The Mummy Almost Killed Brendan Fraser

Brendan Fraser's adventure movie breakout role in The Mummy was almost his last movie role.

Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weiss in The Mummy
Photo: Universal

Brendan Fraser has done some daring things throughout his career. He donned a loin cloth and ran into trees for George of the Jungle. He put in a vulnerable performance under layers of fake flesh for the controversial The Whale. He starred in a movie with Pauly Shore.

But it’s that very affability that made Fraser such a beloved star. Whether running around with Bugs Bunny or listening longingly to legendary director James Whale, Fraser brought an openness that immediately brought the audience over to his side. The empathy he generates has been central to his recent resurgence, as fans across the internet cheered his appearances in the DC series Doom Patrol and the Steven Soderbergh release No Sudden Move. Heck, even those disgusted by the themes and visuals of The Whale still praise Fraser’s performance.

Of course, the Fraser revival is also driven by nostalgia, especially for his turn as Rick O’Connell in 1999’s The Mummy. One of the few post-Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movies to capture the charm and adventure of Indy at his best, The Mummy remains a favorite of the late Gen Xers and Millennials cheering Fraser’s return.

So there’s a bit of irony in the revelation that Fraser’s vulnerability in The Mummy almost put an end to not just his career, but his life. Appearing on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Fraser recalled a dangerous on-set incident. After an opening prologue that finds O’Connell leading the Foreign Legion in a failed mission, The Mummy returns to show him imprisoned and about to be hanged. While the scene makes for a gripping sequence, the near-death experience became a little too real.

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“I was standing on my toes like this, with the rope [around my neck], and you only got so far to go,” Fraser told Clarkson (via The Hollywood Reporter). When the shot didn’t meet his expectations, director Stephen Sommers asked the actor to better sell the choking affect. “And I was like, ‘All right, fine.’ So I thought, ‘One more take, man,'” the actor said.

But when he extended himself higher to accentuate the effect, the stunt coordinator performing the hangman pulled the noose up more. “I was stuck on my toes — I had nowhere to go but down,” Fraser explained. “And so he was pulling up, and I was going down, and the next thing I knew, my elbow was in my ear, the world was sideways, there was gravel in my teeth, and everyone was really quiet.”

Of course, Fraser did survive the experience and succeeded in making a movie so good that not even Tom Cruise could will a better version into existence. And he clearly bore no ill-will toward Sommers, returning for the less-successful The Mummy Returns and even agreeing to cameo in the director’s underrated G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. Of course, he also teamed up with Pauly Shore again to cameo in In The Army Now, so maybe Fraser’s just a really nice guy.

And in the end, isn’t being nice the most daring feat of all?