The Mummy was cursed by near-fatal accidents, the desert, and David Beckham

As Brendan Fraser's Egyptian adventure turns 25, we look back at the challenges the iconic 1999 action movie faced.

The Mummy Year: 1999  USA Rachel Weisz, Brendan Fraser  Director: Stephen Sommers
The Mummy Year: 1999 USA Rachel Weisz, Brendan Fraser Director: Stephen Sommers

2024 marks the 25th anniversary of Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy. The 1999 action-comedy told the story of adventurer Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Egyptologist Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) as they unwittingly raise a malevolent Ancient Egyptian priest from the dead. One of the most-memorable movies of the year, you might think the film’s success seemed pre-destined. However, there were many challenges the production had to deal with to get to the big screen.

While there was an ensemble cast that included future Oscar-winner Weisz and seasoned character actor John Hannah, Brendan Fraser was the film’s action hero as daring adventurer Rick O’Donnell. Given his importance to the movie, it was somewhat alarming that Fraser lost consciousness during a stunt involving a rope.

"I went up on the toes and the guy holding the rope above me, he pulled it up a little higher and I was stuck on my toes and I had nowhere to go but down," he told The Kelly Clarkson Show. "So, he was pulling up and I was going down. And then the next thing I knew, my elbow was in my ear, the world was sideways and there was gravel in my teeth."

Talking to Yahoo in 2019, Fraser added: "Later I learned [from other people] ‘They had to come and resuscitate you. And it’s a good thing you hit the ground sideways, because it started your heart again.’ I was like, ‘How do you know that? C’mon — I died right? Glad we got that out of the way — let’s go make some more movie.’"

Director Stephen Sommers insists the incident was never serious: "we were all standing there… It was more of a humorous thing" he recalled to The Daily Beast.

Read more

A big part of the production was location shooting in Morrocco, which substituted for Egypt. The stifling heat of the Sahara desert and Marrakesh became an obstacle of its own for the cast and crew. "It’s just hard in that when it’s 140 degrees," Rachel Weisz said in a set video from the time. "It’s just hot hot hot hot hot. You have to sit very still, like a lizard sometimes, just to conserve your energy. Just ‘cause (it’s) just hot." Fraser concurred, saying in the video: "I’m gonna make a snow picture next!”

Mama 1999 Real  Denis Evstigneev Brendan Fraser Rachel Weisz John Hannah. Collection Christophel / RnB © Etalon Film / Obshchestvennoe Rossiyskoe Televideni
John Hannah, Rachel Weisz, and Brendan Fraser in 1999's The Mummy. (Alamy)

Sommers himself had a more dramatic reaction to the climate, admitting to suffering heatstroke. "I was running from one set to the other in the desert and somebody said I better slow down or I’ll get heatstroke," he recalled in an interview. "I felt fine but all of a sudden it hit me. I went from feeling completely normal to feeling like I was drunk."

If all that wasn’t enough, there were sandstorms to deal with. "This little black cloud would turn into a sandstorm that was blinding and threw the camera equipment around. It was insane," cast member Kevin J O’Connor, who played Beni Gabor, told EW. Arnold Vosloo, who played the title character Inhotep/The Mummy, recalled: "I went back on set, and the trailer that I used— (the storm] had taken all the paint off the aluminium)."

USA. Arnold Vosloo in a scene from (C)Universal Pictures film : The Mummy (1999).  Plot: At an archaeological dig in the ancient city of Hamunaptra, an American serving in the French Foreign Legion accidentally awakens a mummy who begins to wreak havoc as he searches for the reincarnation of his long-lost love.  Ref: LMK110-J8591-251122 Supplied by LMKMEDIA. Editorial Only. Landmark Media is not the copyright owner of these Film or TV stills but provides a service only for recognised Media outlets.
Arnold Vosloo played the title villain in 1999's The Mummy. (LMK/Alamy)

Unusually, one famous incident that affected the crew had nothing to do with movies. The production took place during the summer of 1998, while the FIFA World Cup was happening in France. English football fans will remember their team’s infamous exit from the tournament, and a moment of madness that saw talismanic midfielder sent off.

According to Sommers, the largely British crew took a hit in morale following the dramatic sporting moment. "Beckham got tossed out (of the game)" he said. "Everyone was really depressed the next day."

Fittingly, for a film concerned with curses and bad omens, it was not the only incarnation of The Mummy to have difficulties on set. The 1932 film, on which Sommers’ movie is based, required extensive makeup for lead Boris Karloff, who would become synonymous with this role and that of Frankenstein.

THE MUMMY, Boris Karloff being made up for his role by Jack P. Pierce, 1932.
Boris Karloff being made up for his role in The Mummy by Jack P. Pierce, 1932. (Alamy)

While he would only wear the most intrusive makeup for a day, it’s application and removal were very painful for the actor, who said: "physical exhaustion was nothing compared to the nervous exhaustion I suffered."

85 years later, it would be the crew, not the star, who would find the 2017 remake of The Mummy trying. An all-action adventure starring Tom Cruise, a signature scene was a plane crash filmed on a reduced gravity airplane or ‘vomit comet’, which flies at various altitudes to simulate weightlessness.

The 64 takes took their toll, with VFX Supervisor Erik Nash joked: "I didn’t get sick, but unfortunately a good third of our crew weren’t able to say the same thing."

Tom Cruise as Nick Morton and Annabelle Wallis as Jenny Halsey in The Mummy (Universal Pictures)
Tom Cruise as Nick Morton and Annabelle Wallis as Jenny Halsey take flight in The Mummy. (Universal Pictures)

While 1999’s went through its share of difficulties, those who made it will take comfort in the fact that, 25 years later, it is considered a beloved action classic.

Recently, Weisz told The Today Show that it’s greatly gratifying that future generations have embraced it. "I love the film," she enthused. "It’s so lovely that kids and some grown ups are still watching it."

"I loved making that movie," Fraser enthused during an interview about his career. "Lucky us, (the audience) responded."

The Mummy is streaming on NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership.