Rumors Swirled Tom Cruise Was Originally Considered For The Mummy

Brendan Fraser and Tom Cruise in their respective Mummy movies

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

There are stories all over Hollywood about the major movie roles that famous actors almost took. For instance, it’s relatively well known that Will Smith was almost Neo in The Matrix. For his part, Tom Cruise has turned down many big roles over the years that we know of. However, it turns out that reports that he turned down 1999’s The Mummy, before he starred in the 2017 reboot, are apparently untrue.

25 years ago, Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy premiered in theaters, and it launched a franchise. It also solidified Brenden Fraser as a bonafide action star. Fraser might have seemed an unlikely choice to lead a potential summer blockbuster franchise, but Sommers tells The Daily Beast that he was always the first choice for the role, despite what he himself has read over the years. He explained…

I read somewhere recently that we originally went to Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt [for the role of Rick O’Connell]—but no. My editor read the first draft and right away said, ‘Your lead guy is Brendan Fraser. We needed a guy who could throw a punch, take a punch, had a wink in his eye and a sense of humor, and there weren’t a lot of actors at that point who did that. Brendan can make fun of himself and goes all out. He was the only one considered from the get-go. [Universal] weren’t looking for a star; the title was the star.

While Tom Cruise has certainly shown his skills as an action hero, it’s hard to imagine anybody other than Brendan Fraser in the role of Rick O’Connell in The Mummy. Fraser certainly had a willingness to have fun with the role and poke some fun at himself, something that was key to the character and a tendency that we don’t often see from Cruise.

The series’ eponymous charactor is one of the classic Universal monsters, so it’s not surprising that the idea at the studio was to let the title be the major selling point. Universal had apparently been trying to make a new Mummy movie for the better part of a decade when Stephen Sommers made his pitch. And the director admits he feels that part of the reason he got the job was simply because the studio wouldn’t have to work on it anymore.

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The corporation also helped out with the production of the film by being equally disinterested in it. Stephen Sommers says that due to a changing of the guard at Universal amid the start of filming, the new bosses were largely uninterested in a movie greenlit by the previous leadership. And, based on Sommers’ comments, it sounds like he had a lot of creative freedom:

[The new boss’s] attitude was ‘if this movie is a bomb, blame it on the last guys. They never gave me notes—and nobody from the studio ever showed up while shooting. They just let me do my thing.

Of course, Tom Cruise would eventually headline a movie that’s part of the brand. It was meant to launch the Dark Universe, which was to be an interconnected universe featuring iconic monsters, with big stars playing them. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

Since then, largely thanks to Brendan Fraser’s Oscar win in 2023 and increased notoriety, there have been calls for yet another true sequel to the ’99 flick. With that, Fraser has indicated he’d be up for such a production. Honestly, if there’s any question about who was the right man to lead a Mummy movie, only one of them is in a ride at Universal Studios.

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