Director Josh Trank talks FANTASTIC FOUR; reveals production details and first official on-set pics

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When it comes to Fox’s planned Fantastic Reboot, the internet has seen more grumbling than Galactus’ stomach with a bad case of the munchies. One of the reasons for this is because we’ve almost nothing about the film (officially), and the little bit we have heard wasn’t what we expected. This has led to endless rumours and speculations on just what is going on over on the Fox backlot. But now finally, director Josh Trank, in an interview with Collider, has started pulling back the curtain on what could be one of the year’s biggest movies.

So firstly, what gives with all the secrecy?

“…We’ve consciously decided to not release anything official. This isn’t like The Avengers. Even when the first Avengers came out, there were four other movies that people were familiar with. The suits and the tone and the look and the feel. So they could release those things or drop them on Twitter. With Simon on the X-Men movies, there were other movies that came before the last X-Men movie so Bryan [Singer] could feel more confident in tweeting teases of what’s to come. But this movie, we really want the audience to have the proper reaction to this material seeing it for the first time. You’ve really got to put your best foot forward. You can’t just leak an image to strike up a conversation. You want people to see something that has thought behind it. And the teaser should do just that. With conversations online, you can’t really control it. In this day and age people have come to expect that artists are going to give everybody information on Twitter about what they’re doing, but not every artist is like that. I’m not really like that. If I was painting a picture I wouldn’t want to take a picture of a single paint stroke. I’d rather show people what it looks like when it’s done.”

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There were recently rumours of major troubles on set and the production apparently being forced to do additional shooting. Now this latter part has become the norm for these types of blockbusters these days, but here – once again because we were hearing nothing official – the speculation was that it was because was not happy with the movie Trank was turning in. Which is all completely untrue, according to Trank.

“…in terms of the question of pick-ups or the implication of issues at hand, we had a seventy-two day shoot for principal photography. We were on-schedule and on-budget and we had a great shoot. I run a really tight ship as a director because I take those days very seriously. I take every day very seriously in terms of what we need to accomplish, what we need to get done with the actors. And I just like being on time. For instance, Chronicle was like a thirty-four day shoot. This was twice as long as that so you really have to pace yourself throughout. And shooting a movie this big, this is my first time shooting a movie that’s this long, you get to the editing room and you’re surprised by the stuff you didn’t anticipate would work so well. And just like [writer/producer] Simon [Kinberg] was saying, you see those little connective things that you didn’t even realize and you’re like “God, I’d like to grab that up.” And what’s been so cool is that the studio has been very happy to make that happen because they’re so excited about the movie. If that makes sense.”

So what was it like seeing all this baseless talk flying around the internet, accusing the movie of failing before anybody have ever seen a single frame of footage?

“Simon and I have talked about this a lot because Simon has worked on a lot of movies where people are talking about it, and you have to be patient about these things. Personally, there are moments when I look and think, “ah what are they saying? I should say something!” But no, because it will just be so much better to see how everyone reacts to the material. I don’t want to speak for the material, I want the material to speak for itself. Not necessarily defend itself though, I think that’s the wrong way to go about it. I’m so proud of this movie and I’m so excited for people to see it, and I just know that it’s so much more fulfilling to see how the same people who are saying things right now change their tune as soon as they have something to look at and dissect.”

Well, Trank finally actually gave us something official to look at and dissect, as a new on-set pic revealed Simon Kinberg talking to Michael B. Jordan who was in costume as Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch.

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Immediately you’ll notice the lack of blue spandex or giant “4” emblazoned on his chest. In the past, Trank has described the look less as superhero costumes but more like “containment suits”. I’m guessing that we’re going to see these suits spruced up with a bunch of post-production visual effects though – particularly for Human Torch who’s usually covered in flames from head to toe – but the look of this suit drives home one aspect of what Trank is trying to do with the movie. Much like the Ultimate Fantastic Four version of the comics, which has seemingly inspired so much of this film version, he basically wants to make this a proper sci-fi movie, and he even has some very unexpected – but very cool – sci-fi influences for it.

“I would say that the science fiction of it is a big thing that sets it apart from most of the other superhero genre films. I’m a huge David Cronenberg fan, and I always viewed Fantastic Four and the kind of weirdness that happens to these characters and how they’re transformed to really fall in line more with a Cronenberg-ian science fiction tale of something horrible happening to your body and [it] transforming out of control. And the potential for a hard sci-fi take on that material makes me really excited. I don’t really see that kind of potential and that kind of take being implemented on any of the other superhero movies that seem to be coming out in the next few years. Superhero movies have become a genre unto themselves and I didn’t really grow up on superhero movies. I grew up on genre movies before superhero was a genre. I don’t know if there are Blockbusters [the video chain] anymore, but there would probably be a superhero section. And this would fit more into the science-fiction, or horror, or even drama sections of the Blockbuster. And that’s just kind of the way I look at it. I want it to feel like it’s its own thing.”

Okay, I have to admit that has me greatly intrigued. The previous Fantastic Four movies felt a bit too comic-booky, too camp for my liking, so making this a proper sci-fi flick could just be what the franchise needs to rival Marvel’s efforts.

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Now obviously one of the biggest sticking points for die-hard fans of the Fantastic Four comic, was the casting of this movie which saw the black Michael B. Jordan supposedly being siblings with the very white Kate Mara, who plays Susan Storm aka The Invisible Woman. Personally, while large portions of the internet viewed this development with the type of scorn usually reserved for people who kick puppies, I had no problem with it, mixed-race families or ones with adopted siblings are certainly not that odd to see anymore these days. And that’s something that Trank agrees with, as he spoke about how he cast his actors.

“I always kind of had Miles [Teller] in the back of my head for Reed [Richards aka Mr Fantastic] and I always kind of had Michael in the back of my head. I met with Miles for Chronicle back in 2010 and I was such a big fan of his work in Rabbit Hole and he was an actor I always wanted to work with. So when Fantastic Four came about, and I really started working on this when I was in post on Chronicle at the end of 2011. I had just come off working with Michael B. Jordan and his character, Steve, in Chronicle had a lot of similar characteristics to Johnny Storm. And I thought it would be interesting to take the family dynamic of the Storms, which is brother and sister, and bring that more into the 21st century in terms of what we consider the norm. I have mixed family in my own family and it’s something that isn’t out of the ordinary anymore but we don’t really see it portrayed in the casual reality of the movies. That’s something I felt that would be interesting and challenging, to have mixed siblings.

Jamie [Bell] I had met after Chronicle. He was somebody else who I was a huge fan of for years. He was an actor who I had really wanted to meet, I didn’t even know he was available and his casting came later in the process because I didn’t know he was available. A lot of people don’t remember in Billy Elliot that he was a working class kid who came from a rough neighborhood. Obviously this Ben Grimm [aka the Thing] character wasn’t inspired by Billy Elliot, but there’s a childhood element of this movie. A kid who comes from a rough neighborhood and is an alienated kid and has this toughness to him, Jamie just exudes that and I thought it would be an interesting role for him. It feels very much part of the same DNA as the roles that he elevates. And Kate auditioned for Sue and she just knocked it out of the park in our chemistry reads with all four of the actors, Jamie excluded because he wasn’t there for our chemistry reads. She just fit in so perfectly with Michael and it felt like they had this history between them that was really interesting and compelling. It’s different to sit in a room and talk to actors about their roles and then put a camera in front of them and then see how the camera picks up and registers that chemistry. It was just so natural.

It was interesting looking for Victor [aka Doctor Doom]. We’re living in a time right now where we have this influx of such talented young actors. It was such a broad search to find the right guy. My casting director sent me a link to the Guy Ritchie movie RocknRolla and he’s so good in it. I wasn’t super familiar with him before that and we got on the phone and it turns out that he’s a huge Dr. Doom fan. There’s something in his voice and his accent just talking to him on the phone, it felt like I was talking to Dr. Doom. We brought him onboard and it was such a great fit it was just tremendous.”

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Early on in the production, there was some conflicting reports originally stating that for this film, Trank and co would not be pulling from any of the comics, but rather doing their own thing, and then a correction a day later saying that they will in fact be taking from the comics, but not all of them. Based on what we’ve heard about the plot, the most obvious influence is the aforementioned Ultimate Fantastic Four version, which Kinberg confirms saying it “is probably our biggest influence because it’s the younger Fantastic Four… a lot of the science specifics are there… and a lot of the means of transformation we took from those books”. He does also add though that “there are influences really from the beginning of what Kirby and Stan were doing in the 60’s all the way up into the present day” and that he was “using more of the mythology of the characters without necessarily adhering to an existing plot line”.

Trank emphasized that last point though, as he explained that this is not the same type of admittedly occasionally goofy superhero family that we’ve seen before.

“I would just like to add that there’s a big difference between adapting the tone of something or adapting the spirit. In this case we’re adapting the spirit of the characters as they stem all the way back to the original characters in the 60’s. These characters are iconic archetypes that are as timeless and flexible as you could ever hope for in terms of modernizing and updating a story. If you look at Shakespeare’s works, these are all stories that can be modernized because you’re dealing with archetypes.”

I have to admit, while still only cautiously optimistic about this – I loved Chronicle but don’t know how successfully Trank can make the jump to a picture of this scale – there are a number of things here that really got my attention, and have me a bit excited. Are these going to be the Fantastic Four I’ve known for the last few decades? More than likely not. But once you get over that hurdle, and take into consideration the talents of the actors, writer and director, I think that there’s definitely potential here for a great movie, even if it isn’t the one we were expecting.

Last Updated: January 27, 2015

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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