A Minute With: Brendan Fraser's "Extraordinary Measures"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Brendan Fraser has enjoyed a varied career, gaining fame in movies like the Pauly Shore comedy “Encino Man” as a cave dweller in modern times, and earning critical praise in dramas like Oscar winner “Crash.”

Actor Brendan Fraser smiles during a photocall at the 5th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival December 15, 2008. REUTERS/Jumana El Heloueh

Fraser’s newest role is real-life businessman and father, John Crowley, whose children are suffering from a rare genetic disorder.

“Extraordinary Measures,” which opens on Friday, tells how Crowley, his wife and a biotech scientist, played by Harrison Ford, raise money to find a treatment for the disease.

Fraser, 41, spoke to Reuters from Philadelphia after watching a test screening of the movie. He talked about the film and his varied career.

Q: You’ve worked in adventures (the “Mummy” movies), family comedies (“Looney Tunes: Back in Action”) and dramas (“Gods and Monsters”). What is special about “Extraordinary Measures”?

A: “You rarely get a chance to play a living, breathing human, unless you’re a comedian lampooning someone or you’re doing a well-known figure. John Crowley is not a celebrity, per se, although he is known in the scientific community. He’s a person who absolutely would not take ‘no’ for an answer. He’s easily one of the most principled people I’ve met. He’s resourceful. And it’s not exactly that he won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He’ll take a maybe and turn it into a yes.”

Q: You’re a father of three. Are any of your children disabled? Or did your personal life influence taking the role.

A: “My kids are healthy. But I do have the ability to identify with the ‘God forbid’ feeling that any parent who watches this movie feels when they think, ‘well, what would I do when faced with that challenge of keeping my kid alive.’ You would act and hang the consequences.”

Q: And Crowley acts by finding the man, the scientist, who can help cure his kids. But it’s not easy, is it?

A: “Harrison (Ford) did what he does best, which is create this grouchy character. He provides the edge for these two guys to go toe-to-toe in an intellectual battle over who’s right and who’s wrong. And they are both right, and both wrong. And in the end they find some mutual respect. This film, in my view, is a positive one. And I didn’t want anything to do with a film that was mockish, over sentimental, misguided or weepy.”

Q: Then, what should audiences take away from the movie?

A: “I was astonished by this test screening in Philadelphia with a regular audience -- they weren’t executives from studios or industry people in Hollywood. We did a question-and-answer session after it was over, and the best thing is that they didn’t have a question for me. The stars of the day were Crowley and his wife. I was delighted.”

Q: You’ve called Crowley a role model. In what way?

A: “He’s an individual who’s done a lot of good.”

Q: How?

A: “I think it’s his honesty, his crisp intelligence, and the way that he can speak to people and bring people together. The company he runs has a manifesto, which is basically about how people conduct themselves in the company. They aren’t cold, sterile individuals. It’s not about pursuing the almighty dollar. It is about making medicine that can improve the quality of life and advance science.”

Q: On the topic of role models. I’ve read that you say Harrison Ford was the actor you were inspired by? In what way?

A: “Oh come on, when you watch the films he did when you were a kid, you wanted to be that guy. He’d look like the kind of “can do” individual who would show up and win the day. But you know what, when you slugged him, he fell down and it hurt. But he got back up all the time...

“While I did study in a four-year conservatory in fine arts and acting, what are you going to do with it? It meant very little when it came to getting a job. That was perseverance and being in the right place and having opportunities that wouldn’t have been afforded me had I not put myself in a situation. If you ask who influenced me, him, among others -- Ian McKellen, Lynn Redgrave, Helen Mirren, gosh, who else... ‘”

Q: Pauly Shore?

A: “Definitely Pauly Shore. What not to do! Pauly will appreciate that joke. And Michael Caine. I forgot Michael.”

Q: We started by noting the range of work you’ve done. Who is the real Brendan Fraser, the serious dramatist who studied at the conservatory or the wacky, wild, comedic actor.

A: “You know what, a little mystery goes a long way.”

Editing by Patricia Reaney