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Let the Brendan Fraser Renaissance Begin

The erstwhile action star’s recurring role on ‘The Affair’ is only the beginning of his comeback

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

Where were you when you first realized you hadn’t heard from Brendan Fraser in a while?

Whole summers came and went with no marquee Fraser roles. Entire holiday seasons passed with nary an awkward chuckle. He languished in the background, making appearances in the occasional comedy, just enough to let us know that he was alive — but the megabudget blockbusters? The franchise-carrying spotlights? The wall-to-wall BRENDAN FRASER ads on bus stops and in Times Square and in the bedrooms of teenagers within the steal-cardboard-cutouts-from-movie-theaters age bracket? Nada. Starting sometime in the late aughts, Brendan Fraser, movie star, went MIA.

But friends, I come bearing news, something bright and gangly and voice-cracky to carry into the new year. Our Encino Man has awoken once again, this time thawing out with a recurring — and very creepy — guest spot on Showtime’s The Affair, and I can feel it in my bones. Tie a sweatshirt around your waist, because the Brenaissance is upon us.

Our man has made some mistakes, sure. And yes, maybe his hiccups en route to top-billing excommunication were a little more visible, a little louder, a little … stranger than some of ours: Dudley Do-Right, for instance, 1999’s remake of the classic cartoon, starring Fraser as an oblivious Mountie. Or here is the trailer for 2001’s Monkeybone, a film whose plot revolves around Fraser being possessed by a raunchy cartoon monkey:

Monkeybone grossed $5.4 million off a $75 million budget, a ratio that is not classically considered “good.” Or take a more recent venture from what I like to call the Adrift Fraser Period, an era in which the big roles stopped coming and he instead got tangled up in things like 2010’s Furry Vengeance, which I will allow to speak for itself:

(Summit Entertainment)
(Summit Entertainment)

I know. I do. Let’s just leave it at the odds being good that he knows, too.

I like to imagine that deep in a subterranean salt mine — let us posit that our man knows a thing or two about the anti-aging powers of saline crystals; I have no evidence of this, it just feels right — word reached the now-48-year-old Fraser that the wheels of Hollywood were beginning to turn. That the loom in the Hall of Leading Men was starting to spin once more, this time in reverse, unraveling the great tapestry of Brendan Fraser: swashbuckler, stitch by stitch. First there was this year’s The Legend of Tarzan, which — OK, Fraser’s 1997 George of the Jungle was only an auxiliary member of the Tarzan Expanded Universe, sort of the Tab to your average king of the jungle’s Coca-Cola: sweeter, stranger, maybe a little more problematic. Let Alexander Skarsgard have a go at it, fine.

But then — this shit with Tom Cruise?

Remember The Mummy, from the distant days of 1999? Remember how much fun The Mummy was?

They — the powers that be, the ones who saw Fraser’s squirrel-infested boat begin to drift away from the dock and gave it a good kick, the people who are going to keep casting 54-year-old Cruise in action movies until Cthulhu has reabsorbed the life force of every last one of us — have the audacity to claim that Cruise’s Mummy is not a remake but rather just the next step in Universal’s monster line, and that, moreover, Fraser’s Mummy, whatever its merits, does not give him jurisdiction over all the creepy sarcophagi in the world. To which I say: Yes, it does.

So it’s time for Fraser to reclaim his throne. Remember Harold Ramis’s Bedazzled, from 2000? A movie in which Fraser, in pursuit of a lady love, tangos through a half-dozen different roles courtesy of some wishes from Elizabeth “The Devil, But Hot” Hurley, from basketball star to mustachioed drug lord to writer, every one of them exasperated in a slightly different way, like sighs from a golden retriever? Exasperation is the jewel in Fraser’s particular Hollywood crown. He is a man whose face is second in elasticity maybe only to Jim Carrey’s, and who has a Harrison Ford–esque ability to shift between hapless goober and dashing savior from scene to scene. But he lacks Ford’s self-assured sheen; when Fraser gets the girl, you feel like he really worked for it. At his peak, he was a perfect leading man: charming, funny, floppy-haired. Dumb, sometimes. Clever, often. Harry Potter, basically, if he had a personality and pheromones.

And now he is back. He has a leading role lined up on the books, though in yet another smaller picture: Behind the Curtain of Night, to be directed by Dalibor Stach, whose LinkedIn page notes that he is a Filmová produkce, and whose name is Dalibor Stach, and whom I trust completely. The plot follows a man, Fraser, whose near-death experience sends him on a tour of past and future lives — from World War II to the year 3012 — and features Marcia Cross playing God; no summer blockbuster, but Fraser 2.0 has to start somewhere. An alternate name for Behind the Curtain of Night is Bedazzled, God Edition. An alternate theory for Bedazzled is that there wasn’t enough of it. An alternate word for my feelings about this is FUCK YEAH BRENDAN FRASER.

Buckle in and get ready for the Brenaissance. Fraser’s current roles are serious ones, and smaller than those he’s played in the past, but let’s trust that our once and future hero knows the first law of thermoactmatics: A true ham only gets better with age. Winter is coming — and so are some goofy grins.