Three decades later, Brendan Fraser is opening up on his role in the cult classic comedy Encino Man. Released in 1992, Encino Man was directed by Les Mayfield and penned by George Zaloom and Shawn Schepps. The film stars Fraser as a frozen caveman thawed out by two Californian teenagers (Sean Astin & Pauly Shore) who must then adapt to a new way of life in the 20th century. While reviews weren’t overly kind upon the film’s release, it has built up a strong following in subsequent years, resulting in a strong fan interest in seeing a sequel made for Disney+.
In a new interview with GQ, Fraser looked back upon his role in Encino Man. He first touched on the comedic inspirations that he had when approaching the “fish out of water” character that is Link the caveman. He explained how he related to Link in the sense that he knows what it’s like to be the “new guy” who’s just trying to fit in. With bringing to life a character who spoke so little, Fraser also needed to approach playing Link in a more physical way, and he looked back upon performances by actors like Buster Keaton and Bill Irwin for inspiration.
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“My heroes were Buster Keaton to Bill Irwin at the height of his clowning career. These savant, poker-faced, Chaplin-esque performances that define cinema to this day for the contribution that they’ve made. There’s nothing that was lost on me in the time that I was in training, and certainly what I remembered about what you needed to bring to a comedic performance. And the last thing that you need to bring to a comedic performance is the comedy.”
Brendan Fraser Doesn’t Know Why People Think He’s Funny
Fraser also explained how the role was a challenge in some ways, as he doesn’t believe himself to be naturally funny. Though many fans feel that he is, the actor disagrees, admitting that he doesn’t quite get it. Rather than trying to be funny, his approach to Link and other comedic roles is to come across as authentic and believe that he’s in the mind of the character he’s portraying. With Link in particular, he saw an innocence in the caveman that he compared to a “herding dog,” and that was another big inspiration for how he played the titular Encino Man.
“I have no idea how to be funny. I don’t know why people may think I am. I am the least funny person I know. I just think you have to believe in everything you’re doing, because if you don’t, your audience won’t. It keeps you honest, to do that character. I look towards the innocence of one of those herding dogs. They’ll do what you say, and they wanna please you, and they wanna make sure that they’re included. They wanna keep everyone together, and they want to get it right. Absolutely gonna get it right. That was sort of the springboard, the spirit animal that I had in my approach to playing Link the thawed-out caveman.”
In another way, Fraser says that the real feelings that he had as a rising star in Hollywood coming into such a big project at the time also helped him add some authenticity to the role.
“That, and I was pretty wide-eyed about being in this big Hollywood comedy at the time that was produced by Disney. I mean, I guess I really just had to show up to work and feel like, ‘Wow, what is going on around me?’ And that’s what Link is doing all the time. ‘Wow, where am I? Will you be my friend? You won’t? You will? You won’t? Oh, we’re good!'”
You can revisit Encino Man by streaming the film on Disney+.