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February 2012

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Guardian Of The Tomb, 13th Street, 2001

13th Street

Guardian Of The Tomb

By Jeff Bond (May 2001)

Part 1: Save the Girl, Kill the Creature

To Israeli actor Oded Fehr, starring in the mega-blockbuster The Mummy - a film
that made him a bit of an international sex symbol - was really no big deal.

"I did the first movie and my character was supposed to die," Fehr shrugs. "During
the movie, Steve [Sommers] decides to bring my character back and I was like
'Okay, fine. I come back at the end of the movie.' Then he starts talking about
a sequel and I was like, 'Please, do me a favor. We brought him back. It worked.
I did that. No more.' They really had to bend my arm."

All kidding aside, the actor was quite honored when he was invited to
participate in the second outing - especially since it was The Mummy that
essentially made his career.

"I was very lucky to do this, I was very excited to do it," he assures 13th
Street about filming The Mummy and its sequel The Mummy Returns. "We did the
first one and had such a great experience and we were really looking forward to
doing the second one."

Still, his previous comment about Ardeth Bay, swashbuckling desert guardian of
the mummy's tomb, and his near death experience was no joke. The character was
scheduled for an onscreen demise in the 1999 Mummy film.

"In the first movie there's a scene where we're inside the old city and the
structures there inside this chamber," Fehr explains. "There are all these
mummies coming and I say my one liner, 'Get out of here, save the girl, kill the
creature!' And I turn around and I fight all these mummies and I wasn't supposed
to come out alive."


Part 2: The Rock

In The Mummy Returns, Arnold Vosloo's Im-Ho-Tep is not the only heavy faced down
by Bay and hero Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser). The two must also square off
against the evil Scorpion King, played by pro wrestler-turned-actor The Rock. "I
have to say that I didn't know anything about wrestlers before I made this movie,"
Fehr admits. "They told me, 'Yeah, we're getting this guy The Rock who's a
wrestler to play the Scorpion King' and I thought they must be joking. I've seen
pictures of The Rock, but they're kidding—they're bringing some heavy-set guy
who's reallyslow to play the Scorpion King?" As it turned out, Fehr's impression
of the actor quickly changed upon meeting him. "Here shows up this good-looking,
gentle, sweet man that is extremely hard working, extremely nice, extremely
dedicated, very smart, very intellectual," Fehr says. Perhaps the most memorable
moment shared with The Rock came during an off camera moment – one that required
the two to perform some real life swashbuckling. "The production brought in
these jeeps with this skinny little driver and we shared the same one," Fehr
recalls. "We were driving and all of a sudden this jeep starts sinking in a
dune. We looked at each other, got out of the jeep and started pushing. The
driver was there, but didn't know what he was doing. He was trying to use the
four-wheel drive, but it wasn't working. Both the Rock and me were in costume,
full makeup, I'm in a dress and high heels and he's sick and we were both trying
to get this jeep going. It was very surreal."


Part 3: Real Life Warrior

Before acting, Fehr served in the Israeli armed forces. While the military may
seem a natural training ground for someone destined to star in big-budget action
movies, the actor did not find much of a connection between the two careers.
"Life in the Navy is very different and life in Israel is very different," he
says. "The fighting in the acting world is a lot different from the fighting
there. My skin still crawls when we get guns on the set because guns for me, and
in Israel, are something that is there for killing. That's it. It's a little
harder for me. But the sword fighting and all that is just boys with toys. It's
all fun." Surprisingly enough, Fehr admits to receiving better training for his
onscreen battles in drama school rather than in the military. "You do a lot of
training for stage fighting so you learn a lot of the basics," he notes. "You
learn a lot of dance, which is very important because all these fights you learn
are sort of like a dance. I had a lot of training this time with the stunt guys.
I stayed in a hotel with them and it was great. I think I did everything myself
in the stunts on this one. They might have done some cover shots with a stunt
man, but I did all my own stunts and the stunt guys were great about it. They
gave me a jacket with my name on it and I'm so proud of it I can't say. At home
I'm like 'Oh, my back, I can't move,' but on the film I was a tiger."


Part 4: Stop the Vision Quest

As Ardeth Bay, leader of a band of desert warriors, Fehr participated in The
Mummy's outdoor action sequences as well as even more spectacular special
effects battles in The Mummy Returns. "I can't tell you how weird it is to wake
up in the morning and go out on set in the desert in this huge, vast area, and
they have little orange cones going for miles," Fehr says of the special effects
techniques used in Morocco. "It's really weird, straight lines of cones which
are completely unnatural. Then they have these camp little guys who show up with
body-tight blue suits. They just didn't fit. Everyone in the desert wears desert
clothes and these guys looked like they were going on a fashion show. They're
dancing around in these tight blue suits. I knew ILM was going to do an
incredible job. And those stunt guys who wore the blue suits did an incredible
job." Actually, for Fehr the biggest challenge in the sequel was avoiding the
problem that plagued most of the cast and crew in the first film: dysentery. "I
was sick on the last film almost the whole time," Fehr says. "So this time in
Morocco I ate like a pig thinking, 'Okay, I'll get sick and I'll lose all the
weight.' So I'm eating and eating and eating and I never got sick. It was
terrible. My wife kept calling me up saying, 'Okay, stop with the vision quest.'
I'm Jewish and she'd say, 'Look, your people were in the desert for 40 years,
don't you think it's about time you came home now?'"