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Mummy's boy Brendan's king of the sand castle; Brendan Fraser had to dig deep and find his courage after he almost died filming his latest blockbuster.

SINCE he swung on to the big screen in the cinema version of classic cartoon George Of The Jungle, Brendan Fraser has found it a little difficult to be taken seriously.

But US blockbuster The Mummy, which opens today, is fast changing his dimwit image.

The actor was so determined to make the scenes look realistic that he almost died while the film was being shot.

He plays a dashing desert legionnaire who stumbles on the ruins of a forbidden city where the treasures of the Pharaohs lie, and accidentally helps to awaken a curse.

In one scene, where his character is being hanged, something went badly wrong and Brendan ended up unconscious.

He explained: "I was hanging from the noose standing on a board. Then something went wrong and the next thing I knew, I was waking up. They killed me for 18 seconds.

"The stunt guy told me the same thing happened to Mel Gibson on the set of Braveheart."

Brendan, 32, had to put up with a lot more uncomfortable moments during filming in the desert. And he wasn't the only one who came into danger. Two people had to be airlifted out of the set to hospital after being bitten - one by a scorpion, the other by a snake.

Because of the unstable political situation in Egypt, the action adventure was filmed in Morocco under gruelling conditions.

The actors and crew had to cope with temperatures averaging 130F as well as blinding sandstorms.

Brendan said: "If we didn't drink this concoction made by the medical team every two hours, we'd all have fainted.

"I was meant to be this big tough guy and I was standing here whining: 'My hands hurt, I don't wanna do another take'.

"But don't tell anyone that."

In much of the movie, Brendan battles mummies with love interest Rachel Weisz. But the make-believe monsters were a sight easier to deal with than the bad tempered camels.

He explained: "I got a worn-out stunt camel. The only time he would run fast was lunchtime."

After playing a string of lovable morons in George Of The Jungle and Blast From The Past with Alicia Silverstone, The Mummy is something of a breakthrough movie for Brendan.

It has already topped the American box-office.

Director Steven Sommers said: "Brendan is an old-fashioned romantic hero.

"I can't think of anyone else who could have done it apart from Errol Flynn - and he's dead."

Of course, this is not the first outing for The Mummy. Back in 1932, Boris Karloff was the crumbling corpse and Christopher Lee starred in the 1959 remake.

This time round it's Brendan, not the Mummy, who is the hero of the piece in a revamped version that is overflowing with state-of-the-art special effects.

The new version keeps the old basic story line, but little else.

A sequel is already on the cards, and Brendan has reacted favourably to the idea.

The huge hit now means he has Hollywood at his feet. But don't look for this man with movie muscle to parade around premieres with a model. Brendan is happily wed to Afton, 32.

He has already accepted his first role after The Mummy. He'll play the cartoon Mountie Dudley Do-Right, another heroic, but dim, role.

But after his success in Gods And Monsters, with Sir Ian McKellan, more high-brow characters may follow.

It will certainly be a relief for him to shed his George Of The Jungle persona - if only for the sake of his knees.

He explained: "Parents keep telling me that ever since their children saw the movie, they keep crashing into stationary objects."

And those objects can include Brendan's legs, if ever young fans meet their hero. He was almost mown down recently by an over-enthusiastic youngster in an airport.

However, there is a little of George in Brendan.

When he proposed to wife Afton in Paris two years ago, he got it wrong before he got it right.

Brendan set the timer on his Polaroid camera and tried to snap a picture of them together.

He explained: "At first the camera was blown over in the wind, and then Afton began to feel cold, but I said: 'Let's just get one more shot'."

When the picture was developed, Afton saw that Brendan was holding a note that read: "Will you marry me, Afton?"

He may be a bit of a dimwit, but at least he's a lovable one.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Synnot, Siobhan
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 25, 1999
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