When director Josh Trank was a no-show for his Star Wars Celebration panel with fellow spinoff director Gareth Edwards two weeks ago, it was a bit surprising (according to Trank’s social media apology, the “worst flu of my life” was to blame). What was even more surprising though, is that neither Edwards nor Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy then made any further mention at all about Trank’s film, whereas Edwards wowed the audience with plot details and a brief teaser trailer. This set many attending journalists‘ spider-sense a-tingling, and it seems they were on to something.
Issuing a statement on StarWars.com early on Saturday morning, Trank has revealed that he will no longer be directing the second spinoff, or as they’re officially termed now, Star Wars Anthology films:
“After a year of having the incredible honor of developing with the wonderful and talented people at Lucasfilm, I’m making a personal decision to move forward on a different path. I’ve put a tremendous amount of thought into this, and I know deep down in my heart that I want to pursue some original creative opportunities. That said, the Star Wars universe has always been one of my biggest influences, and I couldn’t be more excited to witness its future alongside my millions of fellow Star Wars fans. I want to thank my friends Kathleen Kennedy, Kiri Hart, Simon Kinberg, and everyone at Lucasfilm and Disney for the amazing opportunity to have been a part of this. May the Force be with you all.”
I smell bullshit. Trank has previously stated that as a gigantic fan, working on a Star Wars movie was his dream gig. In fact it was a home-made Star Wars short film (seen below) that first got him noticed in Hollywood and led to him directing his first feature film in the great Chronicle, which in turn netted him the director’s chair on Fox’s high-profile Fantastic Four reboot. For him to walk away now “to pursue some original creative opportunities” makes very little sense.
And it appears that my bovine feces detective skills may just have been on the money, as THR is reporting that Trank did not exit the Star Wars production fully of his own volition, but was instead fired. You may recall that early on during the production of Fantastic Four, rumours swirled about unrest on the set due to Trank’s unruly, anti-social behaviour. According to THR’s expose of Trank’s dismissal, that situation may have been a lot worse than we realized.
THR’s insiders and sources claim that producers on Fantastic Four struggled to work with an “erratic” and “very isolated” Trank who was apparently in over his head and not ready to take on a movie of this size. One source states that “No question there’s talent there. You can’t do Chronicle by accident [but Trank seemed] like one of these kids who comes to the NBA with all the talent and none of the character-based skills to handle it. There’s equipment he doesn’t yet have.”
Being overwhelmed like this led to Trank becoming “indecisive and uncommunicative” on set. One source says that, “If you’ve got someone who can’t answer questions or who isn’t sure or is in hiding, that’s not good.” And it became so “not good” that writer/producer Simon Kinberg apparently had to step in to help finish the film. THR stresses that Trank was not locked out of the production entirely and was still on set directing (unlike what had reportedly happened with Carl Rinsch on flop 47 Ronin) as that would have gotten Fox in trouble with the Directors Guild of America, but in the end he was not the one in charge of the movie’s vision.
Kinberg and fellow producer Hutch Parker were apparently “heavily involved” in Fantastic Four‘s well documented last-minute reshoots, which had to be hurriedly arranged to accommodate the film’s stars who were pulled off other projects they had already moved on to, in order to fix the film. Avatar editor Stephen Rivkin was also brought in to replace Trank’s chosen editor Elliot Greenberg, who Trank worked with on Chronicle, and remedy the situation (The cast’s recent admission that despite it being just under 3 months to release, they have not yet seen any more footage of the film than we have, now suddenly makes a lot of sense).
A Fox spokesman said of the eventual cut of Fantastic Four – that is probably still being worked on in the editing room right now – that the studio is “very happy with the movie and we can’t wait for audiences to see it” but also acknowledges that “there were definitely some bumps in the road.”
All of this added on top of some other personal problems Trank brought to the production (he has several small dogs that were kept in a rented house during production, and which reportedly caused over $100,000 worth of damage to the property), meant that Kinberg – who is also the producer on the Star Wars films – did not want a repeat experience. He reported his concerns to Kathleen Kennedy and the rest of the Star Wars film brain trust, who were rapidly losing confidence in Trank due to all the bad stories they were hearing about Fantastic Four, and so they decided to rather part ways now before their own production was jeopardized.
While the Star Wars brain trust is still continuing to develop the Anthology film – which has been rumoured to possibly be either about a young Han Solo or a Boba Fett origin story – to meet its planned 2018 release date, Disney/Lucasfilm are reportedly hurriedly looking for Trank’s replacement. On the other hand, Gareth Edwards’ Star Wars: Rogue One seems to be all smooth-sailing for its December 16, 2016 debut.
Fantastic Four is also still on course for its July 30 release later this year, so we’ll have to wait till then to see whether Trank’s reported behaviour has sunk that production or whether Kinberg and co have managed to rescue the situation.
Last Updated: May 4, 2015