The Mummy: Casting the Mummy

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Before the producers even began to think about casting the film, they received a call from Brendan Fraser expressing his interest in the project. Fraser, who first leapt to stardom as the title character in Encino Man and sealed his status as a bonafide star in George of the jungle, had the same enthusiasm for the project as the producers. They clicked immediately. For the lead role of Rick O'Connell, a swashbuckling mercenary who leads an expedition to the legendary City of the Dead, Fraser was their man.

"When I first read the script," Fraser recalls, "I knew I had to do it. It harkens back to those great old monster movies. The situations are similar to the whole series of Mummy films, but we have been able to embellish the best of what made the Mummy films so delightfully spooky and couple that with very sophisticated, computer-generated technology."

In describing his character, Fraser says, "Rick O'Connell is not your typical hero. He's more of an accidental hero, a 'here we go again' kind of hero. He's not a 'dumb luck' hero. He's sometimes the brain and sometimes the brawn in the situation."

Fortunately for Sommers, he had found the ideal star to drive his vehicle. Sommers says, "I hate boring, macho action heroes, but Brendan is not that at all; he's a lot of fun and can be really charming and lovable. A guy that women like, but men like too."

With Fraser on board, the producers set out to find a leading lady to play Evelyn, the brilliant but scatterbrained librarian who befriends Fraser's character. A British actress who had appeared in Beeban Kidron's Swept From the Sea and opposite Keanu Reeves in Chain Reaction, Rachel Weisz was one of the top contenders from the very beginning, and the only person to whom the part was ever offered.

Weisz echoed Fraser's enthusiasm for the project, and says, "I thought the script was perfect - a romantic adventure story. In a way it read like one of those oldfashioned classic films, a sort of Katherine Hepburn/Cary Grant movie, but with real adventure in it as well."

"Evelyn is very intellectual and has always dreamt of going on an archaeological dig but I think she suffers because she's a woman," says Weisz. "There were some female archaeologists in the '20s, but it was difficult for them to have lives outside of the museum. So when the opportunity arises for her to cut loose it becomes a very exciting adventure for her, even though she is a sort of wide-eyed innocent with no experience in life."

Casting the title rote of Imhotep, the Mummy, was more difficult, but producer James jacks had made a movie with South African actor Arnold Vosloo called Hard Target, directed by John Woo, and knew he would be perfect for the part.

Jacks says, "Arnold is a wonderful actor with the screen presence required for the role. Brendan is quite a big and powerful man so it was necessary for the actor playing Imhotep to be even more formidable, with a physical stature and an exotic took, Arnold fit the bill rather well."

John Hannah, the British actor best known to American audiences for his role in Four Weddings and a Funeral, signed on as Evelyn's brother Jonathan, a charming rogue In the style of great British actors like David Niven - a lovable ne'er-do-well.

Hannah says, "I wasn't convinced at first that 1 was up to playing a role in a big-budget Hollywood movie with such big effects. The work I had been doing until that point was within an area I could directly relate to in a very real sense. I told Stephen that I might have difficulties playing scenes that involve a 3,000-year-old dead guy coming down the stairs to kill me and suck my guts out."

Kevin J. O'Connor, who had previously worked with Sommers on the action-adventure film Deep Rising, was thrilled to reteam with the director, but was also drawn to his character of Beni.

"Beni is smarter than the Americans," says O'Connor, "but not as smart as he thinks he is. And he's from Budapest, but he's still going through puberty, which explains his unusual voice."

In discussing the relationship of his character to Beni, Fraser says, "Rick and Beni have had many misadventures together, so they are sort of comically bound. They can't escape one another and somehow they work together even though they are rivals. It's not exactly a love-hate relationship, it's more of a love-to-hate-you relationship."

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