Set in the “city of the dead”, the film offers an unfolding mystery, whimsical lines, and great actors get to deliver them. But of course, behind every film are secrets from the set and scandals from the cast. Find out what really went on behind the scenes.
Who could have played Rick O’Connell?
You’ve watched Brendan Fraser take on roles in different comedy and fantasy films, and he just seems to be the perfect fit for the Rick O’Connell role. Before this successful alter ego match, however, the role had actually been offered to some of the biggest actors in Hollywood.
Rick O’Connell could have been played by Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, or even Ben Affleck. The director, James Jacks, also offered the role to Tom Cruise, who later on starred in the reboot film. They all turned it down, though, and Brendan Fraser became the adventurer who journeyed into the city of the dead.
The Main Star
Brendan Fraser starred as the main character in the box-office movie, George of the Jungle. James Jacks and Stephen Sommers, the directors of The Mummy, saw how George of the Jungle took over the cinemas. Sommers had an epiphany moment and knew that Fraser would bring life to the character of Rick O’Connell.
Fraser seemed to exude the swag and spirit of the character in Sommer’s mind. “Rick O’Connell doesn’t take himself too seriously,” Fraser said about his role. He knew that if the character acted otherwise, the audience wouldn’t get the same thrill out of their journey to Hamunaptra.
The Carnahans and The Carnarvons
Of course, we’ve got to talk about Evie Carnahan. This intelligent Egyptologist was played by English actress, Rachel Weisz, in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. Did you know that there is a hidden meaning in the characters name?
Evelyn might be an ordinary name, but writers put serious thought into the naming of their characters. Evelyn Carnahan is actually an homage to Lady Evelyn Carnarvon, the daughter of Egyptologist, Lord Carnarvon. The Carnarvons etched their names in history when they opened the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. Talk about legacy!
Weisz in a Horror Film
Everyone was shocked when it was announced that Rachel Weisz took on the role of Evelyn Carnahan. She wasn’t fond of horror films and no one had really expected her to jump into that genre, at least on the silver screen. She had performed as a theater actress and handled roles in thrillers pretty well, so she wasn’t completely unprepared to make the leap.
So, why would she accept the role offered by The Mummy? Simple. Weisz didn’t think of The Mummy as a standard horror film. She had been pressed with the same question during various interviews and press conferences and offered the same answer every time. “It’s hokum, a comic book world.” No wonder it was a blockbuster.
So, who was the brave actor who played the mummy? The role was brought to life by none other than the famous South African stage actor, Arnold Vosloo. Vosloo and Sommers had a connection that worked out pretty well for the film.
The actor agreed to play Imhotep, one of the Pharaoh’s adviser, but before taking the job, he said that he would only take the role if he “could do it absolutely straight.” Sommers agreed, and Vosloo did a smash hit job in the role. Vosloo added that coming from Imhotep’s point of view, “The Mummy is a skewed version of Romeo and Juliet.” But the film didn’t come to a tragic end in the cinemas. It was a success.
A Spur in 1992
James Jacks and Sean Daniel, the film’s producers, originally wanted to remake The Mummy in 1992. Universal Studios supported them and set $10 million for a “low-budget horror franchise.” Jacks and Daniel knew one person who could help them, Clive Barker, a prominent horror filmmaker and writer. However, the producers’ vision differed from Barker’s.
Barker re-imagined the film to be set in a contemporary art museum that wanted to reanimate the mummies. It was a cultist kind of re-imagination. As Jacks put it, “Barker’s take was dark, sexual, and filled with mysticism.” But nevertheless, Jacks knew that “it would have been a great low-budget movie.” After numerous meetings that seemed to come no nearer to an agreement, Barker and Universal Studios lost interest in the project.
A Different Idea
Another director tried his luck and presented a new proposal. Joe Dante, the director of Gremlins, wanted Daniel Day-Lewis to play the role of the mummy. Lewis is a method actor known for deeply investing himself in the roles he plays and the rigorous character research he engages in before delving into a new role.
Dante’s version of the film was set in modern times, but it focused on the love story element embedded within the theme of reincarnation in the storyline. He also added a unique twist by introducing flesh-eating beetles to the plot; known as scarabs, these creepy crawlers were sacred in ancient Egypt. Dante’s vision was unique and intriguing, and clocked in at a measly $15 million budget, but it was still a no.
It’s A Yes
Stephen Sommers had a totally different approach to the remake in mind. He didn’t see it as dark and mystical or romantic reincarnation the way his failed predecessors had. He saw it as a whimsical, but kind of scary adventure, à la Indiana Jones.
He brought Jacks and Daniel into the picture and made his pitch. It would be as simple as the mummy giving the hero a hard time, a nuisance to be dealt with rather than a terrifying dark force. With a kiss of luck to an 18-page proposal, Sommers pitched the idea to Universal Studios. Guess what? Universal didn’t just love it. They marked up the budget from $15 million to $80 million, and the remake hit the big screen in 1999.
Who’s Patricia Velasquez?
Have you heard of Patricia Velasquez? If you haven’t, keep on reading. You need to know more about this legendary woman. Velasquez is a Venezuelan actress and model, and she is the world’s first Latina supermodel who came out to the world as a loud and proud lesbian woman. She’s not just a model, she is also a writer.
In February 2015, she released her memoir, titled Straight Walk. She opened up about her life and personal experiences to her readers, discussing issues such as the poverty she experienced at an early age, as well as her relationship with the American comedian and writer, Sandra Bernhard.
Keeping It Realistic!
Out of the $80 million budget allotted by Universal Studios for The Mummy, $15 million was spent on special effects. It comes as no surprise that the investment needed to pull off the mystery and magic encapsulated in the movie would amount to a fair sum, and the producers didn’t want the remake to be a copy of the original.
They wanted a totally different look and effect, and they were ready to throw down for it. “The Mummy should be mean, tough, nasty—something that the audience hadn’t seen before,” John Andrew Berton Jr. said. He was the Industrial light & magic visual effects supervisor for The Mummy. The team used motion capture so they could capture the movements of the actor playing the mummy and achieve “a menacing and very realistic effect.”
The Mummy Look
Berton did a lot of work to create the mummy. He combined live action and computer graphics, studying Arnold Vosloo’s facial features to match digital prosthetic makeup pieces on his face. Berton explained the struggle that he had experienced to achieve the perfect mummy look for Vosloo. “When you see Vosloo on the screen, that’s really him. When he turns his head and half of his face is missing, and then you can see his teeth, that’s really his face,” Berton explained.
As for the actor himself, Vosloo described his experience on The Mummy as a “whole new thing” for him. The prosthetics team had to put little red tracking lights all over Vosloo’s face so they could perfectly map in the special effects. “A lot of the time, I was walking around the set looking like a Christmas tree,” Vosloo admitted.
Following its release in theatres, reactions to The Mummy were mixed. On the one hand, Rotten Tomatoes, a popular review-aggregation site for film and TV series, gave The Mummy a 57% rating. That’s a 5.7 out of 10. Most of the netizens on Rotten Tomatoes came to a consensus. “The Mummy was undeniably fun to watch, but...” But. There has always got to be a “but.” “But it’s difficult to make a persuasive argument for The Mummy as any kind of meaningful cinematic achievement.”
Metacritic even rated the film lower than Rotten Tomatoes. They only gave a 48% rating. They said that it was caused by the hoard of “average reviews.” On the other hand, the cinema records said that the audience loved the film and asked for a sequel. At the end of the day, that was what everyone behind the scenes wanted—for the audience to love and enjoy the film. Haters gonna hate.
The Mummy 2017
Universal Studios announced something last 2017 that surely stirred up The Mummy fans. They were planning to reboot the franchise. Everyone waited for the announcements of cast and plot adaptation. The fans wanted to know if their favorite actors would still make appearances in the remake or if they would be left to make do with new faces.
“The Mummy 2017” was the first installment in Universal’s planned Dark Universe franchise. With Tom Cruise in the leading role. Who wouldn’t be excited? The new public relations crew knew how to make the fans crazy over the remake, though. They held up announcements and maintained an air of mystery around the film and the new franchise it represents.
Good or Bad?
1999 was definitely Rachel Weisz’s year. It was her first international breakthrough, thanks to “The Mummy.” People around the world fell in love with Weisz for the way she played the role. If somebody mentioned “The Mummy,” Rachel Weisz’s face would certainly come to mind. But some claim that the film committed a grave mistake in directing the actors.
Variety Magazine wrote that the actors “have been directed to broad, undisciplined performances.” They even commented that Weisz failed in acting for this film. “She strained for comedy that she can’t achieve,” the author added. It sallied forth a controversy and the fans hollered to disagree. For them, the actors did a great job portraying the roles they took.
When it came time for the third installment of the film’s franchise – The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor – Rachel Weisz rejected the offer. It was said that she had issues concerning the script. Maria Bello took Weisz’s place.
With her previous horror film experience, Bello’s adjustment to the freaky franchise was smooth. But for the fans, the replacement didn’t sit well. To say that they were saddened is putting it mildly. Fans all loved how Weisz portrayed the character and couldn’t imagine Bello, or anyone for that matter, taking her place.
Being in the film industry can be a definite health risk. Just ask Brendan Fraser, who almost died while making The Mummy. In fact, he barely made it past the opening sequence. In these early scenes, Fraser’s character is being hanged.
While actors often employ method acting, in which they fully embody the reality of their character, it’s generally not their preferred way of making death scenes look real. Yet Fraser ended up unintentionally stuck in just this predicament: he was hanged for real. Weisz was in the scene and was horrified at what she witnessed. “Fraser stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated,” Weisz said. And people say action movies aren’t realistic.
The Mistress Costume
Patricia Velasquez played the role of Anck-Su-Namun, who was the Pharaoh’s mistress, a woman so precious that no other man was allowed to lay a finger on her. To display her value on the screen, she had to wear an alluring costume.
It took four long hours in every shoot for costume designers and makeup artists to finish her ensemble. She wore jewelry, a sexy loincloth, and everything else was body paint. We wonder which was the more arduous task: having all that gold paint applied, or trying to get it off?
Beni and the Camels
Kevin J. O’Connor was the character everyone loved to hate: the self-serving coward, Beni. He spent a lot of time working with camels, as his character was always looking for a way to escape with swindled treasures and, in The Mummy, camels were the vehicles of choice.
One time, while working on a scene, Kevin tried to pull the reins, but his camel refused to move. The answer is as adorable as it is funny. Reportedly, none of the camels in the film liked Kevin J. O’Connor. Camels are choosy about who they befriend and Kevin, it seems, didn’t measure up to their high standards.
The Phone Call
Stephen Sommers already felt laid-back when The Mummy was released in theatres. All the hard work seemed to have paid off and the film was receiving commendations from audiences. The morning after the film was released, Sommers received a phone call that would shock him.
It was from Universal Studios. And, thankfully, the news was good. They told Sommers in no uncertain terms, “we need another one.” At first, Sommers couldn’t believe what Universal just told him. He’d only just let his breath out after completing the first one, it would take a lot of effort to gather the right people together to make the next project work. In the face of all his doubts, Sommers thought of the fans, and then he knew what had to be done. He immediately began preparations for the sequel.
The directors had an imperative to keep the action within the bounds of the film’s desired rating. They always had to bear in mind the age range of their projected audience. But you’d be surprised at the simple mishaps that can jeopardize a rating. Remember that scene when the ship was being attacked? Rachel Weisz faced an unavoidable wardrobe issue when she got soaked during the melee.
We all know what happens when clothes get wet. Weisz’s nightgown got sheer and clingy and decidedly outside the bounds of PG-13. The crew had to digitally alter the scene during post production to hide what needed to be hidden. In its original state, the footage was too real for a kid-friendly rating.
In the opening sequence, Imhotep’s lines are a voice over. Why you ask? Director Stephen Sommers realized something was off while they were taping that scene. Imhotep would not know how to speak English and it wouldn’t make sense for those lines to be in English.
Guess whose voice they enlisted to solve the problem? It was the Medjai chieftain who dedicated his life to stopping Imhotep’s reincarnation, Ardeth Bay. This role was played by handsome Israeli actor, Oded Fehr. Any fangirls in the house?
The Library Scene
Who could forget that iconic library scene in the film? Today, we’re going to uncover some of its secrets for you. That tragically hilarious bookshelf disaster was achieved in one take. No mistakes and no second attempts needed. Want to know why (and how)? There really wasn’t any choice because everything genuinely did fall, and it would have been a nightmare putting it back together between failed takes.
The crew would have taken a full day at least to reset for the next take, not to mention dealing with irreparable damages. So, rather than risk such time wasting, the crew pulled together and employed the old adage “measure twice, cut once” to the maximum. Everything was so carefully prepared, and everyone played their parts to such a level of perfection, that the chaotic scene went down precisely to plan and every brilliant moment of it was captured. We imagine a lot of high-fiving went down immediately after Sommers yelled “cut!”
Ardeth Bay’s Tattoos
Almost all of Oded Fehr’s roles have been in internationally popular films and TV series. He’s appeared in Resident Evil, Charmed, and of course The Mummy. Fehr’s character in The Mummy, Ardeth Bay, is a Medjai chieftain who devoted his life to protect the rest of the world from Imhotep.
Originally, the Medjai had to wear tattoos from head to toe. However the director decided not to stain Fehr’s face with ink, because Oded Fehr was too handsome. Why deny audiences the chance to properly check him out?
The Mummy Theme Park
The Mummy fever didn’t just spread through theaters, but also to theme parks. Universal Studios opened a theme park ride designed on The Mummy films. The ride was built in 2004 and was called Revenge of the Mummy. One each was installed in Florida and California.
After their launch, the lines were unbelievably long, with eager thrill-seekers literally bathed in sweat as they inched closer to the entrance. The theme park ride seemed to hypnotize whoever went in there. Just like in the film, fans would chant loudly “Im-ho-tep-Im-ho-tep-Im-ho-tep.”
When we watch movies, there are scenes that just stay in our minds, impossible to forget; which, of course, makes us love those films even more. In The Mummy, a number of fan-favorite scenes like this were, as it turns out, invented completely on the fly!
The moment when Rick jumps from the burning boat, telling the dodgy Egyptian warden “I’ll be right back” (while clearly abandoning him to the flames and swords onboard) was invented by the film’s director in a moment of inspiration that woke him from sleep the night before. And Beni’s odious plea for the mummy to “think about my children” (which he fails to mention are non-existent), just spilled out of actor Kevin J. O’Connor’s mouth in the moment!
Could Have Been Leo
Did you know that your favorite character in The Mummy, Rick O’Connell, could have been played by the one and only Leonardo DiCaprio? DiCaprio apparently would have loved to take the role, but the timing just didn’t work out. He had recently signed to be the main character for The Beach, but was dying to be in The Mummy.
He even pushed the production team of The Beach to see if they could delay filming, but they refused and the rest is history. Leo must have been fuming though, because filming for The Beach ended up being delayed anyway. Unfortunately for DiCaprio, it was all too late. But really, could you imagine anyone other than Brendan Fraser playing Rick?
Fate appears to have had it in for Kevin J. O’Connor during the filming of The Mummy. His ego in particular took a bit of a battering. Aside from being snubbed by all the camels, O’Connor experienced some dramas on-set that hit a little closer to home.
His character, Beni, took a bit of a beating in the Egyptologist’s office. Unfortunately, Beni’s pain wasn’t all just good acting on O’Connor’s part. While shooting that scene, the poor guy was genuinely injured. He suffered bruising and had to be brought to medical attention... to have his nipples iced. Unfortunately, no amount of ice can soothe a bruised ego.
In this modern day and age, we all know how green screens work, right? For The Mummy actors, they were a newly evolving technology and no-one was yet used to working with them for the majority of filming. Under these new constraints, it was difficult for the actors to have a feel for where they were, and the action that was going on around them.
Accessing the requisite emotions to achieve an outstanding scene was a challenge. So, the crew devised an awkward scheme to draw the terror and dread they needed from the actors. Photos of Arnold Vosloo in full, CGI-enhanced mummy get-up were displayed for the actors. While their methods were old-school, they did seem to do the trick!
An interesting phenomenon occurs as the credits roll for each installment of The Mummy franchise. From the moment they leave cinemas, fans commence clamoring for the next installment. Aware of this by the time they’d wrapped the third installment, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, in 2008, the production team immediately began preparations for another launch.
It was titled The Mummy: Rise of the Aztec. Fraser, Bello, Hannah, and Ford were named as the actors of that sequel. And Antonio Banderas would play the antagonist. What a lineup! But after all the preparations and excitement, Universal Studios canceled the film, waiting until 2017 to release a reboot. It was quite a long wait for the fans.
Another announcement in November 2011 shocked The Mummy fans. Stephen Sommers spread around the possibility of him directing a third Mummy film, thanks to consistent pressure from the public. Sommers had his doubts though. “Most of the gang would only be up for it again if we could find a way to make it bigger and better,” he said.
Of course, everyone would anticipate an upgrade—something they have never seen before. Three years later, Sommers felt that his energy had been wiped out by the first three films. The cast was already up for the project, but how could they push it through if their fearless leader had lost his enthusiasm?
It wasn’t surprising that sequels and spin-offs were inspired by and created after The Mummy. Both of the official sequels—The Mummy Returns and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor—enjoyed a strong reception in the cinemas.
This influenced many filmmakers to create their own adventures in the genre. Some attempts to recreate the magic of The Mummy, included an animated series, and a spin-off prequel, entitled The Scorpion King. With a star-studded cast seeming to be one of the prerequisites for Mummy-related success, The Scorpion King featured none other than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
A Host of Award Nominations in 2017
The Mummy 2017 was jam-packed with the year’s brightest stars. It earned $409 million worldwide. But it also earned a cavalcade of negative reviews online and some flak from die-hard fans of the old franchise. Perhaps it was because of the new cast and crew, who brought with them a more serious tone. In the midst of this push and pull of love and hate for the film, they were nominated for eight awards.
Yet no one involved in the film was excited. Curious as to why? Well, these nominations did not come from the Oscars nor the Golden Globes. Rather, they came from the 38th Golden Raspberry Awards. Otherwise known as the award show for the worst in film! The Mummy 2017 was nominated for worst Picture, worst director for Kurtzman, worst actor for the beloved Tom Cruise, and a lot more. Congratulations?
In The Mummy 2017, the actors and staff got sick for the sake of the film. They wanted the plane crash scene to look realistic, so they took over the highway. They used The Vomit Comet and parabolic flight to appear like they were weightless. They had to retake 64 times and, each time, had to fight the urge to purge.
Director Alex Kurtzman suggested at first that they try shooting the scene using harnesses and a rotating set. Tom Cruise stepped in and insisted that wasn’t good enough, and they needed to go to whatever length necessary to make the scene real, believable and spectacular. While you’ve got to admire him for this, it seems Cruise made everyone on-set sick to their stomachs with his perfectionism!
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Cloak
Did you know that some costume rental companies let movies share the same wardrobe? Angels, a British costume rental company, lent The Mummy a cloak to be worn by one of the extras in the film. While it didn’t take a starring role, that cloak was no ordinary piece of attire.
It was none other than the cloak used by Alec Guinness when he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, way back in 1977. What a second life for such an eminent piece of clothing to have! We wonder if it’s back, lurking in the racks at Angels, awaiting its next resurrection.
What A Sight!
We all know that Imhotep was one powerful dude, not to be messed with. Who else could raise a sandstorm in the desert? Though he did fall apart (quite literally) when faced with an innocent little cat! During the filming of the desert sandstorm scene, the camera operator struggled to capture the magnitude of the storm from the angle he was required to shoot Arnold Vosloo’s back.
The wind machines kept blowing Vosloo’s cape up. Not only did this get in the way of capturing the scene, it revealed far more of Vosloo’s back side than the camera operator was willing to see. Poor guy!
A Swarm of Locusts
No self-respecting fan of The Mummy could possibly forget that locust swarm scene. If we were to tell you that scene had to be shot over and over again before they finally got the deceptively simple footage they needed, you’d likely imagine the issue was something to do with the difficulties of locust-wrangling.
In actual fact, the reason that scene took so much time and agony to capture was due to the cameras. They just couldn’t focus on the small, fast-moving locusts. Yet it was essential to capture the face of Jonathan Hydes being drowned by a swarm of locusts in epic detail! Confounding the issue, was the fact that Hydes (very understandably) struggled to stay calm and in character with locusts crawling all over him. Funny that!
Imhotep was the imposing bad guy we all loved to hate. The real-life Imhotep, however, is a figure worthy of admiration, who did a whole lot to support the growth of Egypt. Considering his characterization in the film, it’s ironic that the name “Imhotep” actually means “one who comes in peace.” Imhotep was a Pharaoh’s chancellor, and it was said that he was the architect of the first pyramids, one of which was the Pyramid of Djoser.
People in ancient times believed that Imhotep came from the gods, because of his unparalleled talent. He was actually not just a celebrated architect, but also a community physician. Imagine how he might’ve reacted if he’d been told that, thousands of years in the future, he would be portrayed as a vengeance-seeking, world-destroying mummy?
Another Sommers Gag
To protect them during the filming they conducted out in the field, the production team gained support from the local Moroccan army. As a result, they all felt safe for the duration of their shoot. But Stephen Sommers had a surprise for the cast and crew. He secretly omitted the added expense of kidnapping insurance for his cast and crew!
The wily director waited until they’d finished shooting to reveal that secret. Can you imagine their faces when Sommers announced his dirty, little secret? Thankfully nothing went wrong while they were all so unprotected.
The crew flew all the way to the Sahara to capture the best settings for their film. It was sand all around and dehydration was the antagonist in the actors’ real lives. The medical team made sure they had all the bases covered. They prepared a special concoction for the cast and crew to drink every two hours. Just as Imhotep had his hordes of zombie minions, dehydration had its own allies.
Apart from the unpleasant combination of sand and wind, the whole team had to contend with a variety of desert creatures on a daily basis. They met the otherworldly spiders, scorpions, and snakes that occupy the barren desert dunes. A significant number of crew members had to be flown away from the set after being bitten, and much of the film’s budget went to hospital bills.
Ardeth Bay and Ardath Bey
There are supporting characters in films that just stand out in our memory, sometimes even more than the main protagonist. One of these was Medjai chieftain, Ardeth Bay. His rather fancy name is actually a playful anagram from “Death by Ra.” He was the sworn protector of mankind. You all know that he devoted his life to protect us from the villain in the film, Imhotep.
But in the original 1932 version of The Mummy, his name had a different spelling: Ardath Bey. While there was only a simple letter-swap in his name spelling, his character was worlds apart. In the 1932 film, he was actually Imhotep’s alter ego. He only used Ardath Bey’s identity to look like a modern Egyptian. Cunning, wasn't he?
It Was Raining Dog Food in Cairo
Those who work in the film industry are very inventive and resourceful. They can find solutions to any problems that arise on-set. The crew for The Mummy is brilliant exemplars of this Macgyver-like ingenuity. Who would have thought that one could use dog food as fire and hail?
No one, is the answer. Apart, that is, from The Mummy crew. They took dry dog food, a lot of it, and painted it all white. So that pelting, violent firestorm in Cairo that signaled the imminent arrival of Imhotep? Painted up dog food my friends.
The Mummy crew, especially the director, had to make sure that the film kept its PG-13 rating. They saw to it that all scenes, and even the costume and props adhered to it, were PG-13. The special effects team had a heavy burden to bear during filming.
They worked on the mummy character design. They had to keep in mind that they should use “no gore.” They ran tests and later on, presented their results. They had to measure the “grossness threshold” for each costume. Such hard work when you’re trying to create a scary character!
None Other Than Weisz
The director offered some of the roles to several famous actors. They had a hard time selecting prospects. It was certainly timing and chance that brought them their final suite of actors. In fact, Fraser wouldn’t have been blessed with the role if not for a handful of other actors declining the offer.
But for the role of Evelyn, Sommers only had eyes for one actress. And of course, that was Rachel Weisz. He fell in love with Weisz’s acting in The Land Girls, and knew she had to be Evie.
Coverage for TV
The film crew also had to prepare for their television launch. They had to reconsider all the elements of the film and whether they were appropriate for a TV audience or not. Not everything that works on the big screen is compatible with TV. So, they had to do a lot of adjustments before The Mummy was broadcast into people’s homes.
They mainly modified Anck-su-namun’s costume. Played by Patricia Velasquez, this role was revealing to say the least. Most of her costume was comprised of bare flesh covered in gold body paint. The crew painted this on her barely-there costume, which was more jewelry than clothing! Yet they managed to keep the end product respectable enough to be able to be aired on TV. The things filmmakers do to protect our decency!
Filming The Mummy was no easy task. The crew faced a whole lot of problems, mainly technical. Many of the scenes, as you know now, were shot in desert conditions in the Sahara. That’s a lot of sand to contend with and, apart from the aforementioned dehydration, sandstorms, and bitey little creatures, it is a fact universally known among production crews that sand and technology do not mix well together.
Sand has a way of getting into cracks. A fact that’s mildly annoying to beach-goers, but a major problem if the cracks in question are in a piece of machinery. For the crew of The Mummy, one of the major places sand was an issue was with the guns used in many of the scenes. The sand kept jamming the guns, so in the end, they resorted to filming the weapon-firing scenes elsewhere.
Do you know why Stephen Sommers was so obsessed with making The Mummy? It all comes down to a terrifying childhood experience. He watched the original film when he was still very young, just eight years old. According to Sommers, it was the only film that terrified him when he was little.
That thrilling experience of genuine fear stayed with him, and over the years, a determination grew. One day, he decided, he would make that film fly to greater heights and reach more people. He saw how technology was developing and knew he would be able to make the film on an even grander scale. So it really was the work of a lifetime.
The Mummy Curse
We all know by now that The Mummy is about a curse. One powerful enough to cause a series of deaths and a catastrophe that could eclipse mankind. And of course viewers like to make connections out of such things. So, it came as no surprise when speculation arose that The Mummy film had drawn its own curse, too.
People believed that the film had created a real-life connection with the curse in the plot. One piece of evidence used to prove this point took place during the movie’s premiere, when the film reel broke! Kind of not on the same level as firestorms, locusts, rivers of blood and mummy overlords, but hey, a curse is a curse.
What and Who is Brydon?
The director, Stephen Sommers, drew some inspiration from his previous films in the creation of The Mummy. You likely didn’t notice, as it’s a small detail, but there’s a place in the film called Fort Brydon. While it was a fictional locale, it had sentimental value to the director.
In 1994, Stephen Sommers directed The Jungle Book. There was a character named Colonel Brydon in that film, and Sommers wanted to pay homage to him. So, he resurrected the colonel’s name and transformed it into the fort location.
No matter how carefully the team paid attention to detail, there seemed to always be something they missed. If you’re a clever viewer, you may have even caught this one! Did you notice that The Book of the Dead and The Book of Amun-Ra looked like modern books?
They were made of black stone and gold tablets bound together. But, those who paid attention in history class will remember that the ancient Egyptians used papyrus scrolls. Apart from that, can you imagine lugging around a book made of pure gold? A feat certainly not as easy as the cast made it look!
Refreshing History Class
Since The Mummy dealt with historical narratives, the filmmakers did go to lengths to fact-check and hold on to their credibility. According to reviews, though, the film was replete with glaring inaccuracies.
No one’s perfect though, right? And Stephen Sommers did go to extraordinary lengths to keep things close to history. He had consultations with the UCLA Institute of Archaeology, talked to experts and applied everything he learned on the film. Such an admirable director!
Build a City
The Mummy had a lot of remarkable scenes, and their settings played an important role in ensuring they looked spectacular. With such import placed on the film locale, they couldn’t have chosen a better place than where they ended up: Morocco!
The crew had to reconstruct scenes there, building life-size sets to ensure they were realistic for viewers. Only the best for you, of course! One impressive example was the gigantic set created for Hamunaptra, the city of the dead. The crew had to build a life-size scene of the city in a Moroccan volcano crater! All that effort was ultimately for the fans, and if you’ve read this far, that means you!
Ancient Egyptian Sound
While you can understand the importance of the set, costume, and props being historically accurate, there was so much more to it than you could ever imagine. All elements had to be included under consultation with experts. They even brought an Egyptologist to the set to listen. Listen to what, you ask? Good question.
The Egyptologist helped them with the film’s dialogue. In particular, the intricacies of pronunciation. The spoken aspect of the Ancient Egyptian language is all about tone and register. Without the careful attention of the expert Egyptologist, you never would’ve been so completely transported to Ancient Egypt as you were when you watched the film.
Guess what? The film didn’t just terrify the audience. It also freaked out some of the actors. To be more specific, the film kind of scared the mummy himself, Arnold Vosloo. In his role as Imhotep, he needed to be legitimately mummified.
His whole body was bandaged for about four hours to film that memorable scene. And he was also genuinely placed in that sarcophagus. Vosloo was literally entombed alive, even if it wasn’t for centuries like his character. We can only imagine the fear such an experience would produce.
A Little Lieutenant Detail
In the movie, Rick O’Connell was an American serving in the French Foreign Legion. Though there was something wrong with the rank he supposedly held. While many missed it, there were some hard-core accuracy-fanatics who couldn’t help but point it out.
A foreigner, like O’Connell, could never be a Lieutenant, because officers in the Legion must be French nationals. So O’Connell couldn’t be eligible for a commission. It takes a special kind of knowledge of the world to pick up an error like that though! It certainly went over our heads.
The Mummy is the Title
A lot of viewers decide what to expect from a film based on its title. And titles generally relate to the protagonist of the film. In the case of The Mummy, the title was kind of misleading. Viewers might think, understandably, that they are going to watch a movie where the mummy is the protagonist.
But this certainly wasn’t the case. Not for the protagonist and, really, not even for the antagonist. His followers were mummified, but our terrifying bad guy suffered an even more horrific fate.
A Role for Dunham
Have you watched the sitcom DAG? If you have, then you would be familiar with Stephen Dunham. He actually auditioned for the Rick O’Connell role! It was just that, after having the role rejected by a string of big names, as soon as the crew saw Fraser, they knew they’d finally found the perfect O’Connell.
So Dunham was turned down for the main character. The director, however, recognized his talent. So, Stephen Sommers worked his directorial magic and created the Isaac Henderson role just for Dunham. The actor became an instant American treasure hunter.
There was one line we never heard from the character of Evelyn, even though it can still be seen in the original script. That extra line was to be delivered when Imhotep was resurrected. When Evelyn laid her eyes on Imhotep, she was supposed to exclaim, “He’s gorgeous!”
While it probably would’ve produced some laughter, you have to admit it’s pretty cringe-worthy. Luckily, when they filmed the movie, they decided to cut it out. Good decision!
Scarabs Will Live Forever
The sudden swarm of those scarabs shocked everyone. It sparked a lot of questions and possibilities. How could they be alive after centuries without water or food? In one of the script’s versions, the critters’ appearance and significance were actually explained.
When Imhotep was being cursed, the scarabs were being forced down his throat. At that moment, it was like Imhotep and the scarabs were one. So, the scarabs were also cursed to live forever… in his mummy tummy.
Ardeth is Alive!
Sorry to break it to you guys. Ardeth was supposed to die by the end of the movie. You weren’t supposed to see him again. But that was only in the first versions of the script. The heroic Medjai leader was going to be killed by the mummy priests. Thankfully, Sommers changed the direction of the film.
He literally gave Ardeth Bay another life, since this directorial decision allowed Bay to appear in the film’s final sequence, and in the sequel. In the final scene of The Mummy, Bay thanks Jonathan, Evelyn’s brother. It was almost like his character was reaching out of the bounds of the scene to thank the director for saving his fictional life.
Best Makeup Award
The special effects team took long hours to finish Patricia Velasquez’s makeup. Remember that full-body gold paint set-up we mentioned earlier? That was four hours of painting in the making! Removing it all was an equally arduous, though less creative, task. It’s no surprise then, that the team was given an award for best makeup at the Saturn Awards that same year.
Anyone who knew anything about makeup took one look at that insane creation and knew that, for the makeup team, the struggle was real. While this movie certainly polarized fans and critics, one thing is for certain: everyone can agree that gold body paint creation was boss.
Not many people realize what Vosloo sacrificed in filming The Mummy. He might not be one of the biggest stars in the franchise, but he certainly took on a big role. Vosloo couldn’t deny that he enjoyed most of the filming of The Mummy. He especially liked that he got to play Imhotep’s role. The actor, as you can pick up from his performance, was into devouring scenes as much as his character was into devouring souls.
It might surprise you to know that Vosloo was not so keen on having to appear shirtless and in a loincloth for most of his scenes. For the simple and understandable reason that it was cold! Aside from that, he needed to be completely hairless. No room for stray chest or leg stubble! He had to be shaved twice a day to keep that smooth look. They thought of waxing, but Vosloo wasn’t into it. Still, he certainly made some sacrifices for the part.
That Original Fight Scene
Action movie enthusiasts always keep their eyes on the well-choreographed fight scenes. One such highly scrutinized scene takes place in The Mummy Returns, between Rachel Weisz and Patricia Velasquez.
Truth is, Weisz and Velasquez spent five months training for that one battle. Sure, they could easily let stunt doubles do all the heavy lifting. It would be easy because both characters wore masks. But the two were so professional they wanted to be the ones to do the stunts. First-rate results and ten points for each actress!
The Rock’s Paycheck
Dwayne Johnson made his non-documentary film debut in The Mummy Returns. He was still know as “The Rock” at the time. Johnson had some experience in acting at the time, but was still mostly known as a full-time wrestler. His transition into full-time came when he took the main role in The Scorpion King, the very first unofficial spin-off from The Mummy franchise.
The production team put their trust in The Rock. And with a name like that, why wouldn’t you? They thought that his star power was enough to be the film’s draw card. When he received his paycheck, Johnson became a Guinness World Record holder. He received a $5.5 million check. At the time, it was the highest pay for an actor taking a lead role for the first time in their career.
Morocco to China to Montreal
Egypt was the obvious ideal setting for The Mummy, but tumult in the region made it impossible. Filming there would have posed unacceptable danger to the whole production team. With this insurmountable real world hurdle in front of them, the crew proceeded to the next best option: Morocco.
The Sahara desert was the most suitable backup location. What a place to consider your second best! Things went so well that the sequel was shot in Morocco as well. Additional filming and a sound stage were then done in and around the UK. The third Mummy movie shifted to a more Asian-influenced setting. Some scenes were shot in China, with some clips taken in Montreal. Truly an adventure for everyone involved!
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the third installment, was a great hit in cinemas worldwide. With three wins under their belt, the production staff assumed the fourth would also do well. Even the cast were eager to be back on screen. At first, the fourth installation was subtitled Rise of the Aztecs, and featured Antonio Banderas as the new antagonist. Then the whole thing was upturned. Universal Studios decided that the next installment would be a reboot rather than a sequel.
They initially planned to map their Dark Universe with monsters from a variety of pre-existing franchises, all carving intersecting paths through it. While this sounds like a boss idea, The Mummy 2017 didn’t fly as high as the third film in the original franchise. As a result, Dark Universe was put on hold. If you’re keen on this ambitious idea, there’s no need to worry. It’s just a temporary break while they regroup and ensure the next installments are more appealing to fans. Still, we wonder what might have been, had the originally planned fourth installment gone ahead.
Behind the Library Scene
Who can forget that funny library scene? It just started out as Rachel Weisz’s character put away some books in the library. Who would have thought that it would turn into a havoc? A domino effect suddenly occurred. Heavy wooden shelves fell and came tumbling down. It was a wreck.
Everyone was so tense behind the scene. If anything had gone wrong, it would call for a day of rearranging everything. Good thing that the scene was only taken and done successfully once. A day would have been put to waste. Nonetheless, they were all up for that one scene.
The Rock’s Unfortunate Incidents
As we’ve already learned, Dwayne Johnson received a record-breaking payment for his role in The Scorpion King. As it turns out, he earned every cent of that monstrous wage. The production staff made The Rock endure a ton of things in the course of filming, including potentially fatal heat stroke. The beleaguered star even suffered from food poisoning!
He lost 10 pounds after that unfortunate incident and remarked that the illnesses he acquired while filming was the worst he had ever felt in his life. Coming from a guy called “The Rock”, that’s a pretty big call! The guy has endured being body-slammed for a living. We’d hate to see what state he left the bathroom of his trailer in!
The Locusts Were Real!
The Mummy films were full of creepy critters. While the scarabs were digitally created, some of those critters were all to real. Thankfully for him. Arnold Vosloo didn’t really have to spit up all those locusts that swarmed from his mouth. Although he did have to endure real ones swarming around him for the scene. Real critters freely crawled all over his hairless body.
It was Rachel Weisz, though, who had to face the worse ones. In one of her scenes where she was tied up, real rats crawled on her. There were only a few CGI ones in the film. The CGI critters also aided Jonathan Hyde’s scene, crawling all over his neck, face, and head. But there were real ones involved too! They repeated that scene multiple times because it was difficult for him to keep a straight face. Honestly… who could?
The Mentmore Towers Magic
Some of the scenes shot for The Mummy were naturally beautiful, no enhancements or CGI required. One of these was spotted on a trip to England. Mentmore Towers, to be specific. The Mummy shot a number of scenes in the mansion’s mind-blowing library. The Mummy Returns returned to the gorgeous site, using it as the set for O’Connell’s estate. Coincidentally, Batman Begins also took advantage of this elegant place.
Mentmore Towers appeared in the film for both exterior and interior shots. Other Hollywood productions that appreciated the magnificence of the Towers were Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. Mentmore Towers is so versatile it could be transformed into a restaurant, a cult mansion, and even a bat cave.
The Late Jerry Goldsmith
Despite many bad reviews, The Mummy earned a lot of good comments about its musical score. The soundtrack was created by the late Jerry Goldsmith, who also scored Star Trek and other famous movies and series. During the March of Mummies month, the soundtrack was critiqued by the preeminent musical review site.
It was said to be one of the best scores since 1999. Goldsmith’s score had a distinct appeal, allowing all audiences to find new depths of appreciation for the film. It was that powerful and poignant instrumentation and orchestra. And so cinematic history was made.
The Mummy Merchandise
You could recognize the popularity of The Mummy during that time, because of its range of merchandise. A fan who joined the March of Mummies said that the merchandise included a series of action figures. Of course, there were a lot of mummy figures.
Many grabbed action figures modeled after O’Connell. Exclusive play-sets with lights and sounds were also released. If you’re a big fan of The Mummy circa 1999, you should hurry and look up all these toys online. It’s difficult to get your hands on them, as they are collector’s items nowadays.
Who is Dr. Jekyll?
When the trailer for The Mummy 2017 was released, many fans wondered why Russell Crowe was there as Dr. Jekyll. More specifically, what role would Dr. Jekyll play in the story of the film? Universal Studios said that this was all part of the greater plan and complex map of their Dark Universe. This enigmatic space is replete with well-known monsters that all enjoy criss-crossing paths. According to Universal, they needed someone who was a monster expert. “We were figuring out how to place The Mummy in a larger context.
Since an organization has been around to deal with the Dark Universe’s monster, we realized that we needed somebody to be the voice of that organization,” Universal explained. That was where Dr. Jekyll came in. “Well, it could be Joe McGillicuddy or another character that makes sense organically. If we’re going to bring Henry Jekyll, how can he not become a detractor in the mummy story? How does Jekyll become part of the story in an organic way? When Tom Cruise’s character, Nick Morton, learns about the mummy, Jekyll is to tell the history of the mummy,” Alex Kurtzman, director of The Mummy 2017, added. Since Jekyll has a clear understanding of the Dark Universe monsters, he would be a great addition to the story. If you think this sounds cool, there are many who agree with you. If you think it sounds convoluted, again, there are many who agree with you.
A Hashtag for Fraser
Tom Cruise is undeniably a popular star, but during the making of The Mummy 2017, fans expressed their dismay. They didn’t want Fraser replaced. The actor was a legend in The Mummy franchise. He had the right badass-to-humor ratio. For the fans, Tom Cruise didn’t seem suitable for a horror-comedy film. On a Fraser-devoted subreddit, it stated, “Tom Cruise’s Mummy is a flop.”
Believe it or not, the change in cast created such a fuss on Reddit, fans were certifiably distraught. They even raised their banners saying “Join me in boycotting this. Send a message to the Studios! #BetterWithBrendan.” It was #Trending for quite some time.
The Mummy 2017 Budget
Universal Studios shelled out $165 million for the creation of The Mummy 2017. This franchise received the highest budget from the producers. Where was all that money going? In a word: stunts. And high-action scenes.
Aside from the dangerous and highly-technical aspects, they also hired high-profile actors. Tom Cruise alone got $35 million dollars to play the protagonist, Nick Morton. While the film has copped some criticism, it also made bank, and came out with some impressive scenes, spotless acting, and professionally perfected techniques.
Tom Cruise Behind the Scenes
Despite what was invested in it, The Mummy 2017 kind of hit rock bottom. Fans did not want Tom Cruise to replace Fraser, and this seemingly simple sticking point ended up being a real problem. As it turns out, it wasn’t just the fans who struggled with Cruise. While Fraser was a picture of easygoing charm, rumor has it that Cruise was overly controlling during the filming of The Mummy 2017. He stuck his nose into a lot of decisions, involving himself where actors generally weren’t invited. He even changed some plot points in the script to highlight his character.
Can you believe that? The film could have been the series’ grand slam, but it didn’t please audiences in the US. This resulted in Universal having a hard time building their new and already ambitious Dark Universe. It would be difficult to introduce more monster movies when the first hadn’t lived up to expectations. There are many reasons that can lurk behind failure in the film world. While we love Tom Cruise, in all his awesome intensity, meddling in the production of a film in which fans aren’t exactly stoked with you appearing, is a pretty bold move.