Seven years after he last played globe-trotting adventurer Rick O'Connell, in 2001's The Mummy Returns, Encino Man star Brendan Fraser climbs back into the saddle for another battle with the un-dead in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
After such a long layoff, the veteran actor couldn't wait to reprise his signature role. "I missed playing Rick and that last seven years I've been waiting for the call," says Fraser. "It's just really great stuff, fun stuff...I am enjoying myself out there. And I wanted to see where these characters would go, knowing that they would be set in another archaeologically rich nation: China."
China is where Fraser's character encounters his newest nemesis, a resurrected despot known as Emperor Han, played by franchise newcomer Jet Li. Another new addition to the cast is Maria Bello, who takes over for Rachel Weisz in the role of Rick's paramour Evelyn. "When I heard that (Weisz) decided to step aside, I knew I would feel her absence no matter who stepped into the role," recounts Fraser. "Bringing Maria Bello into that character has allowed for a type of re-invention of the librarian/expeditioner-ess, to have a different run at what the dynamic of that couple is now."
Whether or not audiences accept the change will hinge largely on the ability of Fraser and Bello to recreate the hot-and-cold romantic chemistry of the previous two Mummy flicks. Helping their case is the fact that the Dragon Emperor storyline takes place several years after the previous film, with the O'Connells now retired. Their college-age son Alex (played by Aussie Luke Ford) is the one doing the adventuring now.
Fraser welcomed the addition of the father-son relationship. "It allowed for a dynamic of what (director Rob Cohen) called the 'old bull' and the 'young-bull,' knocking skulls and having that tension that families usually identify with," he explains. "You need to have that in the midst of all of this huge imagery and pyrotechnics. You want to be able to latch onto something, some story, and in that case I think it was good to be very specific: he's a 20-something-year-old guy, he's thinks he's got chops and he's got a chip on his shoulder the size of a railroad tie...to watch them come together whilst vanquishing the un-dead is always fun in a movie."
While Fraser is certainly open to vanquishing the un-dead in another Mummy flick ("Ask me in a little while and I'll see if I have enough fluid left in my knees," he jokes), what excites him these days is G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, the upcoming live-action update of the classic '80s cartoon.
Fraser's interest in the flick was so great that he called up G.I. Joe director Stephen Sommers to beg for a part. Sommers, who worked with the actor in the first two Mummy flicks, was happy to oblige. Fraser remains tight-lipped about the nature of his role -- save for one key detail. "Let's get this straight, I am not Gung Ho," he declares, quite adamantly. "I am not a refugee from the Village People, like the character Gung Ho. I am not that character. I made a personal choice and decided I would be a great-great grandson of Rick O'Connell."
"That's all I'm telling you," he concludes.
Uh, ok. Glad we cleared that up.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor opens nationwide August 1st, 2008.