This summer, Brendan Fraser will once again don his action-adventure hero hat — not a fedora — with the latest adaptation of "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and will star in the third installment of "The Mummy" series. But the versatile actor insists that he is interested only in being a storyteller, as he sat down to chat with "Popcorn With Peter Travers" on ABC News Now.
In "Journey," which opens Friday, July 11, Fraser plays Trevor Anderson, a scientist whose brother disappeared while searching for the mythical center of the earth. During the search, teenage nephew in tow, Fraser joins forces with a sexy Icelandic tour guide as they find their way deep inside the earth's crust, encountering glowing birds, dinosaurs and more.
This was going to be a different kind of adaptation, though. While fielding the script, Fraser recalled, "I saw a screenplay — it said adventure film, 'Journey to the Center of the Earth,' based on Jules Verne's classic. And the sentence that was left off the page was, 'This one's going to be shot entirely in 3-D.' I thought hold it, wait up, I love 3-D. What does that mean?"
To make this movie something new and different, filmmakers shot it entirely with a new process called RealD. "What we needed to use right now to view this film as it was conceived to be seen, which is in 3-D, is a convergence," he said. "An upgrade needed to be made."
It's notably been used in U2's recent concert film "U2 3D" from their Vertigo Tour, as well as James Cameron's upcoming sci-fi film "Avatar." With traditional 3-D, a RealD spokesperson explained, "you get dizzy, you get eye strain, and if you're sitting in the wrong part of the theater, it doesn't look good. Because Real-D is digital, it's perfectly calibrated."
Following "Journey" later this summer is the third installment in the successful "Mummy" franchise, "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," which will be released nationwide on Aug. 1. Of the second sequel, Fraser says, "We've taken the core group of characters and located them this time in China [rather than Egypt], and they discover the tomb of a despotic emperor and his terra-cotta army."
From early roles in the Pauly Shore comedy "Encino Man" and the religiously charged "School Ties," Fraser sought to pursue a career in acting, although he never had lofty aspirations.
"When the time came to make a choice as a young adult about where I wanted to go, an opportunity arose and I followed it," he said. "With good fortune, I believe that I do have that privilege to be able to do my job. A snowballing effect occurred and I guess that's what became my professional career, as an actor. I felt good and I felt comfortable inhabiting the clothes, the mantle and the skin of other characters and being part of a process of telling stories."
Fraser remains grateful for his success. "I do know that this is what makes me happy, this is what my professional vocation allows for me to feel satisfied doing, and I know how to do my job. On top of that I learned how to do something each time out," he said.
"Even if the movie's tinkering, I've met someone, I've gone somewhere, I've picked up a trick or two from somebody that I've worked with, and that all informs the rest of the work that you're going to be doing over the trajectory of your professional life," he added.
Even with his status as a leading man, Fraser is still stunned by some of the projects and good fortune. Regarding his performance with childhood idol Ian McKellen in "Gods and Monsters,' Fraser said, "I used to watch 'Acting Shakespeare' on videotapes in the library. Did I ever think I would work with him? Did I ever dare to imagine it? It was so unattainable and then to have had done that was a fulfillment of an aspiration that I never thought would be my life."
Fraser's commitment as a storyteller is as evident as ever in both "Journey" and the third installment of the "Mummy" franchise. "It's important because what we're doing is really affirming the experience of going to the movies," he said. "This is bringing people back to the theaters because it's basically in a way what this technology does is taking an audience member and placing them directly into the world of the movie. They feel as though they can move about and inhabit the same space as the actors," Fraser said.
"Cynics go, 'No, it's not about curing cancer here,'" he said. "But you know in a way we are actually taking people to another place, if only for a short while. And to take them to that place, if you're good at your job and working with the right people, it's the best job in the world."
At this point in his career, Fraser has come to realize that he has more to contribute to films outside of acting. "There comes a point where you turn a corner and realize that you've been doing this long enough," he said. "You have experience like a pilot would in the air, where what you have to contribute does have merit, it does have weight, it does have value."