Brendan Fraser: Mr. October?
Sorry, the 'Scout' star is the only baseball hero to see this month
Brendan Fraser is glorying in a geek’s revenge. ”Of course I was a dork,” the actor admits when asked about his less-than-illustrious early years. ”But that’s okay, because the coolest people I know now were all dorks.”
Easy for him to say. At 25 and safely out of any adolescent awkwardness — real or imagined — Fraser is becoming famous enough that no one minds if he’s shy or somewhat bumbling. He slouches, he plays with his ear, and while he’s willing to talk, he doesn’t think he’s very good at it. What he is good at is letting loose in front of the camera. As Steve Nebraska in The Scout, Albert Brooks’ baseball comedy, Fraser plays an unsocialized, out-to-lunch hitting-and-pitching phenomenon with a gleeful lack of self-consciousness.
While the role may be the first to combine Fraser’s silliness and his sexiness, ”there’s a (connecting) line between all the characters I play,” he says. ”They arrive in a world that they don’t understand and want to become like everyone else.” As a Stone Age relic in 1992’s Encino Man and a Jewish football player facing anti-Semitism in School Ties that same year, Fraser has played characters who often find themselves forced to go against the grain. As for Nebraska, a semi-amnesiac who’s comfortable upstaging the film’s cameo crooner Tony Bennett but is scared to be alone, ”he’s lost,” says Fraser. ”He is lost.”
The son of a former Canadian tourism official whose job forced the family to move often, Fraser clicked with Nebraska’s ”journey … to adapt to new surroundings. I remember being the new kid all the time, and that causes a lot of anxiety. But there was a joy in redefining yourself each time.”
There are limits, however: Fraser is no Roger Clemens, no matter how well he acts. ”I was asked to pitch the opening pitch of a Mariners game,” he says, ”and it was miserable. I pitched the worst slider you’ve ever seen.” Three weeks of training with USC’s baseball coach near his home in Los Angeles yielded results that were no more impressive: ”I broke some very expensive camera equipment,” he says of his throwing arm. ”On location in Mexico, the extras would yell, ‘Break something else, señor!” Still, he got the ball over the plate ”three times out of five. Or maybe seven,” he falters. ”If I’d been really bad, they would’ve used a double.”
Unlike Nebraska, Fraser ”is not a lunatic; he’s just odd,” says the film’s costar and cowriter, Brooks. But ”he’s funny and doesn’t know he’s funny, which is the best kind of funny.” Despite doing a dead-on imitation of Melanie Griffith posing as a spy in Germany in Shining Through (”I made some strudel! Eat the strudel!”), Fraser insists, ”I take myself very seriously … I’m really into seat belts and helmets.” And when he’s not working, ”I read books, and I organize slips of paper. I’m pretty obsessive.”
Luckily, there’s been plenty to keep him busy. His projects aren’t all hits — ”No one saw Airheads,” he says nonchalantly of the recent comedy in which he played a frustrated musician. ”It was out for two seconds.” But with six movies in just three years on his résumé, he’s definitely playing in the majors — although some cities are more hospitable than others. ”Usually when I’m recognized, it’s, ‘You’re the guy from the movies, right?’ In New York, they know me. But in L.A,” he says, ”it’s, ‘You’re not Tom Cruise — siddown.”’