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Fantastic 4 Q&A


Tour: Part 1 / Tour: Part 2 / Q&A

As most of you already know, the FANTASTIC FOUR movie is currently being filmed in the less than fantastic city of Vancouver, British Columbia (no letters please, ‘tis just a healthy rivalry with the great city of Montreal). They’ll wrap the movie up mid-December and you can expect to see it hit your local cinema this coming July. If you haven’t already read my report on my visit to the set, click on the links above, otherwise get ready to enjoy the Q&A press conference we had with the cast and some of the filmmakers at the end of our day there.

The talent included Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm/The Thing), Jessica Alba (Sue Storm/The Invisible Woman), Chris Evans (Johnny Storm/The Human Torch), Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic), Julian McMahon (Victor Von Doom/Dr. Doom) as well as producers Avi Arad, Ralph Winter and director Tim Story.

Julian McMahon from NIP/TUCK fame and the great Michael Chiklis from THE SHIELD and THE COMMISH (although I’ll always love him for his brilliant turn in that SEINFELD Long Island episode) were the nicest surprises as they were not only extremely animated during the Q&A session, but also downright hilarious. Avi Arad, on the other hand, put the fear of God into me. The man can break you down with a simple stare. Alba discreetly offered me her phone number after the interviews, but as I’ve made it a policy to never mix business with pleasure, I politely told her it was a very inappropriate and unprofessional thing to do. Or maybe it was the foul Vancouver air that made me imagine all that. Anyhow, if you’re itching for more info on the greatly anticipated FANTASTIC FOUR movie, keep on reading…

Q: So Julian, how much have you enjoyed being the bad guy? Are you kind of hamming it up or playing it really straight?

McMahon: I'm the bad guy? (laughter) I need to talk to Avi for a minute. You know it’s been fun; it's been a lot of fun, it really has. First we have this guy here (Ralph Winter), Avi at the other end and this wonderful cast. You're surrounded by wonderful people who obviously know what they are doing, so for me it's just about immersing myself into the role, enjoying myself and hopefully giving the fans what they want.

Q: In terms of your performance do you approach very straight, do you take it very seriously or is it a big comic book to you?

McMahon: You know, initially it's a comic book, so you have to understand that's the kind of environment that we're trying to fulfill, although there's so much outside of what we do that's the comic aspect of it, it's the graphics, it's the computerization, it’s the prosthetics that he's been in for the last few weeks and all that stuff which creates that world. So for me, it's really not about trying to push things too much, it's about trying to face reality, so that you as an audience want to take that journey with me, hopefully for the expanse of the movie. So, a little bit of both to be honest, you try to camp up a little bit when you get those opportunities, but you don't want to look like a schmuck.

Q: What can you tell us about a hard day’s work on the Brooklyn Bridge set? It’s a particularly action-packed sequence in the movie, from what I gather.

Chiklis: I guess that’s directed at me. This goes under the category of “you know you're in a huge movie when”, because the first day I went to the Brooklyn Bridge set to see a 75 yard section of the Brooklyn Bridge having been recreated with a half a mile track in a circle so that traffic can flow through it, surrounded by three stories of blue screen. You know, you walk by the set that day and you go:  “Wow, hey mom, mom! You gotta see this!" To see it unfold, and we're going to spend eight days on that and we're not done with that set yet. And then second-unit starts an equal amount of time on that set and it's going to translate into maybe 2 or 3 minutes of the movie. It's an extraordinary thing to watch and for me, you know, spending 11 to 12 hours in latex is fun. (laughter)

McMahon: That's definitely some of Chicky’s happiest moments.

Chiklis: Yes, absolutely, it's a little like being in the 7th circle of hell; (laughter) but in a good way. At the end of the day, honestly, sure it's hot, it's uncomfortable, it's cumbersome, the outfit, but when you see it, it really is extraordinary.

Q: How many hours of pre-shooting do you spend getting into it? What do you do during that time?

Chiklis: I'm doing whatever it is I can do to relax and sort of let it happen, there is a sort of surrender that you have to give up because if you try to control the situation you're going to panic. It's three hours to get into it, head to foot. So you just have to relax in whatever way that you can. Initially it was really kind of frightening for me. I knew it would be a physical challenge to do that. I did not know it would be a psychological challenge and initially it was for me. I'm not a phobic person or an anxiety-ridden person, but I had a full-on anxiety attack the first time they put me in and I think it's because when they put the hands on me I can't get out on my own. But now, it's two months later and I'm through it. Now it's not fear it's more loathing. In terms of just the personal discomfort, I'm talking about that a lot, but I really want to make it clear that when you put your eyes on the prize, the big picture of it, you look at the dailies and you see what we're doing, that's the analogy that's good to you. You start to go: “Wow, this is something special, something that I can talk to my kids and grandkids about. This is a special, special job.”

Q: This is question for the cast. Now that you're in the midst of shooting, do you pick up any of the comics at all just to see what's being done with your character or are you pretty much ignoring it at this point and just focusing on the script?

Evans: I think we read a lot of comics before we started shooting. We all ran out and got as many as we could, and there’s so many different series, the Ultimate series, and it's kind of tough to keep track. You try to get as much information as you can but since shooting I haven’t actually done much reading.

Q: For people not familiar with Marvel comics across the board, they may have seen the X-MEN movies and liked them, how would you present to the general movie audience how these characters are different from the X-Men other than they're blue?

Arad: The Fantastic Four has actually been around longer than X-Men. In its essence, it’s more known. This is not a before and after, it's probably the most famous comic family out there. So one is, there is a lot of awareness. Two, this movie, the tone, the color, the relationship, the function of the family that we are dealing with is really unique. It took a lot of time to put this movie together because we have to service five characters. We have had a really busy time putting it out there, especially now that we actually have dailies and footage that we know plays exactly to the book that has been around forever. Keep in mind that over the years there's somewhere between 350 to 400 million copies sold of the Fantastic Four on a worldwide basis.

McMahon: All we need is a couple of million of those to come see this movie. (laughter)

Chiklis: It's really a great time for this film to be made too because on a technical level, 20 years ago you make this picture and it's cheese-whizzy because you can't achieve the individual effects, you know, Mr. Fantastic stretching and you need these kinds of prosthetics, you know, you turning into flame and you growing invisible and the force field and what not. Now the technical can be married with the practical and the emotional and the human in a way it never could be before. I think that's what we're trying to achieve, to not just being technical show, we're trying to fuse those elements together as seamlessly as we can.

Q: Avi mentioned about the dysfunctional family and I thought, Tim, maybe you could elaborate on that. Is that one of the reasons you decided to take on the film?

Story: I'm a fan of arguments and things not going right all the time so to me that makes the real drama and also, even better, it makes the real comedy. The Fantastic Four being a group like all of us; that's the fun part. I think when it comes to superheroes this one kind of fit me best because they're regular people. They have everything happen to them and then they have to deal with it and to me it's just like bringing that to life. I think we all can relate to not liking our family but loving them all the time.

Q: Is it of interest in the aspect that this is the only group that doesn’t have secret identities in this massive world of universal comic book heroes?

Story: I think that's the other thing that drew me to it is that you don’t have to worry about them hiding, this is an origin film so we're dealing with what's happening to them, but the future is how to play up on the fact that they do go to the grocery store, they go out and get a slice of pizza --

Q: This is a different genre for you, some directors like Sam [Raimi] have the Evil Dead series, they were in the genre. You've done BARBERSHOP, you've done TAXI, what different approach are you taking?

Story: You know I don't know if it's that much of a different approach. It's a character-driven comic book movie and I think that’s one of the reasons, hopefully, why they brought me on. I remember sitting down with Avi and Ralph in terms of what support I would have as for action and special effects because I knew I didn't have a lot of experience with that and they said: “You know what, we brought you to the table for the character and story and we'll support you with the rest of it.” I looked at it like if I have to make a movie work, absent of the action sequences and absent of the special effects, if I can pull that part and make it successful that I think the rest will take care of itself because the special effects, we have some serious wizards on this movie and it's going to be incredible, so I didn't really have to deal with that, I just kind of do what I do, to me it’s all filmmaking, it’s all character based, it’s all story and drama and comedy. I felt comfortable with those and once I had a cast and Avi had the script I had the tools to make it work.

Q: To Ioan, this is your first big Hollywood movie in North America, have you found any surprises?

Gruffudd: No, not really. It's the same sort of process as any television job that I've done, it’s just on a much grander scale and there is more money involved. I would call it one the hardest things that I've done to date because I’m using so much more imagination. Everything is done after the event or with computer- generated images, my whole character, in fact, is done afterwards, with the stretching, etc. It's a strange feeling as an actor to put your character into other people's hands. There's a huge trust issue there when you have that over you.

Q: Speaking of money Ralph, I bet there isn’t a day that goes by that you don't think say: “Boy, I wish had more money or I wish I had more time" and I’m sure that’s the same you felt on X-MEN and X2, PLANET OF THE APES or whatever. But I’m sure each of them presented their own challenges. What’s the challenge that’s unique for FANTASTIC FOUR?

Winter: A big challenge that is always present in these films is in the script of getting all five characters' heroes to have an interwoven journey, something meaningful and helpful towards the final act. That's probably the greatest challenge that we keep wrestling with even now as we sort of tweak what happens in the third act and make that stuff happen in a way that’s fulfilling for all the characters. It's always a challenge financially, trying to get as much on the screen as possible and make it look as big and exciting as possible. Brooklyn Bridge is a huge challenge, we feel very good about that now. Now we just have a “small” fight in New York City, in the third act here in Vancouver. Throwing buses and cars and blowing things up…

Chiklis: Jumping from building to building.

Winter : Yeah, jumping from building to building. Easy stuff.

Q: Jessica, your character is known for having maternal instincts, is that something that comes naturally to you or are you learning as you go?

Chiklis: Yes! Sorry. Yes, you are maternal. Sorry. I'm sorry to jump in like this. I didn't know Jessica before this and she's like little mommy, I've always told her she should have children immediately, you could be a beautiful mother; she has this matriarchal way. I’m sorry, go ahead…

Alba: Thank you. Actually that is a big part of my personality that I don't get to do a lot, especially as an actress, because I get type cast as the kick-ass bitch or the doting whatever girl. I never get the maternal, loving, supportive, intelligent role. And Tim, I tell him I don't know how I will get this movie, I love this movie, but if I was in this movie, this is Sue Storm to me. I thought he was going to be opposed to everything I said, and he wasn't.

McMahon: How can you oppose that? (laughter)

Alba: And I’m the oldest of fourteen cousins.

Q: Chris, you're the hot dog, young guy in this movie. This has to be a role that a whole lot of people wanted, were you lobbying for this?

Evans: Yeah, of course, this was a group effort for me. I went back in a bunch of different times and it was a long audition process and my agent pulled through, it was a big group effort between agents, managers, people over at 20th Century Fox, so I was ecstatic. It's all new to me. I never worked in anything this big, so every day it's an educational experience for me.

Q: For any of the cast, how much fun is it to be playing a superhero at the end of the day?

Winter: None of these people are having fun. (laughter)

Chiklis: Hey, listen I'm a rock hard He-Man. I get to play a rock hard He-Man, I mean that's crazy, who gets to do that? I was a fan growing up of the Fantastic Four. You know I loved this comic book. I've been blessed enough to play a number of cultural icons before and I know there's a certain responsibility that goes along with that but you can't get preoccupied with that as an actor. You really have to just bring your own joy to the opportunity to play this character and to just jump in - you just have to go for it. You can't worry about it; there is always going to be someone in the audience who’s like “ech”, you know, doesn’t handle it. But hopefully the mass majority will go: “Yeah, he was really pushy, he really committed to it and pulled it off.”

Q: Can you each talk about how the powers that your characters manifest sort of represent something about who they are?

Gruffudd: For me, he's always reaching for the stars, he's always reaching for perfection and his flaw is that he isn’t perfect; he's only human. His mistake in his calculations creates these characters when they’re exposed to this radioactive energy. I suppose that's his analogy, he's striving for perfection and always reaching when he becomes a superhero. That make any sense?

McMahon: That was fantastic. (laughter) I have been sucking my thumbs for weeks now and she doesn’t have any maternal instincts. (laughter) And we all hate each other! (laughter)

Alba: My character, she's very intelligent and she’s very maternal, and outwardly emotional because she's a woman and the guys kind of run the show and they don't see her, she might as well be invisible. She still lives in a man's world and she has to work double hard to get ahead and they still overshadow her.

Evans: I think Johnny's a real hothead, you know, he's a playboy, he likes to live life in the fast lane and he likes attention so what's more of a spectacle than bursting into fire and flying. (laughter)

Chiklis: Ben Grimm, The Thing. He's a tough guy, tough exterior, heart of gold. In a nutshell, that's it. He's been Reed's best buddy and protector. I'm the brawn and he’s the brain, so he’s in trouble. He's a protector, a strong guy and he doesn't want to be a hero, he doesn’t fancy himself a hero, he just wants to do his gig and get on with his life. I think the thing that truly makes him heroic is choices, as you'll see in the film, he has to make a pretty selfless choice to be heroic.

McMahon: Who am I again? (laughter) Oh yeah. You know the wonderful thing about this whole thing is that you actually get to see the evolution of the characters. They start off as human beings; they don't start off as superheroes or characters with extraordinary strengths or talents or anything like that. 

I saw the whole original comics and cartoons on TV and all that kind of stuff and it's wonderful because I've seen the comics and I started watching the cartoons probably in the 70’s and watched them through the 80’s and at first you're watching it through a child's eyes so you’re not really involved in the depth of the characters and all that kind of stuff which you try and study when you’re involved in playing this kind of role.

But in watching the original cartoons of this thing, it's amazing how much the original comics and cartoons are put to our characters, and it can be very subtle little things. It really starts off with relationships between the four people and these two (Reed & Von Doom) are basically nemeses from day one, they went to college together, Ben was the guy who stood by him, Mr. Fantastic and Victor had a spell for Sue who was the most gorgeous woman on the planet and then along comes this little young hot start and you really get to see these characters as people before they become something.

So, it's not until they go up into space and get engulfed by this cosmic storm that they will develop their individual powers and they really start to embrace and take on their original and probably deeper characteristics. That's the fantastic journey about this; you're not seeing the ultimate heart of humanity until they get infected with this thing. So it's really quite a unique and extraordinary journey and it's what brings these guys, the four of them, together and it’s what separates me from the four them. And it’s very well done and it’s a fantastic movie and it will make a lot of money. (laughter)

Q: Have you decided on the music, both the score and the soundtrack?

Winter: John Ottman is the composer, who did X-Men 2. He's very excited and we're very excited about him. A great choice for building themes and emotion, John is terrific. Regarding the soundtrack, there is nothing to talk about yet.

McMahon: Well, Chiklis and I have submitted a couple of renditions of our favorite songs and we're just waiting to hear the yay or nay from Tim Story. (laughter)

Q: Jessica, this is your second comic book movie, you also have SIN CITY, what approach have you taken from one comic book to another?

Alba: They’re completely different. I get to act and do what I love and that's something that's great. They're both more about the work and about action and this is definitely an action movie. I'm just thrilled that they're so good. I love that comic fans are so loyal and so hopefully I can still make movies for them.

Q: Chris, did you ever expect to be a superhero?

Evans: No, in a lot of ways it's a little boys dream. I've said that about 20 times today. What little kid didn't tie a towel around his neck and jump off the couch. I mean, it’s a superhero - it’s pretty cool.

McMahon: I jumped off the second story. (laughter)

Q: Julian, Michael has talked about his prosthetic process, have you had to undergo any of that yet?

McMahon: Mine's a lot more painful than Michael's, just so you know. (laughter) He's trying to make it look better, look at that outfit, look how good he looks up there! [referring to a banner of The Thing nearby]

Chiklis: I want you to know that’s a test. That was taken the second day I put it on. It's close, but it's not exactly where it's come to now.

McMahon: To answer your question, I have started the prosthetic thing. Once they all come back to earth, Victor gets a cut and he starts to develop this stuff in his hand and it's actually a very cool thing we’ve done, we’ve done this very slow evolution of this man turning into this kind of metal steel kind of thing. So the prosthetic for me so far has basically just been stuff over my face and stuff on my hand. It does develop into more of a Thing-type prosthetic.

Chiklis: That was a huge issue for me when I met with Tim. I felt very strongly that I sort of gave myself my own sentence to this. I really wanted it to be a costume because I felt that if it was just a CGI that you would lose the humanity. The other question was, can we make it so it looks and feels like the original character, a sort of real extension of this character and that I wouldn't be completely lost in it. That's the extraordinary thing that these guys have accomplished, even when I'm in 60 pounds of prosthetic make-up, you see that it's my eyes, it's my face. I think it's a pretty extraordinary accomplishment, to marry the technical with the emotional and the human and hopefully that will translate onto the screen.

Q: In the comic books, the Fantastic Four attracted a lot of other Marvel superheroes at times. I was wondering if there is a possibility of another superhero appearance, a cameo, perhaps?

Arad: Well, we always have a couple of easter eggs, for the true believers, and as you watch the movie you'll see some and you'll say: “Oh, I thought that was –.“ Watch for Stan Lee's cameo and some other vignettes but these are the best- kept secrets, especially here.

Q: This group here represents and informs to a worldwide community of hardcore fans and they’re all rooting for this film to be a great movie, undoubtedly, but I think they’re also going to examine every single aspect of it and be very vocal about what they like and what they don’t like. Tim, is that a daunting process for you, seeing as it’s a unique situation making a movie when you have this constant examination of what’s going on?

Story: The answer is yes, that’s what you try to forget until the press reminds you of it (laughter). I just know that in taking this project on, if you can create the spirit of what the comic books are and you find the best actors for the role and you find a great script and you go for it, then all you can do is put it out there and hope that they will accept it. Sometimes you have to win them over. Avi and Ralph told me about how much they screamed how Hugh Jackman was right for Wolverine and now you can't see that franchise being anything without him, all you can do is give it a 180% and just throw it out there. I think with the actors here, specifically, they have kind of taken on this role and just made the characters better than I could imagine. I can't wait for people to see it. I'm definitely not one to talk before it's presented but I think they're doing it justice.

Q: Do you have blinders on while you’re shooting this movie or do you take a seat every night and see what’s being discussed about it on the internet?

Story: Avi and Ralph forbid me to look at internet stuff and comments and this and that. You know as soon as this goes up people are ready to shoot it down. That's not always a negative thing because they're just so in love with the characters and the story and the stuff that you’re doing that they just want it done right.

Source: JoBlo.com



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