For all the effects and tricks that goes on behind the scenes, moviemaking can be a dangerous business. Or at least it looks like it was for Brendan Fraser on the set of the original Mummy. Along with the cast including Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo and writer/director Stephen Sommers, Fraser shot the film in Morocco. According to the actor, the “bugs looked like armored vehicles” and he a couple run-ins with death. In his words:
They sent a memo out on the call sheet describing a type of snake that, I think, it had yellow dots on it. They said, ‘If you see this kind of snake, do not go near it. Walk — or run away. Because, at best, if it bites you, maybe they’ll amputate your limb. Anyway, there I was, pissing down a rock, and I look down, and there’s the yellow dot snake. I was like, ‘Fuck!‘ I just ran for it.
Eeek! This sounds terrifying! In the wise words of fellow movie adventurer Indiana Jones: “why did it have to be snakes!” It doesn’t help that Brendan Fraser was pissing when he received a visit from the deadly reptile but thankfully it’s danger had been identified to him prior and he knew to book it.
A brief meet-and-greet with a deadly snake is nothing compared to Brendan Fraser’s next story about his brush with death. It happened during the scene in The Mummy when Fraser’s Rick O’Connell is about to be publicly hung as Rachel Weisz’ Evie tries to barter for his life. Here’s what the actor said of the scene:
I did get fully choked-out. It was scary. Rick is dangling at the end of the rope, and he’s such a tough guy that his neck didn’t snap. We did the wide shot, which was the stuntman going down, and he had a harness on, and it looked great. Then they’ve got to go in [for a close-up]. 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 got for another one and take up the tension on the rope?’ I said, ‘All right, one more take.’ Because a noose around your neck is going to choke you in the arteries, no matter what.
Here’s the scene he’s talking about, from the 1999 adventure:
When the close ups featuring Brendan Fraser instead of the stuntman were done on set, director Stephen Sommers needed the actor to look more believably like he was being strangled to death and he actually was to some degree. Fraser continued to EW with:
So, the stuntman took up the tension on the rope, and I went up on the balls of my feet, then 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. There was gravel in my ear and shit really hurt. The stunt coordinator came over, and he said, ‘Hi! Welcome to the club, bro! Ha ha ha!’ And I was like, “Ha ha, funny? Ha ha?’ Like, What the hell? I want to go home! Steven — he and I disagree — but I think he was trying to go, ‘Oh, that wacky Brendan, acting up a storm again!’, or something like that. I was like, ‘Hey, you guys think what you need to, but I’m done for the day.’
Wow. The noose ended up becoming so tight on him that he actually knocked out during the filming of the scene. His description on how it felt is insane too. You can tell he was a blend of scared and pissed off after that happened and rightly so. However, the director tells it different. Stephen Sommers says Fraser is “totally to blame” and “he did it to himself”. While the actor agrees “it was my fault” but only because he was following the direction of the scene.
Debates aside, Brendan Fraser and Stephen Sommers are still good friends and collaborators even if they still disagree on that on-set moment. Can you believe it’s been 20 years since The Mummy hit theaters? The movie remains a classic, untarnished by Universal’s flopped remake in 2017 that attempted to begin a “Dark Universe” for movie monsters that has since been scrapped.
Brendan Fraser now stars in DC’s acclaimed Doom Patrol television series as Robotman and Rachel Weisz will be in the Black Widow movie coming in May 2020.