Brendan Fraser has made a big impression in Hollywood, from portraying a man raised by apes to helming an action-film franchise and beyond. The Indiana native, who is a dual citizen in the U.S. and Canada, has also had his fair share of ups and downs in the entertainment industry.
After falling in love with acting while visiting London as a teenager, Fraser attended Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. He later studied the craft at a small acting college in New York City before making his film debut in 1991 with a role in Dogfight playing Sailor No. 1.
“They gave me a sailor outfit, along with some other guys, and we did a punch-up scene with some Marines. And I got my Screen Actors Guild card and an extra 50 bucks for the stunt adjustment, ‘cause they threw me into a pinball machine,” Fraser recalled during a February 2018 interview with GQ of his first Hollywood gig. “I think I bruised a rib, but I was like, ‘That’s OK! I’ll take it. I can do it again. If you want, I’ll break it. You want me to do it again?’”
The With Honors actor landed his first lead role one year later with Encino Man. He didn’t, however, make a real splash in the industry until 1997’s George of the Jungle. The film, in which Fraser wore a loincloth that highlighted his muscles, eventually grossed $175 million worldwide.
That success was just the beginning for the actor, who landed the role of Rick O’Connell in The Mummy franchise shortly thereafter. He played the action-adventure hero in three films, 1999’s The Mummy, 2001’s The Mummy Returns and 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
“Brendan is one of the few guys in Hollywood, if not the only guy, who is movie-star handsome and built like an Adonis, but not afraid to take a pie in the face,” the Tomb of the Dragon Emperor director Rob Cohen told the Orange County Register in July 2008. “And he relishes it. If you gave him the choice of doing dramatic monologues or slipping on a banana peel into a mud puddle, I think he would choose the pratfall every time. He’s a powerful dramatic actor, but deep down inside, he’s a goofball.”
Despite having numerous box office hits in the early ‘00s, Fraser saw a decline in his numbers around the same time after appearing in films like Looney Toons: Back in Action in 2003.
“I believe I probably was trying too hard, in a way that’s destructive,” Fraser told GQ in 2018 of the highs and lows of his career. “By the time I did the third Mummy picture in China I was put together with tape and ice — just, like, really nerdy and fetishy about ice packs. Screw-cap ice packs and downhill-mountain-biking pads, ’cause they’re small and light and they can fit under your clothes. I was building an exoskeleton for myself daily.”
The wear and tear on his body eventually led to surgery and lots of recovery. According to Fraser, he was in and out of hospitals for nearly seven years, undergoing procedures on his knee, back and even his vocal cords.
Fraser seemingly disappeared from the limelight in the mid to late ‘00s, but he did appear in a few films here and there. His career resurgence came on the small screen with roles in TV shows, including Texas Rising in 2015 and a role on season 3 of The Affair in 2016.
Three years later, the Canadian-American actor returned to film with 2019’s The Poison Rose.
Scroll down to relive Fraser’s career and personal ups and downs over the years: