10 Things You Never Knew About The Mummy (1999)

1999’s The Mummy was neither the first nor the last film to carry that title – but for anyone who grew up in the 90s, any mention of The Mummy immediately brings to mind images of Brendan Fraser rescuing Rachel Weisz from a digitally-augmented Arnold Vosloo.

A huge action-adventure smash, writer-director Stephen Sommers’ film revived studio Universal’s ailing monster movie property, launched a new franchise, and inspired scores of blockbusters that attempted a similar mesh of adventure, comedy and horror. But did you know the following fascinating facts about the film that started it all?


10. It was originally developed as an R-rated horror

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Universal originally had a hit with The Mummy way back in 1932, the success of which resulted in a series of Mummy movies. The studio started developing a reboot in the late 80s, originally envisaging it as an R-rated horror franchise to compete with the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th.

A number of acclaimed horror filmmakers were attached to The Mummy over the years, including George A. Romero, Clive Barker, Joe Dante and Mick Garris, but their takes were all deemed too dark and strange. Eventually, Universal decided to make the project PG-13, and entrusted it to Stephen Sommers (fresh from Deep Rising).

9. Tom Cruise was offered the lead role, but he passed

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For The Mummy’s lead role of Rick O’Connell, reportedly the first actor approached was Tom Cruise. He declined, as did Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, before the producers finally offered the part to Brendan Fraser, who accepted.

Notoriously, Cruise would later take the lead in Universal’s 2017 reboot of The Mummy, which had been intended to kickstart a planned shared universe of monster movies, but proved to be a critical and commercial disaster.

8. Brendan Fraser was “choked out” for real shooting the hanging scene

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Early on in the film, Rick is sentenced to death by hanging, and is dangling on the end of a rope when Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) successfully negotiates his freedom. Alarmingly, Fraser came close to being hanged for real when the rope was pulled a little too tight, rendering him unconscious.

The actor recalls, “I remember seeing the camera start to pan around, and then it was like a black iris at the end of a silent film. I regained consciousness, and one of the EMTs was saying my name.”

7. CGI had to be used to preserve Rachel Weisz’ modesty when her white dress got wet

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The Mummy features extensive use of CGI, particularly when it comes to the resurrected Imhotep and his supernatural powers. However, digital trickery was also used for another purpose that you might not have been aware of: concealing the accidental exposure of leading lady Rachel Weisz.

In the scene when they are forced to jump overboard from a boat, Weisz is clad in a dainty white nightdress – and of course, when this garment was wet it became completely see-through. To keep things family-friendly, CGI was used to make the dress fully white again.

6. Fraser had a near-miss with a deadly snake on set in Morocco

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Most of The Mummy’s desert scenes were shot on location in Morocco, which presented the cast and crew with numerous challenges, ranging from sandstorms, the threat of kidnapping (insurance was taken out on all the central cast members) and the local wildlife, including scorpions and snakes. Fraser recalls a close encounter with such a creature.

“They sent a memo out describing a type of snake… [with] yellow dots on it. They said, ‘If you see this kind of snake, do not go near it. Because if it bites you, at best, they’ll amputate your limb.’ Anyway, there I was, p***ing down a rock, and I look down and there’s the yellow-dot snake. I was like, “F***!” I just ran for it.”

5. The Medjai were going to be tattooed head to toe, but the director decided it would be a waste to cover up Oded Fehr’s good looks

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Oded Fehr co-stars in The Mummy as Ardeth Bay, a warrior of the Medjai, an ancient brotherhood devoted to keeping Imhotep imprisoned. (Ardeth Bay shares his name, although nothing else, with the character played by Boris Karloff in the original Mummy movie from 1932.)

Originally, the idea was for the Medjai to be completely covered in tattoos from head to toe, but this plan changed when Fehr was cast. Stephen Sommers felt that the actor was so handsome, it would have been a waste to completely cover his face.

4. Fraser had to get the choreography perfect for his fights with the CGI mummies

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As a large scale action-adventure with heavy supernatural elements, The Mummy was a huge undertaking in terms of stunts and special effects. The cast frequently had to react to creatures and phenomena that were not actually there on the set, which would be added digitally afterwards. This included a lot of the mummies with which Fraser did battle.

Fraser recalls that performing his fight moves for the high-tech motion-capture camera was a real challenge: “It was programmed, and you couldn’t mess up a move or improvise anything because then the camera wouldn’t capture what you did.”

3. Evelyn’s library accident was shot in one take

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Rachel Weisz’ memorable introduction as Evelyn Carnahan sees the over-zealous librarian inadvertently fall on her ladder, setting off a domino effect which topples every bookcase in the room. While a lot of the action in The Mummy is CGI, this particular scene was done entirely live in-camera.

Happily, they got the shot perfect on the very first take. This must have been a relief to all involved, as shooting it a second time would have meant spending almost a whole day putting the library back together again.

2. Arnold Vosloo had to be shaved all over twice a day

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Arnold Vosloo was offered the role of Imhotep by producer James Jacks, the two men having previously worked together on Hard Target. In contrast to that earlier film, The Mummy required Vosloo to spend almost all of his screen time largely naked – and, on top of requiring serious gym time on the actor’s part, other beauty treatments were required.

To maintain Imhotep’s smooth head and body, Vosloo needed to be entirely hairless. The actor balked at the idea of full body waxing (and who can blame him!) so instead he had to be shaved all over, twice a day.

1. The Mummy was such a big hit that the studio ordered a sequel the morning after it came out

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Universal had high hopes that The Mummy would prove a success, and they were not disappointed. The film earned enough money and generated enough positive word of mouth on its opening day that studio executives ordered a sequel the very next morning.

The Mummy would earn $43 million on its opening weekend, and $416.4 million by the end of its theatrical run. The Mummy Returns was a similarly big hit in 2001, and spin-off movie The Scorpion King followed in 2002.