LOS ANGELES – Two jobs. Two meaty roles. One summer.
“I couldn’t choose,” actor Brendan Fraser says. “So I did both.”
In “Trust,” which aired earlier this spring on FX, he played the no-nonsense James Fletcher Chace, helping J. Paul Getty investigate family misdeeds.
In “Condor,” which debuts this week, he’s Nathan Fowler, an unstable link between a private military company and the CIA.
One shot in Canada, the other in Europe.
“It was a lot to unpack and keep straight,” Fraser says.
The process with each was different, too. Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle was behind the lush “Trust.” Two “run-and-gun” young guys, Todd Katzburg and Jason Smilovic, created “Condor," based on the novel "Six Days of the Condor."
“They had a take-no-prisoners approach,” Fraser says. “They had a real energy, a real desire to avoid thinking about it too much. ‘Don’t be precious about your choices.’”
Fowler, he says, “is a damaged soul. He needs a lot of attention he did not get. But I don’t think he could hurt a fly with his own hands. But that’s the guy to look out for. Chace doesn’t care.”
While “All the Money in the World” covered a part of the same story as “Trust” (a look at J. Paul Getty and his family), Fraser’s character – played by Mark Wahlberg – was quite different.
“It’s not a bio pic,” Fraser insists. “The character is a composite…so there are going to be differences.” For his rendition, Chace wore a cowboy hat and didn’t seem fazed by much. “Choices,” Fraser says. “But if you’re the richest man ever, you want a cowboy fixer.”
Both series have the potential to run several seasons – an idea that intrigues the 49-year-old actor, even though “I just wanted to go home to see if the dog remembered me.”
Because television is now attracting top talent, “it’s not the elephant’s graveyard,” he says. “It used to be where you went after your film career didn’t pan out. Now, that’s not the case. There’s a crowded marketplace.”
A big name in films during the 1990s and early 2000s, Fraser had the best the business could offer. “It got to the point that I just wanted the music to stop,” he says. “I had two films coming out in the same week and I just wanted life to slow down. I’m almost 50 years old now and I realize things happen in cycles.”
Today, content is streamed on cellphones and it’s impossible to say where the best work is being done.
Superhero films dominate the film business and, to be honest, Fraser won’t knock them. “All the mythology aside, it’s product that’s made to gain returns. People aren’t kidding themselves. These projects are good for their careers in terms of future opportunities. You have to answer those thorny questions for yourself: ‘Is it going to hurt your pocketbook? Is it about your soul?’”
The business is in a constant state of reinvention, he says.
More than 25 years ago, Fraser was cast in “School Ties,” a film that was hinted at as being the next “Diner.”
It co-starred Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris O’Donnell and others who went on to big, big careers.
“We were 22, 23 and we were just hoping to get breakfast served before we showed up to play football in the morning,” Fraser says. “We had no idea what it was going to be. But once they called and told me I got the part, I knew things were going to be different from that point forward – win, lose or draw.”
Since then, Fraser hasn’t had the same feeling until Boyle called and talked to him about “Trust.”
“He is, easily, one of the most agreeable, enthusiastic individuals I’ve ever met. He knows how to bring out the best in people and he wanted me to read a couple of scenes for him.
“I put up an iPad in the basement and sent in an audition tape.”
Fraser already had “Condor” on his agenda, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity. “It just meant it was going to be a busy summer. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
"Condor" airs this week on the Audience Network.