Josh Trank burst onto the scene with the awesome Chronicle so when it was announced that he would be helming the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, and then later also tackling the second standalone Star Wars Anthology film, people were initially kind of happy. And then he went and cast a black guy as Johnny Storm. The internet – being the internet – promptly went ballistic, and with all the subsequent reveals for Fantastic Four that didn’t quite match their vision, their vitriol escalated. Not helping at all were the stories going around about Trank’s unruly on-set behaviour and ever-worsening relationship with the studio, and in particular writer/producer Simon Kinberg.
So when Trank was a no-show at Star Wars Celebration (apparently due to illness) to talk about his Star Wars flick – which Simon Kinberg was also producing – the internet spun into gear again. They really went crazy when barely a fortnight later it was revealed that Trank had now dropped out of the Star Wars gig entirely. The official reason given was that he wanted to ““pursue some original creative opportunities.” , but THR (a usually very reliable news publication) put out a scathing expose claiming that Trank was in fact fired from Star Wars by Disney/Lucasfilm due to the shenanigans on Fantastic Four. Kinberg, THR and Variety claimed, didn’t want a repeat performance of the behind-the-scenes mess on Fantastic Four and so had his Lucasfilm bosses give Trank the chop. And that’s sort of been the accepted version of events. Until now.
Chatting with LA Times in an exclusive interview, Trank set out to set the record straight, claiming that he dropped out Star Wars of his own volition, and did it because he had pretty much had enough of the media circus that began with Fantastic Four and followed him ever since.
“At first I was like, ‘I’m just not going to say anything because it will blow over. But I was shocked – it just hasn’t blown over. People get so excited to raise their pitchforks.”
“I knew that this was going to be questioned and it was going to come under skepticism as to why I left ‘Star Wars. And it was hard. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life.”
As for his supposedly indecisive and erratic behaviour on set, and in particular the alleged bad blood between Trank and Kinberg, the director – standing next to the producer – stated that what we heard simply wasn’t what happened.
“None of those facts were true – and any of the facts that were true were spun in such a maliciously wrong way.”
“If you ask anybody by name who I’ve worked with, from Simon to [producer] Hutch [Parker] or my crew or anybody else, they’d be like, ‘We’ve been working really hard on this movie and we’ve had an excellent time working together. It’s been a challenging movie – for all of the right reasons.”
“Simon and I have become closer friends through this. To have the rest of the world – other than the people who know us – think that we’re in some blood feud with each other over something… [trails off]”
“It feels sometimes like I’m living in a Paddy Chayefsky script or something like that [laughs]. Every misconception that could possibly be made about this has been made to a hilariously satirical degree. And it’s people who haven’t met me before. If they met me – I don’t know, I feel like I’m a pretty harmless person.”
Kinberg – who has seen his fare share of fan backlash having worked on all the X-Men films – backed up Trank’s defense, saying that the attacks on the young director has been unprecedented and unwarranted and that it was Trank’s vision for Fantastic Four that got him aboard.
“I’ve been around some version of this for a long time. This, I would say, is particularly cruel. I haven’t really seen this level of vehemence against a filmmaker. And it’s surreal and unfair.”
Some of these attacks against Trank claimed that the dogs he brought along to Fantastic Four’s New Orleans apparently damaged one of the houses being rented for him to the value of $100 000. Which is a ludicrous claim, according to him.
“Please – it’s crazy and it’s not true. I have three pugs and a little Boston terrier – that’s all I’m saying. They’re fine. I’ve been living in another house for over a year now and there’s literally no problem. I love my landlord.”
Last week, a very defensive rant by an anonymous user surfaced on the infamous 4Chan message board which some claimed was actually Trank himself, but the director denied this unequivocally.
“Everybody wanted to go out there and say, ‘Josh has lost his mind. It’s just been an avalanche of things.”
So if all of this was just an untrue smear campaign, then why did Trank leave the Star Wars project, especially since he has stated Star Wars was a dream gig as the movie universe was “one of my biggest influences”?
“I want to do something original after this because I’ve been living under public scrutiny, as you’ve seen, for the last four years of my life. And it’s not healthy for me right now in my life. I want to do something that’s below the radar.”
“I have a great relationship with everyone at Lucasfilm and with [Lucasfilm VP of development] Kiri Hart. And they all understood it because this whole experience for me has been very psychologically hard.”
For what it’s worth, I’ve spoken to some people who have had first-hand experience working with Trank (Chronicle was shot here in Cape Town), and have received both extremes: One said he was just the nicest guy who just got on with the job, while another claimed that he was an absolutely nightmare to work with. Irrespective of which is the real Josh Trank, we’ll soon be able to see if all the vitriol and speculation was warranted when Fantastic Four releases on 7 August (we get it a week later).
Last Updated: June 9, 2015