Brendan Fraser is making his Broadway debut in the new play, Elling.
The show, about a pair of pair of roommates trying to embrace life, love, friendship, pizza, poetry and women. Both Elling (Denis O’Hare) and Kjell (Fraser) are patients in a mental hospital—Elling suffers from acute anxiety following his mother’s death, while Kjell is a childlike 40-year-old eager to lose his virginity. The two become roommates and face the challenge of establishing a normal life when released from the institution.
Playbill talked to him about the show and how a film actor transitions to stage. Also, check out the video after the jump!
Congratulations on your Broadway debut. This must be something you’ve wanted for a long time.
Brendan Fraser: Yeah, for sure. I guess it’s taken me about 30 years to get here. [Laughs.] I tell you, I was seven years old the first time I saw New York City. My family was moving from America, and my father’s work was taking us to travel and live in Europe. And we caught a steam liner — that sounds like the old days, or maybe it was the Cunard line. It was the QE2. Anyway, it was the year of the Democratic National Convention. Every hotel was booked, and Jimmy Carter was in town, and we got the last room in some little hotel on the outskirts. Long story short, I wound up getting separated from my brothers, who were watching over me, and I found myself in the Broadway district, and I didn’t even know what that was. I just saw all these marquees and names, posters and pictures, and I remember it just really caught my attention, and it’s stayed with me ever since.
And then when we traveled through Europe, I would always go to London as a kid during holidays, school breaks, that kind of thing, and see shows on the West End. I guess maybe on or thereabouts during those [formative] years, that’s when I had the germination of, “Hey, I want to do that. I want to be up there, too.” And coming to Broadway is the fulfillment of a life’s aspiration for me. I’m very excited. I’m appropriately panicked at the same time [Laughs] and I feel like it’s time for me to have a run and [take] the risk that goes along with being lucky enough to have a well-rounded actor’s career.
Were they a help?
BF: Yeah, they are. They are and they aren’t. Like, for instance, Denis has stayed away from the film. He’s never seen it, doesn’t want to yet. I didn’t even know it was a play, and I was enamored of the film itself, and probably saw it six or seven times just for pleasure. [Laughs.] And of course, the source materials are important, but that’s just all part of your research. You take it, you don’t, you find new things in the rehearsal process, which certainly I know I am doing. Everyone is. Now that we’re getting into…run-throughs — there’s less value placed on all the choices that you’re making and you really learn that it’s about burning calories [Laughs] and picking up your cues, and just get out of your head and stop acting and get on with the work. It’s really very exciting.
Being primarily a film actor, it’s got to be pretty unique when you start previews and have an immediate reaction from an audience.
BF: Well, I’m interested to see what happens, because, look, it’s billed as a comedy, but if you play a comedy as a comedy — and I do know this to be true — it’s not funny. [Laughs.] It’s just not. If you treat comedy like a straight-ahead drama, then if your aim is to succeed in making people laugh, I think that you probably will get that one across a lot better. So I think that the preview period is really going to be interesting because it’s going to teach me a lot about what I need to do in order to get it right. And then, of course, I’m looking forward to the whole run of it, for having had the experience of the arc of a performance over an entire run. We have 20 weeks, so that’s a lot of time for me to learn how to get my job done right. [Laughs.] By closing night, I’ll have it down!