Inkheart's Brendan Fraser says his role was based on ... him!

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Brendan Fraser, who stars in the upcoming film version of Cornelia Funke's family fantasy novel Inkheart, told reporters that the author said she based the character on the actor himself. Fraser plays a man who can bring fictional characters to life simply by reading a book aloud.

Fraser—who has appeared in all three Mummy films as well as last summer's 3-D adventure Journey to the Center of the Earth —also explained what appealed to him about Funke's novel. He talked during a group interview in Marina Del Rey, California. The following is an edited version of that interview. Inkheart opens Jan. 23.

Brendan, author Cornelia Funke said that even though the book was dedicated to you, you went to director Iain Softley and said, "If you don't want me for this movie, I'll step aside."

Fraser: Yeah, yeah, because it's a good story, and it deserves to be made. Those come along rarely and under weird circumstances in Hollywood. I hit a dry spell—or call it a wall or quicksand or something like that—after the Looney Tunes debacle. ... This book shows up, and it's inscribed, "To Brendan, thank you for inspiring this character. I hope that you get a chance to read this to your kids one day." I have no idea who [Cornelia] is from a bar of soap, and I do a Google search, and there's so much work—she's prolific. I read the book and thought, "Wow, it's original, for sure, and I got that it didn't have an overt message that "Hey, kids, put down your video-game consoles, step away from the TV, and read a book" in a sort of eat-your-vegetables kind of way. She has been able to make this story compelling and keep it down to the essentials, which is about a family being united, and that's what I got from it. All of the fantastical elements aside, that's the thrust of it, and that's I think what gives it its heart.

You have a tendency to play characters who either escape from or retreat to these anachronistic worlds. Is that a product of having played that kind of character well and getting offered similar parts, or is there something about that character that attracts you?

Fraser: Yeah, the district attorney from Crash was really not realistic [laughs]. No, I think it's kind of a magnetic thing. They follow me around like those little metal shavings toys we used to be allowed to play with. It's an area I'm comfortable in, because I never grew up and there's a little kid in me that likes to play with big toys. Nowadays in films, we all well know that if you can imagine it, you can put it on screen.

Is there a literary character that you would like to bring to life if you had the power your character does in the film?

Fraser: No, are you kidding me, man? I'm with the character, Eleanor, that Helen [Mirren] played who says she's going to go back and set things in order where the characters have the good sense to stay on the page where they belong. I'd like to meet some living people.

Is there a book that you've been obsessed by in real life like your character was in this movie?

Fraser: Oh, interesting question. Early reading started for me with Roald Dahl, so maybe that tainted my brain. Danny, Champion of the World, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and then there was one collection of short stories that are a little bent. I don't think my little 9-year-old imagination was prepared for it, but they were interesting nevertheless, and I think important regardless because it gives kids an edge to push up against. They need to know what the barriers are so they can decide to go over them or stay within them. But they need a formidable foe, and that's why, in Inkheart, at the end the Shadow is a pretty creepy entity. It's actually frightening, and I know that it would scare my kids. I would chapter-search around it if I were showing it to my kids. But I think it gives them a sense of right, wrong, up, down.