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Brendan Fraser Talks About 'Inkheart'


Brendan Fraser Talks About 'Inkheart'

Brendan Fraser in 'Inkheart.'

© New Line Cinema
How cool is it to inspire a fictional character who's the central player in a best-selling book series? Brendan Fraser knows the answer to that question. Cornelia Funke, the author of Inkheart and the Inkworld trilogy, sent Fraser a note saying he inspired the character of Mo – a husband, father, and bookbinder with a special talent of reading characters out of books and into the real world. But even with that endorsement Fraser told director Iain Softley if he didn't believe he was right for the role, then he wouldn't want to do it. "Because it's a good story and it deserves to be made," explained Fraser at the film's LA press day. "And those come along rarely and under weird circumstances in Hollywood. It's not like you get a novel written and they hand it to you and go, Let’s see if we can make a movie out of it,' let alone get the wheels rolling in cash and all that to get the thing off the ground. It's like a rocket launcher every time you make one of these things."

Inkheart originally came to Fraser's attention during a down time in his movie career. "I hit a dry spell or call it a wall or quicksand or something like that after the Looney Tunes debacle. Keep laughing! C'mon, I don't like turning down work. Give me a break," laughed Fraser. "It was a cartoon rabbit and duck."

Don't get him wrong, Fraser likes cartoons. "I do. Bugs is an awesome guy. He really is. People ask, 'What's an actor really like?' But he's cool, he's cool. Daffy Duck is an a--hole." When advised he's not supposed to say things like that, Fraser replied, "I just did. I don't care. I'll take that mail on that one."

"So I get this book. It shows up in the mail. 'Dear Brendan,' it's inscribed, 'Thank you for inspiring this character.' I can feel my leg getting pulled already. 'What? Where’s Ashton Kutcher?' 'I hope that you get a chance to read this aloud to your kids one day. Best wishes, Cornelia Funke.' I had no idea from a bar of soap who she was, so I Googled her. Wow, so much work, she’s prolific. I think part of the story is that a little girl who was bilingual, I think she was a Brit but she spoke German fluently, had discovered a copy of Tintenherz which she loved and read, and wrote to either it was Cornelia or the publisher and asked why isn’t this published in English? And I think Cornelia probably wanted to know the answer to that question too. So once it was, it just became a snowballing thing and then that really got her out there and led to the acclaim and popularity of her work."

Fraser continued, "So you've got a novel now. How are you going to get it on the screen? Will you be able to? It doesn't happen every day. I read the book and thought, 'Wow! Great idea, original for sure.' Let's just say it didn't have an overt message that said, 'Hey kids, put down your video consoles, step away from the TV and read a book,' in a sort of 'eat your vegetables' kind of way. Each chapter is introduced with a quote from prose or a lyric or something from literature that predates the world of the book that we're following the story of. Let's just put it this way. Cornelia has a vast knowledge of literature and is the living embodiment of an author. She has been able to make this story compelling and keep it down to the essentials, which is about a family being reunited. And that's what I got from it. All of the fantastic elements aside, that’s the thrust of it and I think that's what gives it its heart, its Inkheart."

The Cast and Filming in Italy

It's a tough life, filming a fantasy adventure film in Italy. Not. "Truffle season too! White truffle season! …While everyone was doing that, there’s Eliza Bennett, the most talented actress of her age group, who would sit in the lobby, go through her script and prepare herself for the next day's work. And we would all show up to get the lines painted out from underneath our eyes and, as Paul [Bettany] and I would say, 'Look, just point the camera at Eliza. We'll be over here off camera reading our lines.' And the movie is there anyway. It is. It’s a story about a little girl who's looking to meet her mom again," observed Fraser.

Fraser loved the ensemble cast and really appreciated how director Iain Softley handled the set. "He is up there with the good ones who are like what, and I agree, Ian McKellen told me once - and I sat in on the Actors Studio - but he said, 'The good directors are the ones who say, 'Look, it's over there.' Like they direct you, 'Just go over there.' And if you go over there, you get a good result," explained Fraser.

"He wasn’t in any way precious about the material – ever, ever, ever. He never lost his cool because he’s a career director, he’s a proper director. He’s kind of like…I was watching Obama’s speech before I came over here this morning and he’s like, 'Hey, if it’s a good idea, I want to hear it. I don’t care where it comes from. I’m the last word, but, you know…,' in a way. But you have to have that for that reason. He has that sensibility."

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