"On a Roll: Brendan Fraser Has a Blast
Working on Remake of Bedazzled"

by Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle, 26 April 2000

Jumping through hoops or riding a green bicycle up steep San Francisco streets is something that actors get paid to do.

Brendan Fraser, who did stunts in "Dudley Do-Right" and "The Mummy," looked apprehensively down a steep section of Filbert Street toward Leavenworth.

"I don't know — it makes me feel a little dizzy," the 31-year-old said with a half grin that seemed to indicate he might be wondering if he is cut out for the actor's life. He was required to ride a bicycle up the hill without breaking a sweat.

Fraser, along with screen siren Elizabeth Hurley ("Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery") and Australian actress Frances O'Connor ("Mansfield Park"), were in San Francisco to shoot a new $55 million version of the 1968 comedy hit "Bedazzled." The original, a take on Faustian lore, starred Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Raquel Welch. "Fortunately we have a few Hollywood tricks up our sleeve," said director Harold Ramis on the Russian Hill set. He and a crew of 75, including cinematographer Bill Pope ("The Matrix"), worked in a brisk wind and kept an eye on the darkening sky.

Actor Brendan Fraser, effortlessly pedaling his bike up Filbert Street in San Francisco with the aid of a cable, worked on a scene for 'Bedazzled,' which is due out in August.

"Brendan's bicycle is hooked up to a handy little cable thing," said Ramis, an affable man with thick graying hair who likes telling jokes. The cable pulled the bike using a a motorized winch, which will be digitally erased during post-production in Los Angeles. But even with that help, Fraser had to keep his balance on the bike.

"I saw 'Bedazzled' when I was about 12, growing up in Seattle," said Fraser. "I haven't had so much fun working on a film since I started as an actor."

A small crowd had gathered to watch the actor perform the scene, in which he rides to his apartment and talks to O'Connor, whom his character fancies.

In this "Bedazzled," Fraser plays a nerdy technology support worker named Elliot. No matter where he goes, he doesn't quite fit in. So he makes a deal with the devil, played by Hurley, who promises major changes in his life.

"Elliot is a pathetic jerk," said Ramis. "This whole story is about wishes, and people's desperation to be liked, to be loved and accepted. I wanted to target that streak in all of us, that part where we feel like a nerd and say, 'If only I was more handsome or if only I was more athletic or had more money or power, then people would like me, or I could get that girl.' "

The hapless Elliot takes on different personalities, some with a macho swagger, others with the elan of a well-heeled sophisticate. "It's perfect for an actor," said Fraser, getting ready to ride, "because I play a different person in each episode, and the story is arranged around the seven deadly sins idea."

Each episode has a twist that ruins all the fun, and Elliot has to bail out by punching 666-pound on a red pager. Eventually he gains a certain wisdom from his dealings with the devil.

Exteriors for 'Bedazzled' (with Brendan Fraser and Frances O'Connor) were filmed in San Francisco, but interior scenes are being done in Los Angeles.

"Bedazzled," originally scheduled to be shot in Chicago and due out in August, has been filming in more than half a dozen San Francisco locations. Chicago was booked up with other productions being shot there, said Ramis. "But it's fine by me," he added. "I love San Francisco."

Settings have included the Vaillancourt Fountain at Justin Herman Plaza, Washington Square, SS Peter and Paul's Church in North Beach, Columbus and Vallejo (where a car crash scene was filmed), Market Street at Montgomery, the Palace of Fine Arts, Aquatic Park, the Bay Bridge, the Agriculture Building on the Embarcadero, the War Memorial Building on Van Ness Avenue, and Telegraph Hill.

The last, involving a San Francisco view shot on Montgomery Street, got neighbors irate enough to stage a small protest.

"You can understand it," said Ramis' co-producer, Trevor Albert. "The people moved there because it's a beautiful neighborhood, and then a film company comes along and wants to shoot there because it's a beautiful neighborhood. Those forces meet, and for the neighbors it's just a massive annoyance.

"But we did have a permit, and we did try to respect their lives. We did everything we could to appease them."

Though San Francisco is the setting of the movie, the bulk of the filming — the interiors — is now being done in Los Angeles. And Ramis admitted some of the San Francisco scenes will not quite compute for San Franciscans.

In one scene, for example, the devil is driving her sports car to Oakland — but she's on the top deck of the Bay Bridge. The film crew rented a section of the bridge in the middle of the night for the scene.

The Agriculture Building near the foot of Market Street is the exterior of a police station. Some of the station's interior is the War Memorial Building on Van Ness. The film company set up a fake, but very attractive, outdoor cafe on the curving promenade of Aquatic Park.

"We want to make sure people know this is a San Francisco movie," said Ramis. "Just like 'Analyze This' was a New York City movie. If you're not careful to show the city, you might as well be in Toronto, which is where they want to send all the movies anyway."

©2000 San Francisco Chronicle

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