Interview : Brendan Fraser

Despite his age, Brendan Fraser, now 40, looks as fit as ever in his newest flick Journey to the Center of the Earth. And yes, they’re real his muscles – not some padding he borrowed from Brandon Routh.

Fraser was determined to look his best for the film – if only because we get to see every vein, every blemish and every muscle up-close this time. Yep, George of the Jungle has entered the third dimension [3D] – and you don’t need a pair of those crappy blue-and-red cardboard glasses to experience the full effect of having his muscular fist stick you, as an audience member, in the nose!

“Those red-eye blue eye things are out!” says Fraser, handing me a pair of the snazzy-looking 3D specs we need to wear to experience his latest film. “They are revolutionizing the way we see 3D – and better still, you don’t get paper-cuts”.

“It hasn’t been done like this before”, says Fraser, before giving us a refresher course on how we got to here. “Someone had the idea of putting an audio track alongside video….The talkies…The dream then moved forward. We had Technicolor, television… Encino Man (we both laugh)…and now Journey to the Center of the Earth.

“A lot has happened in terms of CGI – we can now give audiences an experience of being immersed by the world on screen. The cameras we used were Cameron/Pace Fusion cameras – cutting-edge technology – and Cameron’s coming out with his 3D film Avatar in 2010. If you see this picture today you can then go away saying ‘I was there then’ – then when it happened been done, until now. It’s an experience”.

Fraser says the storyline isn’t exactly novel (“It’s all in the title. A guy and two kids fall down a whole. Work together. Get out”), but the way it’s translated to the screen is.

“Now it’s around you, it’s in front of you… there’s depth of feel”, he explains. “I know I sound like a real poindexter about all this, but I’m just really passionate about this film.”

Fraser, who is an executive producer on the film (“I got a lot more say at the table” because of the second hat he wore on the picture, says the actor), says he’s learnt a lot about the process since bursting onto the scene with that cheeseball caveman comedy.

“I’ve learnt a lot since Encino Man – I remember on that film there was hardly any CGI – unless you count Pauly Shore – because of the budget. Since then I’ve seen blue screen, green screen… no-screen. Yep, you don’t need a screen to create an effect now.”

But “Audiences have seen everything over the last 15 years”, he explains “good effects are no longer a good excuse to see a movie”.

“So, what do you do about that?”, asks the actor, whose credits also include Airheads, Crash and George of the Jungle. “Well, you make a story you’re passionate about – One that’s just as good as the effects and serves as a counter-balance. Or, you roll the dice and do something like this. Or both”

Because of how poor the 3D technology was in the 80s, when it used to poor effect in films like Jaws 3D (“You had to wait two hours for [whistles Jaws theme] wham! Big deal!”) and Freddy’s Dead (“where things just poke at you? How annoying was that!”), there’s a lot of scepticism about the format still.

“You go to comic book conventions and there’s always comic-book nerds that are like (in disbelieving snarky tone) ‘Go on, impress me’. They put the glasses on – they look a little bit dorky, but we’re all in this together. The lights go out. And then the jaw drops!”

The actor, who recently finished filming G.I Joe, says he’s seen the film with audiences in both America and Europe and they’re amazed by it. “Little kids especially love it – besides Shark Boy and Lava Girl, which was pretty much just about the effects and that’s it, they haven’t really experienced this type of film. But it doesn’t matter what age you are – I defy you not to have a good time with it.”

He may be a flag-flyer for the technology but Fraser says “not every film should be shot in 3D – I mean, you don’t want the next Schindlers-List-kinda-thing to be shown in 3D”. Having said that, “Spielberg has gotten on board. He wasn’t going to work with it because of the politics of the projection system, but he’s now on board.”

Some theaters still haven’t been equipped to play 3D movies as yet – and that needs to change. “They need to put the black box on the side. We’re all going to make money. It’s a good thing. At the end of the day, we’ll all have a good time at the movies”.

Fraser’s looking forward to doing another film in 3D real soon. Might that be a Journey sequel?

“I hope so. Gosh” admits Fraser. “There’s a prop at the end of the first film that does indicate there may be one”.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH is now showing

- CLINT MORRIS