Brendan Fraser likes eye-popping movies

Ed Symkus

Till recently, Brendan Fraser was not the world’s biggest fan of 3-D movies. Even as a kid, he couldn’t put up with the red/blue glasses that made you dizzy while objects sort of jumped off the screen and waved in your face.

“Then there was ‘Jaws 3,’” he says disparagingly of the fairly dreadful sequel to a sequel. “I waited for the shark to show up, and I think that was the last 3-D film I saw.”

But the strapping, square-jawed actor didn’t come to town to diss the 3-D process. In fact, he’s here to give it props, now that audiences are going to be donning lightweight, very effective glasses in order to dive into the world of his newest film, a remake of “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

Coincidentally, Fraser had been fooling around with a Stereo Realist — a 1950s-era 3-D still camera — that was given to him by his actor pal Dave Foley, with whom he costarred in “Blast from the Past.”

When Fraser was invited to join the cast of “Journey,” director Eric Brevig showed him what was going on with state-of-the-art 3-D moviemaking.

“And I drank the Kool-Aid!” he says excitedly. “I was ready. I was in!”

His first thought was to read the Jules Verne book, something he had never done. But he had seen the original 1959 film that starred James Mason and Pat Boone and had lots of cheesy effects.

Oh, that’s a great movie!” he says, and now you can feel his excitement. “James Mason and some sort of waterfowl.” (To be precise, it was a duck.) “And he had a ukulele at one point, didn’t he? I love that movie.”

That film, though, had very little to do with the Verne novel, adding characters and plot turns. The new film, too, while keeping some basic elements of the book, doesn’t exactly resemble it. Still, there is a professor who finds himself stuck deep underground in Iceland, with a small crew that includes his nephew and a guide, and ends up battling dinosaurs.

Fraser, a trained stage actor who earned solid reviews in productions of “Four Dogs and a Bone” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” has a film career that ranges from movies that are goofy (“Encino Man”) to action-packed (“The Mummy”) to straightforward and serious (“The Quiet American”). He knows what making movies is about.

“I understand what it takes to get from the page to the screen,” he says. “I’ve also had an unusual education, a privileged one, in the 15 years that I’ve been doing movies. It’s been a time when visual effects have doubled, quadrupled, reached almost a saturation point. And audiences have come of age at that time, so it leaves you wondering if they are maybe not as easily impressed by what they formerly saw. The point is, where do you go from here?

In the case of “Journey,” it took the 3-D process. But Fraser also knows that he needs to keep himself interested in acting in order to keep audiences interested in watching him.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of diversity in what’s come across my radar,” he says. “You meet a lot of different people by working on more thoughtful, so-called independent films. Then there are the broader ones that have the visuals. I can brag that I’ve worked with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck [in “Looney Tunes: Back in Action”].

“It’s a wacky job all around, but I love it,” he adds. “I think I’m just very fortunate to have embraced each and every challenge as if it’s brand new, and treat each character with the same care that you would no matter how big or small. You just have to remember that you’re a piece of telling a story; you can say you star in a movie, but you really don’t. It’s made by hundreds of people. It’s a medium that is ultimately the most collaborative that I can think of.”

“Journey to the Center of the Earth” opens on July 11.

Ed Symkus can be reached at