Action movies make for a thrilling watch, but all those stunning performances are put on by trained stunt people or edited in with CGI, right? While our technological advancements have certainly allowed for more impressive special effects and unbelievably realistic action sequences over the years, plenty of stars are still imperiled by real-life dangers on the set. While filming The Mummy, Brendan Fraser — then at the height of his fame — had a terrifying moment when a hanging scene became a real threat to his safety. The impact of scenes like this were part of Fraser’s decision to take a step back from Hollywood.
‘The Mummy’ represented peak Brendan Fraser
Fraser’s career saw an impressive rise throughout the late 1990s. Beginning with George of the Jungle (1997), and followed by Gods and Monsters (1998), and culminating in The Mummy (1999), Fraser was enjoying a high point in his acting prowess.
The Mummy, in particular, was a box office success that has kept fans talking for two decades. The film starred Fraser as Rick O’Connell, an explorer who teams up with a librarian to examine an ancient archaeological site. As they race against another team trying to access the site, they unfortunately unleash a mummy as part of a curse from High Priest Imhotep.
The film was so successful that it spawned two direct sequels, and Brendan Fraser reprised the part of Rick O’Connell for both The Mummy Returns (2001) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008).
Fraser passed out filming a close-up scene
A big draw of The Mummy was its action-packed sequences in which the stars were imperiled by the cursed monster as it pursued them. The film definitely had a campy feel, but the actors were put into positions of real-life danger in order to get some of the shots.
Early in the film, Fraser’s character Rick O’Connell is hanged in a prison. As Entertainment Weekly reports, there was a stuntman doing the most dangerous part of the scene. However, when it came time to do the close-up, it had to be Fraser’s real face in order to keep the illusion secure.
Fraser explained, “There was a hangman’s gallows, and there was a hemp rope tied into a noose that was placed around my neck. The first take, I’m doing my best choking acting. Steve says, ‘Can we go for another one and take up the tension on the rope?’ I said, ‘All right, one more take.’ Because a noose around your neck’s going to choke you in the arteries, no matter what. He continued:
“So, the stuntman took up the tension on the rope, and I went up on the balls of my feet, then I guess he took the tension up again, and I’m not a ballerina, I can’t stand on my tip-toes. I remember seeing the camera start to pan around, and then it was like a black iris at the end of a silent film. It was like turning down the volume switch on your home stereo, like the Death Star powering down. I regained consciousness and one of the EMTs was saying my name.”
Why did Brendan Fraser step back from acting?
While this incident may seem like an isolated occurrence, Fraser was putting his body on the line on a regular basis, and it was taking a tremendous toll on not only his physical health, but his mental health as well. In fact, Fraser pointed to the impact of stunt work as one of the reasons he decided to “retreat” from Hollywood.
Fraser had to take time off to get surgeries to repair some injuries sustained during his work. Then, he came forward to discuss an alleged sexual harassment incident. As he described being inappropriately touched by the then-HFPA president, Fraser faced criticism from peers and the media, creating an even more toxic work environment.
The star has continued to work, but his career took a decided turn from his blockbuster days and into a quieter, more reserved path with television defining most of his recent roles. Upcoming projects promise a return to the big screen that has many fans who never stopped rooting for Fraser thrilled.