YOU CAN KNOCK The Mummy all you want, but I would pay good money (good money being roughly nine dollars) to see Brendan Fraser team up with Harrison Ford for a silly, swashbuckling, archeology-themed adventure. Fraser would make a waaay better Indy Jr. than Shia LaBeouf, am I right?
Well, Fraser and Ford did make a movie together. Remember? They shot it in Portland last year. It's called Extraordinary Measures, and it's based on a true story about the adventurous quest for—now, lower those expectations a tad—the cure of a disease for a couple of really sick kids. There's nary a tablet or tomb or catacomb or ancient curse in sight, unless you can call Pompe Disease an ancient curse. (You can't. It would be in terrible taste.)
I talked to Fraser about Extraordinary Measures, which is a little bit better than your standard disease-of-the-week movie, although there's still plenty of gooey sentiment and wheezing, runny-eyed children looking at Fraser's character and saying stuff like, "Am I gonna die, Daddy?" (Spoiler: They don't. Not on his watch. Yay!)
Fraser plays John Crowley, a father of two children stricken with the disease. The movie makes ample use of Portland-area backdrops like Pioneer Courthouse Square, OHSU, Mount Hood, and Wanker's Corner Saloon (subbing for a Nebraska roadhouse), but none of the real-life events in the movie actually took place here.
"The Crowleys live in New Jersey, actually," Fraser told me. "We shot in Oregon because the incentives were such that it made economic sense." Fraser is goofy on the phone, much friendlier than he needs to be. "I went to Cornish College in Seattle, so I'd come down to Portland every now and then. I used to come see theater, and I used to sneak down there for auditions, try to get in a Gus Van Sant movie, or whatever was shooting."
Harrison Ford, amazingly, plays second fiddle to Fraser in the movie, co-starring as Dr. Robert Stonehill, a grumpy old research scientist specializing in the ancient curse of Pompe Disease. Crowley hires Stonehill to work on a cure for his kids, then struggles to raise the funds while dealing with bureaucratic red tape. It's a teensy bit less exciting than fighting snakes or Nazis or mummies, but working with Ford was an obvious thrill, Fraser says.
"He called me up one Saturday and went [does a low, grunting impression of Harrison Ford], 'Uh, hey there, B.F.G.,' and I went 'hi' and... here I am bragging, he's got a nickname for me—Big Friendly Giant. [Harrison Ford voice] 'Hey B.F.G., what're you doing today?' I said, 'I don't know, nothing.' 'You wanna go for a little ride?' and I was like, 'Yeah, sure,' so he said, 'How fast can you be at the airport?' I was like, 'I'll get a cab.'
"I get in a cab, and three minutes later he's like 'How're you coming along?' like I'm late already and he just called me three minutes earlier." Harrison Ford is evidently not a man you keep waiting. "'I'm coming, I'm coming!'
"Anyway, we went for a ride," Fraser continues. "He took me for a spin up in his Cessna up and down the Willamette Valley. That was cool. He actually gave me the wheel... the stick? The throttle? We stopped and got what they call the $300 hamburger, 'cause of the fuel cost. We landed on this little strip somewhere, somebody came out of the kitchen—'Oh, hi!'—and gave us a burger."
So you were Han Solo's copilot? I ask incredulously. "Yeah, that makes me Chewie!" Fraser laughs.
Hmm. Not to be a total dick—sick kids are sweet and touching and all that—but Ford and Fraser flying down the Willamette Valley in a prop plane to get a burger actually sounds like a better movie than what Extraordinary Measures turned out to be.