The 1992 movie ” Encino Man ” is, as the trailer says, about ” a caveman who has just stepped into the 20th century .” Fortunately for him, two slackers from Encino, California are the ones to guide the man through the teenage ways of life. It’s always fun to imagine getting together to sell these kinds of weird movies, and it’s impossible not to imagine how “Encino Man” got sold to Disney. The director hadn’t made a feature film before, there were no big stars on board, and no one knew who Brandan Fraser was .
“Encino Man” was the role that launched a young star Brendan Fraser to fame. Melted from a block of ice after 2 million years and submerged in 1990s Los Angeles , his character at one point inadvertently turns on a television only to be confronted with the famous “I’ll Be Back” scene from the original 1984 “Terminator.” It was a timely reference, since “Terminator 2: The Last Judgment” had debuted the previous year; and a relevant one too, considering that the Terminator movies focus on cyborgs transported from their timeline to an unknown environment, much like Brendan’s caveman.
Thanks to the story on the Inverse page of “Encino Man”, it is already known how the project was given the green light. Writer George Zaloom and director Les Mayfield met with their former agent Dan Halsted, who had become Senior Vice President of Production at Disney’s Hollywood Pictures; who presented the idea to the then president of Disney, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and was the person who would give the green light to the film that would catapult Brendan Fraser .
Later, Katzenberg would prove useful again when he himself spoke directly to acclaimed actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to ask for permission and rights, and to be able to leave the line where Brendan Fraser quotes the “Terminator” in the film. As told by Les Mayfield: “He’s like, ‘Hey man, how’s it going? Look, we’re doing this ‘Encino Man.’ We really want to – OK, I love it, thanks. You’re the best! OK, bye !’ He says: ‘That stays inside'”, referring to the phrase “I’ll be back”. I was like, ‘I love Hollywood!'”
With the scene from “The Terminator” guaranteed, Brendan Fraser’s caveman was free to reuse Schwarzenegger’s iconic line from the film , when leaving a drugstore he turns to the owners and tells them he’ll “be back.” It’s a fun moment reminiscent of Terminator slang, “Hasta la vista, baby.” Unfortunately, “Encino Man” would not return after his film debut. Critics slammed the man-cave comedy, despite earning $40 million at the box office, on a budget of just $7 million.
But the legacy of “Encino Man” lives on as one of the most 90s movies ever made and is fondly remembered by Brenda Fraser herself, telling GQ how it matched her talent for playing “naive characters. The baby in the woods, fish out of water, new guy. New in town and trying to fit in.” That mirrored his own life, having moved with his family as a child, living in the United States, Canada and Europe at various times, and developing a knack for fitting in.
With her recent resurgence, fueled by her moving performance in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale,” Brenda Fraser has once again reminded us of her significant talent. As GQ went on to say, “I think you have to believe in everything you’re doing, because if you don’t, your audience won’t. It keeps you honest.” Regardless of what you think of “Encino Man,” there’s no denying Fraser’s commitment to the role , which is interesting to say the least in giving us an idea of the future star’s talent.
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