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Set Visit: Fantastic Four 2

05.22.2007

Back in November, I was granted with the privilege to visit the set of FANTASTIC FOUR: THE RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER amidst production in Vancouver (check out some cool new pictures from the film HERE). Needless to say, I was thrilled to play witness in some real butt-kicking action by the comic book superheroes. Uniting their extraordinary powers, the Fan Four are coming back in an effort to continue fighting Dr. Doom and other evil forces attempting to cause havoc in the world. Congregated in a gigantic green screen studio, we sat with eager anticipation as the Fan Four joined us for an entertaining press conference.

The all-star cast was as attractive as I presumed. Each actor blessed with his own unique blend of good looks and charm, and if imaginable, Jessica Alba even more beautiful in person than on-camera. Based upon the ongoing, funny chitchat among the cast, it became apparent that the actors shared the type of camaraderie, which would never result in a dull day on the set. ‘Dr. Doom’ led the press conference with his amusing and sometimes distracting banter, which remained dominant throughout the interesting interview process.

Check out what Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Julian McMahon, Ioan Gruffudd and Michael Chiklis had to say about their upcoming sequel FANTASTIC FOUR: THE RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER.

Julian, can you tell us about the new and improved you? Will you have the pleasure of being more evil this time?

Julian McMahon (JM): I didn’t know I was. I think that’s just part of my personality and after doing the movie the first time, I just became a bit of an asshole. I portrayed that in the evilness of this character. He’s just a little bit more evil because he’s coming back for revenge, I think and then we have the new suit, which is pretty kind of extraordinary. I just wore it for the first time last week. It looks amazing. I can’t tell you too much about it but it’s very evil, but at the same time it’s not that evil.

I always pictured this movie as kind of a kid’s movie, so you don’t want to be that evil that the little kiddies can’t be watching it, but it’s been fun. I haven’t been here the whole time like these guys have. I’ve been footing in and out, because I’ve been shooting my TV show at the same time, so I haven’t been as immersed in it this time around as I was the last time around, but it’s been good fun and it’s been evil.

Can each cast member talk about what’s new or different with your characters this time around?

Chris Evans (CE): I think everyone has a pretty good art. They make sure everyone has a journey and I think in the first one Johnny was kind of a one man show and wanted centre stage and I think the reason the Fantastic Four have always succeeded as a group of superheroes and as a comic book is that they’re a family, they’re a unit, they’re a group. I think Johnny has to know and respect that and I think in this movie he learns to appreciate the relationships around him.

Jessica Alba (JA): Nothing’s changed [laughs]. No, I have longer hair, kidding, and we’re much more mature in our characters as superheroes, and so this definitely is a product of that, this movie. We’re all very much a family. We all live together and we’re getting married [Reed and I]. That’s sort of the centrepiece for my character in this movie. It’s all about the wedding. She’s sort of ‘Bridezilla’ in the best way. She’s stressed and it has nothing to do with you Julian. Yeah, getting married, not you [speaking to Julian], to him [pointing at Ioan].

Ioan Gruffudd (IG): Yes, finally Reed Richards has taken centre stage and about time too really. He’s come more to the forefront. He’s much more comfortable with his role as the leader and as the sort of father figure really of the family and I’m delighted about that. It’s an lot more interesting character to play, compared to the first one where he was a little bit more nerdy or dorkish.

Now this time I’m stepping up to the plate and becoming the leader, and of course our relationship between Sue and I is much more intimate and much more real. It’s more three- dimensional. It’s more developed and evolved and an interesting point that Jessica brought up about the fact that we’re much more comfortable now at being superheroes. We are actors and people watch us do our work, and we’re commodities. Fantastic Four appreciate themselves to be commodities and are able to sell themselves as commodities as well as being superheroes. So that’s an interesting aspect of it.

Michael Chiklis (MC): I don’t know how much I have to add. They’ve covered pretty much everything but as far as The Thing is concerned, he’s taken another step in his relationship with Alicia in this picture and he’s a more lovable curmudgeon. If Reed Richards is the leader and the brain of this outfit, I would think that Ben Grimm would be the heart. He’s a lovable curmudgeon. He’s come to grips much more with his malady of being a superhero and he’s also a lot of the conscience and strength of the group, and as a complement to everybody else’s function. I’ve always thought like Chris said, the Four separately are fantastic, but together they’re obviously they’re much more powerful as a group.

Michael, can you talk about the changes and improvements that have been made to your suit? What can we expect from The Thing this time around?

MC: In the first film, I talked a lot about ad nauseam actually, to the point where I couldn’t even stand to hear my own voice about it. It was a pretty uncomfortable situation and it was a main concern for me coming into this one that it not be the same, because it was very experimental and there wasn’t enough time to really look into it. The last [suit] didn’t have a pant zipper, so it just made it into a 45 minute ordeal to urinate, frankly sorry.

JA: Make sure you put that into print.

MC: Yeah that’s lovely, so there were things, like the heat, the heaviness. Although the hero suit itself isn’t much improved, meaning when I’m dressed in the Fantastic Four garb, that you really can’t fake because he is bare chested and that one fortunately I’m only in about 25% of the movie in that one, but in the rest of the movie, and it’s quite really cute I think when you see him in the tuxedo for instance. So when I’m dressed in wardrobe. It just creates the appearance of bulk without the intense discomfort and it’s able to come off and on very, very quickly. So this has been a markedly more comfortable experience and much more helpful frankly.

Can each of you discuss what this movie means to you?

JM: I feel a bit repetitive because this is obviously the second time around and I’m going to repeat myself, but I was a big fan of the comic book and the cartoon. So I always thought Dr. Doom was the most evil guy on the planet until Darth Vader came along and then I thought Darth Vader was. Then they were kind of one and the same in a way, and so to be able to play that character and to play in that genre and it’s a superhero genre. I mean it’s ridiculous, you know, it’s just fun and as an actor, and particularly playing the evil guy you get to just do silly fun stuff.

MC: It’s about a dysfunctional family and their relation to it. People relate to it because they all have their own dysfunction in their own families, so it would be hard to find a family that isn’t dysfunctional.

JM: It’s also comic book.

MC: Yeah it is, so it is fun.

CE: Yeah I agree with that. I think this was a great opportunity to play a superhero. It’s kind of every boy’s dream, so in that regard it was a great character to land, but any film that’s this big and this exposed, it’s good to kind of get your face out there and have with meetings like this, a lot of things. It’s just a good opportunity. It enables future work. It helps prolong any potential career that you might be able to have.

JA: Which he might be able to have…God forbid ‘cause you just have nothing going for you [joking.] Just good looks. He’s actually a really good actor, in case you guys were wondering. For me, I think just being part of a comic book movie that appeals to family is kind of a big deal, and being able to play a female character that is so strong and so dominant, and doesn’t use her sex appeal to get ahead and she’s not a villain, she’s not nasty, she’s quite a noble character to play and that’s great. I think it’s a great female icon.

IG: Personally it’s sort of seeing myself, the image of myself that I would desire to have when I was watching these sort of movies as a kid. It literally is a dream come true to play a heroic part and to play a superhero was just a little extra bonus I think. So it’s just seeing that childhood dream come true.

JA: We laid the carpet for you guys. Rolled out the best [laughs].

MC: The Fantasticar is pretty fantastic and I’d love to have one of those, but this breaks up into parts; into individuals which is pretty awesome. This is mine right behind me and they all come together into one. Yeah, it’s kind of macho actually. Put together, it’s going to look phenomenal. The first time I looked at it, I was excited. I’m a car guy. I like cars and this one flies. I’d like to cruise around in this if they can get it to work.

JA: It made me a little sick actually when we were shooting. I got a little nauseous in all honesty. We actually spent a lot of time in the car and filmed full days in the car, doing a lot of the virtual stuff, or CGI stuff. What is it like a Back to the Future ride? It’s similar to Universal Studios Back to the Future ride really, going down, going up…

Ioan, what’s it like being a British actor in a big budget Hollywood movie but not being the villain?

IG: Well, I’m delighted to be able to break that tradition really of having a Brit or a person who isn’t American playing the bad part. I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve immersed myself into an 100% American character, and that was a major desire of mine as an actor moving to Hollywood, that I was to be believable as an American. I didn’t want any attention brought to me to the fact that I was a British actor. I’m an actor period. So I am very proud to have this opportunity and I’m Welsh.

JM: Does that mean that I haven’t broken any moulds? Is that what you’re trying to say by that? [joking]

IG: No, I was just saying…

JM: No, no that’s fine. I’m cool with that. I’m just the standard round the mill whack job who just got a job because you came from another country. Okey dokey big smokie.

IG: No, but you’ve had your chance on your own show, haven’t you? You’ve proven yourself as an American on your show.

JM: [Pretends to whisper] Let’s not talk about my show. It’s got nothing to do with what we’re doing here.

In regards to the Silver Surfer, how do you work with an invisible actor on set and how that’s played out?

JM: We can’t talk too much about the Silver Surfer, but he does look really good. That’s just what we do on green screen.

CE: No, there’s somebody there. Doug Jones just wears the body suit. That cat’s been out of the bag for a while so if I wasn’t supposed to say it, someone should have told me that a while ago.

IG: It’s the same essence as what Andy Serkis did with Gollum. He was there for the off camera work, and Doug is there for our off camera work. So we just have a physical presence there to work with. He has dialogue and it’s good to bounce off a real person, rather than a tennis ball with an X on it.

JM: And sometimes though I’ve done some scenes where he hasn’t been there, and I like the tennis ball. I do. It’s so good having no other actors. There are no arguments. You can do what you want.

JA: You get to be the centre of attention Julian.

JM: With all those fight scenes, you guys have no idea what I did huh? Just one tennis ball there, another tennis ball over there. That’s Ioan, that little tennis ball over there. I’m going to burn that one.

Speaking of special effects, has it gotten any easier to work with effects the second time around, or is it just as challenging?

MC: No, I think we’ve all gotten better at it. It’s moving more smoothly. There’s more of [CGI] than there was in the first one.

IG: There’s certainly a lot more green screen this time around and to be perfectly honest the preparation for that sort of process is to get yourself a lot of DVD’s and a lot of Playstation games, because you’re going to spend a lot of time in your trailer. But that’s just the nature of green screen, because it’s so precise and it’s such an art in that sense, that it takes so long for them to set it up, just for one particular shot and then you come onto the set, and you’re quite literally working for two or three takes, which took about maybe ten minutes, and they’ve set it up for the last hour and a half. So I tell you what, my hat goes off to those guys who did all the Star Wars movies totally against the green screen, because at least we have the organic nature of working with sets and tangible things, compared to just a green canvas.

JM: It’s also a different type of performance.

MC: This isn’t what I would refer to as an actor’s piece.

JM: Speak for yourself buddy. I’ve done some of my best work being evil.

MC: It requires skills as an actor, absolutely. That’s not what I’m saying.

JM: I think it’s a different type of skill. If you have to work on green screen, it’s a different type of skill as if you have to work in a house, in a kitchen with other people. Actually I think that it’s very developmental in regards to the way you start to think about things. Once you’re working on green screen, you are looking at tennis balls, you are looking at an X marks, you have to create it all in your head. And like [Ioan] said, take your hats off to all these Star Wars guys and Harrison Ford is flying down with Chewbacca behind him and I mean that’s pretty good effort. It definitely creates another part of your brain…

MC: You have to be in touch with your child.

JM: Yeah, and the fantasy of the whole thing, flying through space or flying through the air or in a car like this and there’s an imagination that goes along with that.

IG: It heightens your concentration. I think that’s what it does, because you are searching for things that aren’t physically there. It really somehow weirdly gives you a real focus, because you have to focus on things that aren’t there and it really concentrates your mind and I think it will add to all these sequences when you see us so concentrated and so involved that we believe that we are flying this car and being tossed around by Doom. If we don’t believe it then the audience won’t believe it.

Michael, going back to the suit and the Fantasticar, what kind of a challenge do you find when getting inside the car in your suit?

MC: I guess these movies from a lot of the questions I’ve fielded, and I guess part of it is my own fault. I brought it on myself and it’s been about discomfort. But I have to say, last week I got to work with a ten foot tall, 1650 pound Kodiak bear and that’s one of the reasons why I love this business, is because that’s something you don’t get to do in life, to stand in front of a predator six feet away like that. In spite of whatever discomfort I’ve had to go through, it’s been quite exhilarating sometimes and getting into the Fantasticar is just a matter of they’ve made a huge bucket seat for me. I fit in there fine, so they’ve accommodated me in whatever ways they’ve been able to, to make it livable. So it’s been fine.

This is a sequel and the first time around is an adventure. The second time around, how do you as an actor find the seriousness in the part, when you’re doing a sequel with all the visual effects and the comic book storyline?

MC: Frankly in the first one I had a much more serious story line totally. I was a guy trapped in a body he didn’t want to be in and I had much more of a conflict in that way. In this one it’s very light for me, so you can probably do better for one of the other guys to answer that.

IG: I think there’s a practicality of it. Because we have done the first movie, we’re setting up the story in the first movie. There wasn’t much scope for adventure. We were explaining to everybody who we were, introducing ourselves. Now we start the movie. Everybody knows who we are. We start the adventure almost immediately, so in that sense it’s a massive step forward but as far as the acting and I think to go back to your question, it’s a pleasure to come back to a character, having played it once. It’s a luxury. You don’t get to do that unless you’re in a show or in a series, and to do that on screen in a movie like this, it’s a great feeling. It gives you a lot of confidence and I’ve evolved over the last two years, and that will in turn feed and bleed into the character of Reed Richards.

JA: To be honest, as silly, big, comicbookie and CGI everything is, we really play it for real and with as much conviction and sincerity as anybody would be in those circumstances. Like Ioan said, there’s been a two year gap where I’ve been able to do a few things as well and I think where you’re growing as a person, as an actor will definitely help you in doing the next movie and if we get to do a third one, we’ll be even more evolved hopefully as people and as actors.

CE: I agree. I think that I’ve never had an opportunity to work on a sequel, even working on television, playing character and having an opportunity to see the way you portray it, see the way it came to life and refine your approach. This has been a great opportunity, regardless of the genre, whether you have a children’s movie or an action film or a deep thinking piece. It’s exciting to get back in the saddle, to try and adjust what you don’t think worked and make better what you think did. So regardless of whether the script is directed towards children or adults or silly or whatever, I was excited to get back in the saddle.

MC: I’m regressing. I’m not evolving. (laughs)

JM: What was the question? Oh yeah, yeah, that’s our job, to take it seriously. I know it’s a kid’s movie and it’s a popcorn movie and all that kind of stuff but to make it bad you have to take the job seriously. So if I’m in a situation where it’s funny, then you have to make it funny. If I’m in a situation where it’s dramatic, you have to make it dramatic, an dramatic can be funny sometimes and all that kind of stuff. So it’s just like any other job. You just have to take a script, work with it any way you can, work with your other actors, you work with the director and you come up with something that’s hopefully plausible and hopefully something sticks to the screen, and everybody goes, ‘Well I believe that we’re in that moment in time.’

All of you have specific powers. Can you discuss if they will be different in this film?

IG: I don’t think the powers are the same. They are limited in that sense, to our own individual powers. What’s interesting is the psychological aspect of it that we are presented with the character of the Silver Surfer who is rather ambiguous. We are not sure whether he is good or evil, so that’s more of a challenge this time I think for the characters. Of course there’ll be lots of Fantastic special effects and myself stretching and catapulting objects and Sue protecting us in her invisible sphere and Johnny flying and chasing the Silver Surfer and all sorts, and Ben scaring away bears. The interesting part is that psychological element. How do we work as a team against this other force, coupled with Dr. Doom. So the challenge is twice as much this time.

JM: We have to be pretty specific to the original comic in a way, so it’s not like we can just come up with powers that weren’t already there. So it’s an enhancing of the story line and an enhancing of all the powers. I do come back and try to get more power, which I do get for a period of time, and at the end of the movie I kill them all [laughing.]. Aww, I’m sorry. Take that back! [joking]

JM: So they already are what they are and they can just be enhanced by certain things and the Silver Surfer obviously everybody knows about that and so he comes in and he throws things into the mix, and I don’t know if you know the comic book very well, but the Silver Surfer’s got some pretty extraordinary powers and it’s something to behold and something to reckon with if I get hold of it, and something different if they do, so it’s that kind of battle to a certain extent.

MC: We never really touched on it. The fact of the matter is in the first piece, it’s an origin piece. We can jump right in now and the stakes are raised. Now we’re introduced to another character, the Silver Surfer, his powers are enhanced and now we have a bigger challenge on our hands and we can jump right into it. So it’s bigger. It’s better.

JA: I think the difference as far as the powers go. We all like they were saying have the same powers, it’s just integrated into our day to day life, so it may have been a big deal if Johnny can toast his own toast, now it isn’t. We don’t care anymore. Or if I turn things invisible, it’s like, ‘make it reappear Sue’ or whatever, ‘well listen to me then.’ It’s just a bit more integrated I guess.

CE: Jess took my answer. There’s just more of a practical approach of the powers, more comfortable than with the first one. We were clunking around and figuring it out, but now we’ve got it down.

You said that the script references celebrity in some way and that the superheroes are now really famous. Jessica, what are your feelings on the celebrity status of these characters in the script and are they accurate in terms of what celebrity status has done for or to you?

JA: Well, I hate everyone now and I don’t know my family anymore and I just live in a cage really. I only walk out when I’m in full hair and make up and I’m ready to do press conferences, really. Yeah, okay, next [kidding around]. No, really it just shows that they still want to be human beings. They still want a very regular family life and unfortunately when you’re under a microscope, everyone’s very critical of your version of what that means, and so people are picking them apart and putting them on pedestals and lifting them up and tearing them down for newsworthy sound bites and they’re like, “But we’re still human beings.

We just want a family. We just want to be married.” Unfortunately they can’t because they are superheroes and they have to sacrifice their regular life for that. In turn, in wanting to be an actor and losing your anonymity a bit, but it only means as much as you want to give them. If it really matters that much whether someone’s hair is messed up or not or whether you’re wearing the right boots for the season, or whether you’re out partying too much…who cares. And I think it just really depends on how much weight you put on it.

IG: That was very eloquently put. I think also for the Fantastic Four there was no choice in the matter, with these guys. These powers were thrust upon them. There’s a certain element of choice of being an actor. You are going to be in the public eye and therefore you have to take on that responsibility and I think the Fantastic Four, as much as they’ve capitalised on their fame, their marketing themselves, there’s a certain amount of responsibility and you can’t have your cake and eat it. So that is actually brought up in the movie and it’s a very interesting subject.

Source: JoBlo.com

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