COMIC-CON: The Fantastic Four Cast Speaks!

Three of 20th Century Fox’s and Marvel Studio’s Fantastic Four talked about the summer 2005 big screen adaptation at Comic-Con this weekend. In attendance were Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm/The Thing), Jessica Alba (Susan Storm/The Invisible Girl) and Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic). Chris Evans also plays Johnny Storm/The Human Torch in the Tim Story-directed film.

Here are Chiklis, Alba & Gruffudd, with an exclusive audio clip featuring Chiklis says “It’s Clobberin’ Time”! Just click the link to the clip when you get to it in the interview…

It sounds like from what Avi Arad and director Tim Story have said, you’re trying to do this treatment of “Fantastic Four” the way the public deserves to have it done.

Chiklis: That’s what it is all about. I, I think among us, was the fan of and the most aware of the “Fantastic Four” growing up. Of course, that makes me the oldest (laughing). You know, I really truly was a fan and I think that we’re all aware of how rabid the fans are, how aware they are of every nuance and every aspect of this – more familiar than we are about it. I’m a fan. Like I said downstairs in the press conference, I thought I was a fan until you come here and you realize people can quote just about every episode number. It’s taken to an extreme so, you know, I think we all feel the weight of it. But at the same time, we’re so thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved in it that we’re just going to have a blast and we’re going to do it right and enjoy it.

Despite all of the special effects and everything, do you see any similarities between this character you’re playing in this film and characters you play, like the one on “The Shield?”

Chiklis: Interestingly, yeah. There are some similarities. This is a guy who can be very scary and also be really likeable and downright cuddly. So, yeah, there’s kind of a through-line in that way. But you know, his problems – meaning Ben Grimm/The Thing’s problems – are different certainly than that of Vic Mackey or other characters I’ve played. There are broadstroke similarities and some specific differences.

Avi Arad, in a recent interview, said the story here would follow much more the new comic book the “Ultimate Fantastic Four,” which is very different. As a fan of the Fantastic Four, can you talk about how this is a departure of the last 40 years and a new way of looking at the team?

Chiklis: No, in a word. I can’t… I’m not nearly as familiar as I thought I was. I was just a kid who loved comics, who read them. I didn’t study them. I didn’t memorize them. I liked them. I had a particular affinity for Benjamin Grimm, for The Thing, just because I related to him. I could understand, you know, a guy feeling like unattractive and feeling like he’s kind of on the outs, but yet feeling like you had something to offer. And feeling like there was something that you could do, and having a good inside of you and all of that. So I just liked him on a personal level, you know so… As far as the nuances between this version versus that version, you are much better off asking Avi than I or Tim [Story].

Are we going to see the love triangle between your three characters in this film.

Chiklis: Not in this installment. You’re referring to the love triangle between Ben Grimm, …., and …. I thought you were referring to my girlfriend. That’s a later thing down the road. There is no triangle here. It’s a square.

Jessica, can you talk about your character and the aspect of her being the peacemaker of the group? She’s always trying to mediate fights between The Thing and Johnny.

Jessica Alba: Yeah, The Thing and Johnny – and keep Ben from strangling his best friend for making him the way he is, and from Doom, you know, becoming a maniacal, evil bad guy. She keeps trying to keep everybody together. She just wants everyone to be okay. It seems like when she’s trying to do that, everyone is so caught up in their problems that’s when she disappears. And so it’s very metaphorical. I love it. I’m not that familiar with the comic book and I read the script, and it’s just great. It’s about family and it’s so hopeful. With so many families breaking up and with so many people so quick to sue people and to go and fight and go to war and do all these things, this is just about solving problems.

What was it that the producers and director saw in you that related to your character that you were cast in?

Alba: I don’t know.

Ioan Gruffudd: I’m a mathematical genius (laughter). Gosh, I don’t know.

Chiklis: I’m a thug that you want to hide from.

They saw so many people to choose from for these roles. There were a lot of people going out for them. Why do you think they chose you?

Gruffudd: I don’t know. I think getting to know each other a little bit today and you getting to see us today, we’re sort of down to earth people. And I think that’s the main attraction of these characters, that they are real people that you can associate with. They’re just in these incredible situations. I think that’s the main attraction and possibly we’d like to think we’ve been cast because of that.

Did you test together for “Fantastic Four” or did you meet for the first time pretty recently?

Chiklis: The latter.

Alba: We actually met at an award show. We were presenting together. And then I met [Ioan] at a hotel bar lobby.

Is that a scandal?

Alba: (Laughing) No, with the director. He was doing press for “King Arthur” and he was in the middle of all his stuff. I honestly didn’t know that this was going to happen because I so easily get typecast as the like kick-ass girl or the hot girl or whatever kind of thing, half-naked in this or that. And this is really who I am. I am a problem solver. I’ve been working since I was 12. I come from a really big family and I’m the oldest of 14 cousins, and we all live in Southern California. So I’ve always had to mediate. And I think when I sat down with Tim, he kind of saw that that’s my nature.

Do you think that your role in Sin City prepared you at all for another comic book character? Did it make you more comfortable in tackling that?

Alba: Not at all. (Laughing) Sin City is a whole other thing.

What have they told you so far about the special effects particularly in regards to your characters as far as the CG enhancements?

Gruffudd: Nothing much really. I think all the other movies have raised the bar now. “Spider-Man 2″ in particular. I have every faith that this is going to take it to the next level again.

Chiklis: I find it interesting, I don’t know about you, but thus far we’ve been kept in the dark about an awful lot of things, and now things are starting to be revealed. I think part of that was because there’s such anticipation and there’s so many people wanting to know early what’s going on that the policy for them, being the studio, has been the fewer people we tell, the less the leaks.

Alba: Even though we’re the cast (laughing).

Chiklis: (Laughing) Even though we’re the ‘people’. But you know what? It’s a need to know basis. But I’ve been assured many times that the resources are there, they’re going to bring everything to bear. There are going to be some spectacular effects in this.

For my part, I did not want to do this if Ben Grimm was going to be a CGI. If he was going to be done in the way that The Hulk that was done. I felt that I would be wasted. I was assured from the get-go that that wasn’t going to be the case, and I was thrilled. They would use some CGI enhancements in creating nuances, and he told me a couple of ideas that I just thought were so hot sh**.

For an actor, it’s a thrill to be involved in this type of thing. I’ve not done really anything of this scale. Everything I’ve done has been about the acting work, about character development, about people interacting. This is still very much like that, but with a huge scale of technical support around it. That’s what really attracts me to this project from a directorial standpoint. Tim has said from the beginning the technical will support the character development. I think fans will love to hear that, too. That’s a thrill. All too often, as we all know with big, huge multi-hundred million dollar pictures like this, the studio or the director often makes the mistake of rushing to the next explosion. As you all know, if you don’t care about your central characters, you don’t care if they blow up or not. So the idea that the onus will be on the development of this family and that’s why I think personally “Spider-Man 2″ is so successful and it’s so good. Well-drawn and well-developed characters and yeah, there’s spectacular effects, but you care about Tobey Maguire and Kirsten getting together. You know, you care about them so they take you on the ride and so those effects are effective.

There are no secret identities in “Fantastic Four.” Will the nature of celebrity be explored?

Chiklis: That’s a very different thing than any of them. We become discovered.

Alba: And what’s great is Johnny Storm, he acts as every pop star young guy who’s in the Star magazine, in the People magazine, the US Weekly, who gets a bunch of money and the cars.

Chiklis: He relishes it.

Alba: He loves it, and he’s living out the fantasy of every pop star/”American Idol”-wannabe guy. [Reed's] the scientist and he doesn’t really…

Gruffudd: I’m [wracked] with guilt.

Alba: Yeah, he doesn’t capitalize on the fame thing. I think actually Ben Grimm has a really difficult time with it, and can’t really get away from it.

Chiklis: I’m the one who looks at it as a malady. She’s still gorgeous, but she can knock people down with this force field. She can disappear. He can stretch himself but he’s still the handsome, dashing cad (laughter). I’m this leper. And then when I… I don’t want to give anything away, but I’m dealing with a sense of betrayal in this picture, as well, because I want to believe. That’s one of the great things that’s written about this. You have Dr. Doom who’s trying to create a wedge between the relationships of the Fantastic Four, particularly [Reed] and I and causing mistrust and a feeling of betrayal. And it’s like Jessica said, it’s about overcoming that and those feelings and coming together as a core. And then obviously the ultimate metaphor is as a core, as a family, overcoming evil.

What about the playful part of the “Fantastic Four” story, where Reed and Ben are like brothers going through this?

Gruffudd: Yes, I think so. I mean, I think the beginning of the story is us as real people and our friendship, and then the accident happens. So yes, certainly you’ll have that element to it.

Your temples? What color will they be?

Gruffudd: I’m not sure whether I play him from the beginning that he went gray from the age of 19. I think that’s the starter. Or do I then… Since the accident does he develop those little graying hairs? That’s something to play with. We’ll have to talk about that and discuss that.

And you’re already blonde for the role.

Alba: I was actually blonde in “Sin City” and “Into the Blue.” This is my third.

Chiklis: I’m blonde too (laughing).

Will you be throwing any couches in the movie?

Chiklis: I’ll be throwing all kinds of things. I have a really cool moment with a lamppost in this movie. You know it’s one of those things as an actor, and I know you guys are going to hook up to this, where you read the [script] and you go, “Oh cool honey, I get to do this!” You know what I mean? Like there’s… No, I can’t tell.

Oh, go ahead.

Chiklis: There’s so many moments where I’m reading it going, “Oh, that’s awesome!” It’s really well-written, I have to say.

Alba: It really is.

Chiklis: As an actor, the hardest thing in the world is when you read a script and you go, “Oh boy,” at all, on any level. And even if it’s just okay, then there’s this feeling that you have to lift it. You have to bring something more to it. When it’s good on the page, all of a sudden now it raises your confidence level because you go into it feeling armed. The best example I have of that is I did a one-man show on Broadway once. It was really successful, and it was successful because it was a great script. And I used to go out there on Friday nights, which is the worst night in the world on Broadway because it’s all the New Yorkers who are sitting there like this, “Alright assh***. I paid $65 a head, make me laugh.” In Defending the Caveman. But I felt confident because I knew I was armed with the material. So I could go out there and go, “Okay, you’re copping an attitude now but I know by the time to get to ‘Alright I’m an assh***’ I’m going to get the laugh.” It really feels good to be armed.

Will your character have a blind girlfriend?

Chiklis: Yeah, yes. And I don’t know who she is yet and I can’t wait to meet her (laughing).

When does this start for you guys?

Alba: In a month.

Did you have to prepare physically for this?

Chiklis: I’m training like a freak, personally. (Laughing) I need to trim down at the waist and bulk up at the [chest]. I’m hitting it big time.

Alba: I always train before a movie because it’s actually quite exhausting. I mean, we’re on the set literally and have to be there 14 hours easy, [on an] easy day. In order to be able to do that, you’ve got to be on your game.

Have you tried on the costumes yet?

Alba: (Lauhging) Yeah. I tried mine on. Did you guys try yours?

Chiklis: I think one of the most humiliating moments of my life was putting on spandex, personally. It’s always nice when four women pull you into spandex when you’re in jockey shorts. Yeah.

Alba: With the zippers on the inside.

Chiklis: And the pinching…

Alba: I was so scared of the pinching. She had to use a tool to get my right leg.

Chiklis: Did they have the fan blowing on you?

Gruffudd: Yeah.

Chiklis: That causes shrinkage.

Alba: I had the guys making the costumes kind of looking at me like [puzzled expression]. I was like, “Is there a problem?” “No, I’m just looking.”

Chiklis: That guy prides himself on being pro, too. He looks at you like you’re a mannequin, not like you’re a person. He’s doing his job.

Alba: Yeah. The costumes are very cool and they are spandex and we do have gloves and boots.

Will the costumes have 4′s on your chests?

Alba: Yes.

Chiklis: Now, of course, they are also building The Thing deal. Thankfully thus far they’ve spared me a lot of the pre-stuff. They are basically going to pare the process down to about five hours before they try it on me. Right now they are doing it on my life cast.

Which company?

Chiklis: Someone has got to tell us the name of the company again because we’ve all forgotten the name of the company. I think it is Spectral Motion. What is Mike’s name?

Alba: He did Hellboy.

Chiklis: They’re a fantastic group over there. They make it as comfortable as possible. I know if you’re a claustrophobe, it’s a nightmare. Thankfully, I’m not. I don’t know if they are.

Alba: This was really strange for me because I was with a bunch of guys and I was by myself, and it was 8 in the morning. I had this body suit-thing on and they’re like, “So we’re going to put Vaseline all over your body.” I was like, “Oh, okay… Like, everywhere?” They’re like, “Yeah, everywhere.” So I’m like, “Okay …” And then they got closer and closer to those certain areas that only, you know, certain people are allowed to go (laughter). And they were lubing it up. That was a little weird.

Why did they lube you up?

Alba: They have to lube you up before they put the cast thing on so it won’t stick to you.

Chiklis: The life cast.

Why did they need the cast?

Alba: I think they just wanted it so they can build the costume on it. I don’t even know.

Chiklis: The life cast. There’s a number of purposes for them. They’re for action figures. They are for the spandex suits, [which] have to fit exactly anatomically correct. And you know a life cast, once they rip it off you in half, put it back together, they pour the liquid cement in there, it dries, they pull it off and they have Jessica Alba’s body exactly. I don’t want to say the other reasons why they wanted to make these things (laughing). No, but I mean there are all practical issues for all of it.

So all four of you went through the process?

Chiklis: Not him.

Gruffudd: I’m a perfect specimen.

Are you guys ready to see all three of your likenesses in Toys R Us?

Alba: I have never been in Toys R Us, by the way.

Chiklis: I have been. I have 3 children. [Jessica's] lived that and I have too with “The Shield” now. They made a bobble-head.

Alba: It’s very strange.

Was a good likeness?

Alba: I’ve had two of them. One was a very voluptuous and the other one was very masculine, so we’ll see what this one’s like.

Comic book fans are really opinionated and there’s been a lot of speculation on the Internet as to who would be cast in your role. Do any of you ever pay attention to those comments?

Alba: Honestly, I was worried. Absolutely, obviously. But at the end of the day, when this opportunity came I couldn’t say no. I just feel I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I turned this movie down. It’s such a great story and I’m going to work my ass off. And hopefully people will be pleased.

Is there anything you’re doing to non-physical get prepared to start filming? Are you researching the comic books?

Alba: Falling in love with a guy who just won’t tell me his emotions? Yeah, I’m doing that (laughing).

Chiklis: You know, I’m re-familiarizing myself with the comics. I think we’re all looking back at that.

Alba: Graphic novels.

Chiklis: Yeah. And also, I think we’re all hungry to get out there and see a lot of the nuts and bolts aspect of this. How we’re going to achieve certain things. It’s one thing when you read it in script form and you see it in your mind’s eye. But then you go, “How the f*** are we going to do that?”

Alba: Yeah, especially that first moment when they put their things to use. It’s pretty f***ing, excuse my language, incredible.

Chiklis: The thing with me and the Doc going down in the subway. That’s going to be…

Alba: You can’t say things!

What about the coat and the hat? Will you be wearing those and the sunglasses? The classic Thing look.

Chiklis: I will be.

What about “It’s clobbering time?”

Chiklis: You will hear [in The Thing voice], “It’s clobbering time.” I think that’s about the right pitch.

Do you have a lot of “brainbox” patter to get through?

Gruffudd: Yes, a lot of that which I will make very interesting for you all.

Chiklis: I’m so thrilled to be the center of attention.

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