It’s great to see Brendan Fraser during his Inkheart premiere held Thursday at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 in NYC. He steps right up when he sees my familiar face. Aww, he remembers! Sweet.

Turns out, the wild man actor, 40, is the inspiration for the best-selling books by Cornelia Funke. The family-friendly fantasy hits theaters in movie form January 23.

“She wrote me a really nice inscription years ago,” Brendan says. “It said ‘Dear Brendan, thank you for inspiring this character.’ I thought ‘hang on, what?’ This doesn’t happen every day in your career or life. So I quickly read the book – I thought I was being set up – but thankfully, the book is really good, the substance of which should be made into a screenplay and therefore into a movie.”

The divorced father of three sons – Griffin, 6, Holden, 4, and Leland, 2 – says his boys don’t quite understand their daddy is a big star.

“They’re very small,” he tells me. “I tell them I’m going to work, and they say ‘what do you do, daddy?’ ‘Well, I defeat bad guys?’ ‘Wanna take one of my light sabers?’ [cracks up] ‘You know, I want to go work with Han Solo.’ What?! Oh, by the way, I just got hired to work with Harrison Ford. Cool! Look at me, I’m turning into one of my kids. Don’t tell anyone! I’m doing this picture called Crowley and I get to work with Harrison.”

What does he love about being a dad?

“You learn how to love more and more every day,” Brendan tells me.

Making family-friendly films is top of mind for the Indiana-born actor who got his start with 1992’s Encino Man.

“I make films because I love to, because I’m fortunate enough to,” he says. “I’ve found what I really enjoy doing, and there’s always something to be learned. I love going to movies that are good that you don‘t have to walk away from feeling like ‘I want my $10 and two hours back.’ I can say that because I made a few of those.”

He continues, “I know a satisfying experience at the movies with your family is a positive experience. Inkheart is age-appropriate, and that’s a good thing. There are other films that I’ve made, and when those kids grow a little bit older, then I’ll show them that work or they’ll find it themselves. In the end, I don’t know an actor who idles very well, so I’m happy to keep my hands and feet busy.”

Costar Rafi Gavron can attest that Brendan is a good time.

“I expected him to be playing a goofball onscreen, and be slightly more serious offscreen, but he seems to get along better with 10-year-olds than anyone else. He’s a giant kid at heart. That’s what makes him so special and so loveable.”

Rafi adds, “He came to my mother’s 50th birthday when everyone was drunk at three in the morning, and cooked breakfast wth my 10-year-old brother. They were frying bacon and eggs for everyone.”

Slaving away in the kitchen is Brendan’s specialty.

“We would cook each other very big meals in Italy when we were finished shooting for the day,” director Iain Softley shares. “We’d have a few glasses of red wine, and then those of us who play instruments would do a few songs.”

Inkheart is in theaters January 23.

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