PORTLAND — Interviewing celebrities is one of the great perks of this business.
In the past dozen years, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some fascinating individuals: Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, Jet Li, one of my all time favorite writer/directors Robert Benton, writer/director Catherine Hardwick (Twilight), screenwriter Mike Rich (Finding Forrester, Radio, The Rookie), actress Dakota Fanning, animation legend Henry Sellick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline), actress Teri Hatcher and a bunch of others.
I was contacted by the representatives of CBS Films and asked if I’d like to interview Brendan Fraser. He stars in Extraordinary Measures as John Crowley, a real-life Oregonian who went to extraordinary lengths to save the lives of his children.
You can find my review here.
Gary Wolcott: Much of Extraordinary Measures was filmed in Portland and some of it in Seattle. I write for a newspaper a couple of hundred miles east of both.
Brendan Fraser: The Tri-Cities?
GW: You know the Tri-Cities?
BF: I lived in Seattle, and I am familiar with the Tri-Cities. I’ve traveled all over the region. To Tri-Cities, Spokane and I did regional theater in Ellensburg at the Laughing Horse? I think it’s still there.
GW: I know it well. I managed two radio stations there in the late 1980s.
BF: I loved the area’s windometer.
GW: Ellensburg is known for it’s wind, but it actually may be more windy in Tri-Cities, but that’s off topic. Why this movie? Why Extraordinary Measures?
BF: It is material I’ve never seen before and is inspired by true events. It’s an opportunity to portray a person who is still alive. It is a remarkable story that shows us how a family survives in a very candid and honest way without ever being mawkish or insincere or deliberately plucking at the heart strings.
GW: John Crowley left a high-paying job and basically sacrificed his and his wife’s and his healthy child’s entire future for the two children with Pompe disease. I think most of us think we would do that, but would we really? Are you anything like him?
BF: I’m the father of three sons with healthy bodies. I would do whatever it takes to try to make it right.
GW: This is a long way from the kind of movie you normally do. The last time I remember seeing you was Journey to the Center of the Earth.
BF: I have a 20-year career. I have been very lucky. I say that in bold-faced italic, underlined twice. I have played a vast array of characters in different genres and have been able to go between The Quiet American or Gods and Monsters to films people are more familiar with. I enjoy the variety. And this [Extraordinary Measures] is an interesting movie.
GW: You’re really good at comedy. I think you’re underrated when it comes to drama. I loved Extraordinary Measures for the reasons you listed earlier. It’s genuine and doesn’t manipulate the emotions. You were very good. I liked the low-key performance. You’ve met John and spent time with him. Is that how he is in real life?
BF: John is one of the most principled individuals I’ve ever known, and he’s very funny. He’s a great guy to have a burger and a beer with. What he did is seen as impulsive by some. He just up and left work one day. But really, he’s the kind of person who thinks things through. He has the unique ability to pick up the best in people. I noticed that when I visited him at his lab in New Jersey where his laboratory is now. He has a team of scientists still doing research. John isn’t a scientist. He’s a Harvard MBA who worked for a pharmaceutical company, Bristol Meyers. He’s an advertising man and was doing very well. But it wasn’t enough good enough for what he needed to do to help his family survive. So he went off and sought out those who could help. The Harrison Ford character is a composite of several individuals.
GW: What is it like working with Harrison Ford?
BF: Extra cool. He’s Harrison Ford. He’s the man.
GW: I hear he’s really funny.
BF: This is true. I can’t repeat most of the jokes he would tell.
GW: You’re a pretty funny guy, too. But you’re not a joke guy. You have a great face and great facial expression. Perfect for George of the Jungle or Dudley Do-Right. Your face sold the first Mummy movie. What people don’t know is that you’re a fine dramatic actor. You proved that here and in Gods and Monsters and a couple of others.
BF: I appreciate that you’d say that. I’m actually happy just to be working.
GW: Aren’t we all. You’re in a very competitive field.
BF: It seems like films are being made in Hollywood that are either prequels, sequels or remakes. So for new material that comes out like this [Extraordinary Measures] it is very competitive.
GW: What haven’t you done that you would like to do? What kind of character?
Voice: Sorry, but we’ve got to go. Thanks a lot.
And at that point she hung up. I didn’t even get to say goodbye and thank you to Brendan. If you read this Brendan, I have more questions and would love to talk more. You can contact the Tri-City Herald. They know how to find me.