In his twenty-year career, Brendan Fraser has gone from heartthrob to action hero to dramatic actor and back to action hero (though never back to heartthrob), and he now stars in the true-story sick-child biopic Extraordinary Measures, which opens tomorrow. We spoke to Fraser about meeting Harrison Ford, how Extraordinary Measures is already going viral, and his enduring love for G.I. Joe.
Your character in Extraordinary Measures is based on a real, wealthy executive, John Crowley, who had two kids with the rare Pompe disease and who funded a doctor (Harrison Ford) to find a cure. Yet the movie takes a different approach to the “based on a true story” genre by not dramatically changing the original story just to up the ante.
Isn’t that a relief? It was a hard and fast rule from Harrison [Ford], the executive producer: We are not pulling at heartstrings here; we’re not playing for effect; we’re not going to intentionally make our audience cry. No. That’s not the point. This is a story of how a family succeeds. And I’m not spoiling anything here, it’s in the title.
Had you ever met Harrison Ford before this project?
We met onstage at the Spike TV Awards; I was selling mummy warriors and he was selling crystal skulls. It was my duty, my obligation, to present him with Spike TV’s Brass Balls Award. I later met him to read [for Extraordinary Measures] in an office and I was feeling it out — I wasn’t sure if I was getting hired or not — and I said, ‘I gotta ask, so whatever became of the Brass Balls?’ I was daring myself to say, ‘Jump up and down, I want to hear them clank.’ But he said, ‘Nah, I sold them for scrap metal.’
The film is an interesting statement on the state of health care. John couldn’t get the funding until he proved it was profitable.
The film makes a point without thumbing its nose or vilifying pharmaceutical companies. It does say, though, that this is the bottom line. What is the value of a human life? Especially for a rare disease. Not one that will get rid of your hay fever that will actually make you feel more ill than you are — not to be cynical.
So, Harrison’s line in the film, “I already work around the clock!” is getting a lot of attention on the Internet.
I guess so. You’re the second person to tell me that today. Another journalist said that it’s all over the blogs. I guess it’s becoming a catchphrase.
Bill Simmons from ESPN is using that phrase quite a bit. All publicity is good, right?
I don’t know; it depends on what it is. Pompe, as a disease, may ravage the body but it does not ravage the mind. Let me tell you that a now 13-year-old Megan Crowley will likely be reading your piece. So, I’m warning you [laughs], you better not say anything mean about her daddy.
Are you surprised, eighteen years later, that the scene from School Ties where you yell “Cowards!” outside in the rain is still being referenced and parodied on shows like Family Guy?
Yeah, they did the “Cowards” line! It’s gratifying. I saw that and I was like, “Yes! I made Family Guy! I’ve arrived!” [Laughs]. But that people actually get it? I feel good. I’m glad I stood underneath that rain tower freezing my ass off at four o’clock in the morning screaming “Cowards!”
How many takes did you have to do?
I think I got it in two; they were merciful to me. They just kept the camera rolling and I just kept belting it out until they said, “Eh, I think we got it. That’s enough.” That was the first film I ever made and then I went on to do other things that tortured me. That’s another interview altogether.
The new G.I. Joe film was just greenlit. Will we see you return in your role as Sargeant Stone?
I just ran into Channing Tatum at one of the junkets in L.A. a couple of days ago. Knowing Steven [Summers] and that I begged to be in G.I. Joe — which I did — I hope they give me a ring because I will come back. You know, I’d be happy to show up and just bark out one line and split, again. Maybe I can be the great-great grandson of Rick O’Connell.