GQ’s Zach Baron reports on the stupendous rise and surprising disappearance of the once ubiquitous movie star.
Brendan Fraser wants me to meet his horse. “I got this horse because it’s a big horse,” he says, standing in a barn in Bedford, New York. He removes a green bandanna from his pocket and gently wipes the animal’s eyes. The horse’s name is Pecas—the Spanish word for freckles. Fraser met him on the set of a 2015 History Channel series, Texas Rising. Fraser played a mid-19th-century Texas Ranger. They were filming down in Mexico, he says, when he and the horse had a shared moment of recognition. “Without doing too much—what’s the word? Anthropomorphic…anthropomorphizing… Without pretending that the animal is a human, he looked like he needed help. Like: Get me out of here, man.”
So Fraser brought him back here. Fraser lives nearby and owns property that overlooks this farm, about an hour north of Manhattan. And though he’s been traveling for most of this past year, going back and forth between Toronto, where he was shooting a series based on Three Days of the Condor called Condor, and Europe, where he was shooting Trust, an FX series about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III produced by Danny Boyle, he makes sure to stop in and visit Pecas every few weeks or so. Why he does this is a question with a few different, surprising answers. But that is the way it is, I’m learning, with Brendan Fraser. He can’t help but digress—“Instead of telling you what time it is, I might give you the history of horology,” he says, in the middle of saying something else. He’s compulsively honest. His mind is like a maze. You wander in and then emerge, hours or days later, disoriented but appreciative that something so unpredictable can still exist in this world.
His eyes are pale and a bit watery these days—less wide than they used to be when he was new to the screen, playing guys who were often new to the world. Blue-gray stubble around the once mighty chin, gray long-sleeve shirt draped indifferently over the once mighty body. I’m 35: There was a time when the sight of Fraser was as familiar to me as the furniture in my parents’ house. He was in Encino Man and School Ties in 1992, Airheads in 1994, George of the Jungle in 1997, The Mummy in 1999. If you watched movies at the end of the previous century, you watched Brendan Fraser. And though his run as a leading man in studio films lasted to the end of this past decade, he’s been missing, or at least somewhere off in the margins, for some time now. He was there on the poster, year after year, and then he wasn’t, and it took him turning up in a supporting part in the third season of a premium-cable show, The Affair, for many of us to even realize that he’d been gone.
There’s a story there as well, of course, and Fraser, in his elliptical way, will eventually get around to telling it to me. But first, Pecas. The other horses in Mexico were lean: mustangs, Fraser says. “And they beat up on this horse. I mean, I swear, I saw him get kicked so many times, bit, by other horses all the time. And I never saw him fight back.”
Fraser watched this daily, this big, silvery horse being taunted by the sleeker horses around him. “And I thought, All right, I got a job for you if you want it.” He put the horse on a trailer, Durango to Juarez. Quarantine in El Paso. A FedEx cargo plane to New York. “And the veterinarians that ride on those cargo planes, they were like, ‘This horse walked on like he wanted to know what the movie was and what was for dinner.’ He just marched right on. He got off, came here, saw the cedar chips in the stall barn… Anyway, so I can get Griffin on him.”
Griffin is Fraser’s eldest son—15 years old. “Griffin’s rated on the autism spectrum. Um, and so he needs extra love in the world, and he gets it. And his brothers”—Holden, 13, Leland, 11—“ever since they were small, one was always the spokesperson and the other was the enforcer.” Fraser interrupts himself here to talk more about his eldest son. We’ve just met, but that doesn’t seem to bother him. Details just pour out in a kind of loving torrent. Griffin, he says, is “a curative on everyone who meets him, I noticed. People have some rough edges to them. Or he just makes them, I don’t know…put things into sharper relief and maybe find a way to have a little bit more compassion. They don’t put themselves first so much around him.”
This was the job Fraser had for Pecas, to take care of Griffin: “There’s something good that happens between the two of them. And even if he doesn’t ride him, just give him a brush. The horse loves it, the repetitive motion that kids on the spectrum have that they love. And it just works… You know, you have to find those tools, strategies. If I ride, too, I just feel better. I just feel better.”