Brendan Fraser is getting quite good at dodging computer-generated creatures. In his latest movie, he has his hands full with not just one mummy, but a whole army of terra cotta warriors come to life in "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" (Hamunaputora 3 for Japan), the third in a series that started in 1999 with "The Mummy" and continued in 2001 with "The Mummy Returns."
“I’ve been waiting seven long years for a phone call telling me I’d got the job for a third film,” said Fraser, 39, during a visit to Japan this month with co-stars Michelle Yeoh, 46, and Isabella Leong, 20. “I can’t think of a more awesome and fun part to play for a male actor my age. I was gifted with the role of archeologist Rick O’Connell 10 years ago. I wanted to make him a character who could fall down, get a bloody nose, make a wisecrack, get back up again and ask for more.”
Set in 1946 (after a prologue in 50 BC), the film opens with Rick and his famous author wife Evelyn (Maria Bello substituting for Rachel Weisz) living a quiet and bored life in the English countryside. However, their son Alex (Luke Ford), apparently a chip off the old block, is in China, doing some tomb raiding. He foolishly awakens the evil Han emperor (Jet Li) and his warriors from a 2,000-year curse put on them by a powerful sorceress (Yeoh). In true Indiana Jones style, Rick and Evelyn are off to save the day, from the catacombs of China to the Himalayas, battling abominable snowmen, three-headed dragons and armies of computer-generated mummy soldiers.
“Anything is possible with CG today,” said Fraser, still showing some of the dopey mannerisms that brought him fame as the defrosted Neanderthal man back in the 1992 teen comedy "Encino Man." As he talks, he drifts off into monologues. “If you can imagine it, you can put it on the screen. The challenge we face is to invent a reality that does not exist, which becomes a collaboration with the visual effects artists, and do so in a way that is seamless. We, as actors, must believe in the unbelievable. If we don’t, you the audience won’t like it and you’ll ask for your money back.” It is also important, he added, to have an element in the script that audiences can identify with. “Here we have the collision between father and son, like an old bull and a young one.”
Yeoh, who was born in Malaysia, said she was pleased to see "The Mummy" franchise come to China. “Of course, we don’t have mummies in China, though there are a lot of them running around in this movie. But what is wonderful is that it gives more audiences a glimpse at Chinese history.”
Both she and Leong, who plays Luke’s mysterious love interest, said they had a ball working with Fraser. “At first, I found it difficult to communicate with him because he is such a funny guy,” said Leong who hails from Macau. “He’s quite a prankster,” added Yeoh. “He likes to play jokes on everyone. You almost have to lock him up when he’s not on the set.”
For Fraser, 2008 is shaping up as the year of fighting monsters. As soon as he has routed the mummy army at the box office, he will be taking on some more unfriendly creatures in "Journey to the Center of the Earth" in the fall.© Japan Today