicolas Cage's National Treasure movies. The Mummy 3 didn't exactly bomb, but its domestic receipts were less than either of its predecessors and lead to the franchise being left to decay, until Fraser was replaced by Tom Cruise for the disappointing 2017 reboot.

Killing a comeback

Once The Mummy franchise was clearly dead, Fraser had a real chance at following his Journey to the Center of the Earth success into a new franchise land, but he held out on signing on for Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012) out of loyalty to the first installment's director, Eric Brevig, who was tied up finishing another project at the studio's desired time of production. Rather than waiting on either party, the studio replaced the director and brought in Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to take Fraser's place, and the film did just fine without them, with several sequels expected to follow. Ouch.

The joke was on him

Celebs becoming part of the meme machine can be a popularity boon — hey girl, just ask Ryan Gosling about that — but for Fraser, his internet infamy was more awkward and unsettling than endearing. At the 2010 Golden Globes, he was captured in a moment of exuberance that was so unusually enthusiastic it spawned a series of video riffs that poked fun at his finger-gunning fun and proved that the comedic actor was funnier in impromptu moments like this than in most of his movies. Yikes.

Was he blacklisted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association?

In a GQ story published in February 2018, a 49-year-old Fraser opened up for the first time about alleged harassment that changed the course of his personal and professional life and further isolated him from the Hollywood scene. The actor claims he was mortified after being groped at a luncheon in 2003 by Philip Berk, former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). The unfortunate experience left Fraser feeling ostracized. "I felt like someone had thrown invisible paint on me," he said, adding, "It made me feel reclusive. In my mind, at least, something had been taken away from me."

Though he didn't go public with the accusation, Fraser did notify the HFPA, which he believes may have contributed to his career downturn. "I don't know if this curried disfavor with the group, with the HFPA," he said. "But the silence was deafening."

Berk told GQ that Fraser's version of the incident was a "total fabrication." He reportedly sent the actor an apology letter but "admitted no wrongdoing," adding that Fraser's career "declined through no fault of ours."

Fraser disagreed. "The phone does stop ringing in your career, and you start asking yourself why. There's many reasons, but was this one of them? I think it was," he said.

'I just spoke my truth'

Not long after the stunning admissions he made in the aforementioned GQ interview, Fraser told E! News that he was ready to move on. Asked whether the revealing interview was "cathartic," Fraser said, "No, I just spoke my truth."

"A lot can happen and it's important to unburden yourself with the things you just don't need anymore," the Crash star said while speaking to E! at FX's Annual All-Star Party. "I can go forward now and I feel good that I was inspired by others with courage and I was able to speak what I needed to say and it's a new time."

It seems Fraser had already taken the time to fully process the anguish of his situation before going public. His remarks also indicate that in combination with his allegation that he was the subject of blackballing, he also intentionally shrank away from the spotlight as a result of the incident until he was emboldened by the ongoing #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. "It's a new era and I think some change that's good is going to come about," Fraser said of adding his voice and experience to the movements. "I'm optimistic. I'm hopeful."

Just when he thought it was over...

After speaking out about the alleged groping, Fraser seemed ready to turn the page. But then the HFPA conducted a private investigation and asked him to sign off on a joint statement that cleared Berk of wrongdoing and framed the whole incident as "a joke and not a sexual advance," according to GQ. Frasier declined. "I don't get the joke," he told the mag. He requested the full report from the investigation rather than the summary he was provided. The HFPA would not give Fraser the full report, which prompted even more skepticism from the actor. Now, he not only wants Berk to step down, but he also wants to help dismantle what he calls the "unwritten" system that kept him and so many other victims of sexual assault and harassment quiet in the interest of powerful entities.

"I want to end this episode, this chapter, in my own life and career and move on, just as I'm hopeful that others will be able to in years to come," Fraser said.

In a statement to GQ, the HFPA once again condemned the encounter between Berk and Fraser as "inappropriate" but reiterated the findings of its investigation.

Alimony acrimony

When the getting is good, there's no business like show business, but if and when the Hollywood freeze-out process does begin, it can be pretty hard to thaw out a career, and it's even harder to stop the financial bleed that comes with professional injury. Brendan Fraser has paid, quite literally, for all his former movie star glory.

Fraser and actress Afton Smith, with whom he has three sons, wed in 1998, announced their divorce in 2007, and reached a settlement for alimony and child support in 2009. However, the situation turned publicly ugly between them in 2013 when, as his career momentum slowed, Fraser petitioned for a reduction of his reported $900,000 a year payment schedule to Smith. She claimed he'd hidden funds and future film deals at the time of their settlement, but Fraser reasoned that he expected to make no money whatsoever (as in zero dollars) in the future and would be relying on the assets he'd earned prior to the petition for payments, due to unspecific medical issues which affected his workflow.

Is he combating a severe injury?

According to some sources, the setback Fraser was referring to in his aforementioned petition was a back injury he sustained while attempting to clear away yard debris from Hurricane Sandy with a chainsaw. His injury reportedly even required corrective surgery and intense physical therapy and may prevent him from being able to do his own stunt work, as he had in prior productions. If true, that would support his claim that medical concerns could limit his future earning potential.

Sad Fraser is sad

In December 2016, Brendan Fraser appeared on AOL's Build Series to discuss his role as Gunther the prison guard in Season 3 of Showtime's The Affair. His appearance on the Q&A session went viral for all the wrong reasons. Viewers of the segment remarked at how melancholy the actor appeared while discussing his career. If there was any lingering doubt that Fraser's personal and financial setbacks, combined with his lessening work opportunities, was taking a toll on the actor, that interview was considered proof that he was as woebegotten about his pratfalls as expected — if not more.

In February 2018, the actor talked about that uncomfortable appearance. "As it turns out, what was behind the sad Brendan Fraser meme was…sadness," reported GQ. "His mother had died of cancer just days before the interview." Fraser said he was grieving, coming to terms with a lot of significant life changes, and also simply struggling with the show's format, which was a new kind of press for him. "I was going through things that mold and shape you in ways that you're not ready for until you go through them," he told the magazine.

His fans really miss him

After the "Sad Brendan Fraser" video went viral, Fraser fans orchestrated a Change.org petition addressed to Netflix, HBO, Showtime, and other networks to encourage those companies to consider him for future opportunities. More than 46,000 signatures had been collected by the time of this writing. "Brendan has been in multiple interviews recently and has appeared to be very down and out," the petition said. "And us loyal fans feel like we are obliged to help him out in any way possible. Please help us get Brendan back on his feet again, we miss him." 

Earlier the same year, Reddit users devised a plan to hit social media with demands that Fraser make it into more roles, particularly on the small screen, even going so far as to pitch specific shows and arcs they felt he'd be a good match for, like AMC's Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul. After so many misses on the silver screen, perhaps the boob tube is where he really belongs right now. After all, it is a golden era for TV.

A self-imposed hiatus

Though Fraser has clearly laid the blame for his alienation from the industry at the feet of Berk and the HFPA, he also revealed that part of his long Hollywood hiatus was a conscious decision. Speaking with Madison in May 2018, Fraser acknowledged that there was a time that he couldn't keep up the pace of his own success. "It got to the point that I just wanted the music to stop," Fraser said. "I had two films coming out in the same week and I just wanted life to slow down. I'm almost 50 years old now and I realize things happen in cycles."

Fraser also spoke with Vanity Fair about his return to mainstream projects, such as the FX series Trust (more on that in a moment), telling the mag, "It's satisfying to take the time off that I have for various reasons and to come back under the wing of so many amazing creatives." In other words: While he faced a difficult ordeal with the HFPA incident, perhaps Fraser's timeout from Tinseltown wasn't all that terrible.  

The best may be yet to come

Momentum means a lot in Hollywood, especially when it comes to a good comeback story. In Brendan Fraser's case, there's reason to believe that he may already be back on his feet. Fresh off The Affair, which showcased an all-new sort of screen personality, and with the reactions to the Fraser-less Mummy reboot showing some nostalgia for his talents, he has eased right back into some high profile gigs.

He snagged the lead in an Indian mafia thriller called The Field, was part of A&E's impressive cast for Texas Rising, and even signed with a new talent agency. He also starred in the 2018 sci-fi romance Behind the Curtain of Night as a man who sees past lives after dying in his present one. He also starred in the critically-acclaimed FX anthology series Trust, starring alongside Oscar-winner Hilary Swank and Golden Globe-winner Donald Sutherland. According to Vanity Fair, it was Fraser's performance as Fletcher Chase, an eccentric private investigator, that gives Trust "a surprising jolt of electricity whenever he appears on-screen."

It sounds like the table is set for a big career comeback, and we're excited to see Fraser rise to the occasion.