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FRASER'S DOING OK, BY `GEORGE'; DISNEY MOVIE GIVES ACTOR SWINGING ROLE.

Byline: Janet Weeks Daily News Staff Writer

Brendan Fraser, the latest muscled actor to take a swing at the Tarzan legend, answers the phone in his New York City hotel room singing the ``George of the Jungle'' theme song (bum, bum, bum-bum-ba-bum-bum).

It's two days before the wisecracking Disney film based on Jay Ward's way-hip 1970s cartoon opens, and Fraser is immersed in a hectic publicity tour for the comedy. So submerged that the song is literally spilling out of his mouth.

Bum, bum, bum-bum-ba-bum-bum.

A native of Seattle who lives in Los Angeles, Fraser, 28, laughs as he sings. Fraser likes George, the dumb-luck hero who commands animals and takes advice from a British-accented talking ape.

And it certainly doesn't hurt Fraser's career that he may be the best-looking guy to don a loincloth since Charlton Heston in ``Planet of the Apes.''

Bum, bum, bum-bum-ba-bum-bum.

Daily News: When the ``George of the Jungle'' theme gets stuck in your head, what's the best way to get it out?

Brendan Fraser: ``It's mind candy. It's like something you listen to while in the gym. Boy, I don't know.''

DN: What do you think of the Presidents of the United States of America's version of the song (featured on the soundtrack)?

Fraser: ``They really stripped it down and put it back together, didn't they? Those are my boys, you know. They're from my hometown, Seattle.''

DN: Do we detect some Seattle grunge in ``George of the Jungle''?

Fraser: ``Come to think of it, he's got the funky hair and he probably doesn't bathe that often. He smashes into trees, which is kind of like jumping into a mosh pit. There's a certain unity to it.''

DN: But George is too happy to be a grunge rocker.

Fraser: ``He's definitely an optimist at heart. He's not stupid. He knows what he knows. He is intelligent. The ape named Ape will always be the one that calls the shots. But George is the king of the jungle.''

DN: How does George of the Jungle stay so sleek - razor or wax?

Fraser: ``Pull or shave? Without giving away any of my beauty secrets, I will say that I have new-found respect and empathy for smooth-skinned women. Actually, I was wearing an anatomically correct rubber suit I borrowed from (`Batman & Robin' director) Joel Schumacher.''

DN: You spend much of the movie in a loincloth. Did you feel like a piece of meat?

Fraser: ``C'mon. Let's face it. I was a piece of meat. I'm a walking steak. To be pragmatic, the loincloth was a bit chilly.''

DN: Was it daunting to strip down to that outfit with everyone on the set watching?

Fraser: ``Here's a story about that. The first day of shooting, they brought in the elephant, Tai. I was going to lie down next to her. I was all suited up in my sweat pants. So I bravely pulled it all off. There were no `oohs' and `aahs.' No shrieks. So I thought, `This is cool.' Then one of the trainers flew a macaw over her head and Tai got spooked and clocked me between the shoulder blades. I went flying off the set. Right then, I found my character.

``I thought, `This isn't about wearing a loincloth. This is about not getting clocked by an elephant.' ''

DN: What's scarier: Wild animals or Hollywood executives?

Fraser: ``They're both pretty frightening. But the animals steal your scenes.''

DN: Was the jungle call all you, or was it Memorex?

Fraser: ``(1930s Tarzan) Johnny Weissmuller's jungle call was actually several singers' voices and a violin bow. My call was inspired by the one Bill Scott (voice of the cartoon George) did. He did the antithesis of the Tarzan call.

``I did it by squeezing my buttcheeks together and hoping Carol Burnett would be proud of me.''

DN: The other movies you're in right now - ``Twilight of the Golds'' and ``Still Breathing'' - are so serious. Then there's ``George.''

Fraser: ``I laughed out loud when I read this script. Granted, all things retro are really kind of hip right now. I had a lot of fun doing it. And they paid me a lot.''

DN: What is your next project?

Fraser: ``It's a movie with Sir Ian McKellan called `Gods and Monsters.' It's about the life of James Whales, Universal's star director in the 1930s who made `Frankenstein.' I play a guy working in his yard - a shady character. I'm the dark muse, the monster he sought to create in `Frankenstein.' It's an intricate piece that explores father-and-son relationships. It's darkly comic at the same time.''

DN: Are you into the celebrity social scene?

Fraser: ``In a word, no. I'm such a homebody.''

DN: Any other movies on the horizon?

Fraser: ``I'd like to involved get in Terence Malick's `The Thin Red Line.' It's about the battle of Guadalcanal and a platoon's experience in the second world war.''

DN: What other actor's career do you aspire to?

Fraser: ``Mel Gibson's `Braveheart' was genius and it spoke volumes about fathers and sons. It was essential filmmaking.''

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

Photo: (1) Brendan Fraser, who plays the lovable hero in Disney's ``George of the Jungle,'' says ``the ape named Ape will always be the one that calls the shots. But George is the king of the jungle.''

(2--Cover--Color) Confessions of an APE-MAN
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 16, 1997
Words:892
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