The Fantastic Four Speak!

Superhero Hype! got a chance to visit the Fantastic Four set on Monday and we sat down with the film’s stars and crew to talk about the highly-anticipated comic book adaptation. Participants in the press conference included Michael Chiklis (The Thing), Jessica Alba (Invisible Woman), Ioan Gruffudd (Mr. Fantastic), Chris Evans (Human Torch), Julian McMahon (Dr. Victor Von Doom), director Tim Story, producer Avi Arad and producer Ralph Winter. While we’ll have much more from fantastic sets, artwork, and more we saw today, above is a sneak peek at the Von Doom Industries logo. Here is the Fantastic Four press conference!

Julian, how much have you enjoyed playing the bad guy? Are you hamming it up or playing it straight?

Julian McMahon: I’m the bad guy? (laughter) I need to talk to Avi for a second. You know, 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 and who obviously know what they are doing. For me it’s just immersing myself into the role and hopefully giving the fans what they want. Initially it’s a comic book, so you have to understand that’s the kind of environment we’re trying to fulfill. So, there’s so much outside of what we do that’s the common aspect of it, it’s the graphics, it’s the computerization, the prosthetics that he’s been for the last couple of weeks and all that stuff that 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. There’s a little bit of both if you ask, you try to camp up a little bit when you get those opportunities, but you don’t want to look like a schmuk.

What’s it like working on sets like the Brooklyn Bridge set?

Michael Chiklis: This goes under the category of ‘you know you’re in a huge movie when…’ 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 with three stories of blue screen. You know, you walk on the set that day and you go ‘WOW’ (hold up hand to ear) “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, spending 11 to 12 hours in latex is fun! (laughing).

McMahon: That’s definitely some of Chickies’ happiest moments.

Chiklis: Absolutely, it’s a little something like being in the 7th circle of hell! (laughing) But at the end of the day, honestly, sure it’s hot, it’s uncomfortable, it’s cumbersome, but when you see it, it really is extraordinary.

How many hours does it take to get the costume ready every day, and what do you do during that time?

Chiklis: I’m doing whatever it is I can do to relax. And sorta let it happen, surrender that you have to, and keep it up, because if you try to control the situation you’re going to panic. It’s three hours to get into the suit, head to foot. So you just have to relax any way 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. I’m not a phobic person or have anxiety, 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 I can’t get out on my own. But now, it’s two months later and I’m through it. Now it’s not about fear it’s more about 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 thinking ‘Wow, this is something I can talk to my kids and grandkids about.’

Now that you’re in the midst of shooting, do you pick up any of the comics at all just to see what’s going on with the character or are you pretty much ignoring it and focus more on the script?

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

For people not knowing the Marvel comics, the Fantastic Four, they’ve seen both X-Men movies and they like them, how would you present to the general audience how these characters are different from the X-Men other than they’re blue?

Avi Arad: The Fantastic Four has actually been around longer than X-Men. This is not a before and after, it’s the most famous comic family out there. So one is there is a lot of awareness. Two, this movie the tone, the relationship is functional, tell us we’re dealing with is really unique. It took a lot of time to put this movie together because we have to service five characters. So we have a really busy time putting it out there, especially now that we actually have dailies and footage that we love. It plays exactly to the norm that has been around forever. Bear in mind that over the years there’s somewhere of 350 to 400 million copies sold of the Fantastic Four.

Chiklis: It’s really a great time for this film to be made too because on a technical level 20 years ago and you make this picture and it’s cheese whizzy. Because you can’t achieve the individual effects. You know, Mr. Fantastic stretching and these kind of prosthetics, you know, you turning into the flame and you doing the forcefield. Now the technical can be married with the technical and the emotional and human, and in a way it never could be before. That’s what we’re trying to achieve, not just being technical show, we’re trying to fuse those elements together as seamlessly as we can.

Tim, could you elaborate on the dysfunctional family aspect of the group?

Tim Story: I’m a fan of arguments and things like not right all the time, to me that makes the real drama and it also even better makes the real comedy. The Fantastic Four being a group like many 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 about bringing that to life. I guess it is a dysfunctional family because we can all relate to liking our family but not loving all the time.

Does it interest you that this is the only group where they don’t have secret identities?

Story: I think that’s the other thing that drew me too it, this is an origin film so we’re dealing with what’s happening to them, but the future is how to play them on the fact that they are known.

How excited were you when you could finally talk about being cast:

Ioan Gruffudd: I’m very excited, incredibly excited. I have to be honest I wasn’t aware of the comic books, hadn’t heard of these comic books. So I came from just the script stuff and I jumped at the chance of playing this character. And he’s an American, I’m a British actor, so I’m thrilled.

Chiklis: I met this gentleman (Arad) at a party and Jennifer Garner actually introduced us and I said, ‘I have two words for you, Ben Grimm’, and that was the beginning of it. He called me into his office months later and we discussed the possibility of this happening. And I was in excrutiating pain actually emotionally, because there was a big question whether I would be available for this film because I have a television series. It was all about can we make this happen purely from a scheduling standpoint, and of course the film get being pushed back and pushed back which made it more and more precarious. It really came down to Peter Churner, and you know Avi and all those folks at F/X and everybody involved, the heads up state, the meeting of minds and making it happen for me which I thank you and thank them all for.

Arad: I had no choice, I had his bobblehead. So everytime I sit down at my desk his head is going like this.

Chiklis: So it was out there and Avi was up for it and I couldn’t say anything. It was pretty excrutiating at that time and it was great to be able to finally say, ‘Yeaaah!’ That was pretty exciting to say.

Tim, this is a different genre for you. You’ve done Barbershop, you’ve done Taxi, what different approach are you taking this time?

Story: You know I don’t know if it’s that much different of an approach. It’s a character-driven, and that is 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 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 character and story and we’ll support you with the rest of it. I look at it 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 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 didn’t really have to deal with that. I felt comfortable and once I had a cast and Avi had the script I had the tools to make it work.

To Ioan, what’s it like working on these bigger projects?

Gruffudd: It’s the same sort of process as television work I’ve done just on a much grander scale. It’s fantastic (laughing). It’s the hardest thing I’ve done to date because I have to present so much more imagination. Everything is done after the event or computer generated, with the stretching. It’s a strange feeling as an actor to put your life/character in other people’s hands. There’s a trust issue there when you have that over you.

Ralph, What is the challenge that’s unique that is more present compared to the other films you’ve worked on?:

Winter: A big challenge that is always present in these films is in the script of getting all five characters’ heroes to have something helpful and meaningful towards the final act. That’s probably the greatest challenge that we keep wrestling with even now as we sort of tweak what we have in the third act. To make it happen so it’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, you know, fight in the third act here in Vancouver (laughing)… which will destroy Vancouver. Throwing buses and cars and blowing things up, jumping from building to building. Easy stuff.

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 a little mommy, I’ve always told her you should have children immediately.

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 b*tch or the 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 who Storm’s going to be. I thought he was going to be opposed and he wasn’t.

McMahon: How can you oppose that? (laughing)

Chris, were you lobbying for this?

Evans: Of course! This was a group effort for me. I went back many times and it was a long audition process. And my agent pulled through, I was ecstatic. So far great, I never was in anything this big, so every day it’s an educational experience for me.

Is it fun playing a superhero at the end of the day:

Winter: None of these pay are having fun. (laughing)

Chiklis: Hey, I’m a rock He-Man, that’s crazy, who gets to do that. I was a fan growing up of the Fantastic Four. I loved this comic book. I’ve played cultural icons before and I know there’s a certain responsibility that goes along with that, you can’t get preoccupied as an actor with that, you have to just bring your own joy to the opportunity and to play this character to just jump in, you just have to go for it. There’s always going to be someone in the audience who goes ‘eh’ that he didn’t handle it. But hopefully the mass majority will go, ‘Yeah, he was really committed to it and pulled it off.’

Can each of you how the powers that your characters manifest represents who they are?

Gruffudd: For Reed, he’s always reaching for the stars, he’s always reaching for affection and that he’s only human. His mistake in his calculation creates these characters, they are exposed. I suppose that’s his analogy, he’s striding for perfection and always reaching when he becomes a superhero. Does that make any sense?

McMahon: That was fantastic. (laughing)

Alba: My character, she’s very intelligent and very maternal, and emotional because she’s a woman. And the guys kinda run the show, they don’t see that, 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 hothead, you know, he’s a playboy, loves to live life in the fast lane. He likes attention so what’s more of a spectacle than bursting into fire and flying. (laughing)

Chiklis: 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. He’s a strong guy and doesn’t want to be a hero, just wants to do his thing 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, I think they all do.

McMahon: Who am I again? (laughing) Oh yeah. You know the wonderful thing about this whole thing is you actually get to see the whole evolution of the characters. They start of as human beings, they don’t start off as superheroes. It’s fantastic, the guy who does Chiklis’ character is a comic book freak. He knows everything about the comics. Every day he has a new T-shirt, every day he has a new thing.

Chiklis: Every day there’s a new Fantastic Four T-shirt. And he’s not had the same one twice! I didn’t know you made that many T-shirts!

Arad: I didn’t know either!

Chiklis: Unbelievable, you know this guy asked me about Episode 285, I’m like ‘whoa whoa’, I thought I was a fan before.

McMahon: I watched the original TV series, ’65 or something, so I saw the whole original comics and all that kind of stuff, and it’s wonderful because I’ve seen the comics and watched it through the ’80s, and first you’re watching it through a child’s eyes and you’re not into the depth of the characters, and stuff involved with playing this kind of role. But after 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 kind of things. It really starts off with relationships between the four people. And these two (Reed & Doom) are basically nemeses from day one, they went to college together, Ben was the one 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 young hotstart, you know what I mean? 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 they get hit by this comic storm and they will develop their individual powers that they really start to embracen and start to take on their original and probably deeper characteristics. And that’s the fantastic journey about this, you’re not seeing the heart of humanity until they get infected with this thing. So it’s really a unique and interesting journey, and it’s what brings these guys pull that together and that’s what separates me from them. And that’s a fantastic moment that will hopefully bring more money.

For Michael and Julian, you said this movie has already almost conflicted with your TV schedule, as the franchise continues and both of you on running shows, how will your future schedules work out? Can we expect “Shield” episodes missing Vic Mackey?

Winter: Yes! (laughing)

Chiklis: They did an extraordinary thing at FX. They pushed the shoot three months for The Shield so that I could film this. I had never seen that done. Makes you feel good and is humbling.

McMahon: It all comes under the Fox umbrella. As much as we are on the FX network, it’s owned by Fox.

Chiklis: Synergy is I believe the word.

McMahon: For me, I feel like it’s allowed me to be here. And it’s very difficult to make these kind of things work, it’s not that easy to be on a TV show and try to upstart a movie career at the same time. The one thing we do have is that we’ve both worked on TV shows that only work 6 months out of the year, which is a bonus because you can do 6 months of something else. And when you have these kind of guys to do whatever it is right, eventually you work things out. I’m just trying to get myself in the sequel, so… (laughing) Nip/Tuck won’t go back into production until March.

Have you decided on the music, both the score and 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. There’s nothing to talk about yet (for the soundtrack).

McMahon: Well, me and Chiklis have submitted a couple of renditions of our favorite songs and we’re just waiting to hear the yay or nay on that. (laughing)

This is your second comic book movie, this and Sin City, what approach have you taken from one comic to another?

Alba: They are 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 about feeling complex, and this is definitely an action movie. I’m just thrilled that they’re so good, you know. I love that comic fans are so loyal so hopefully I can still make movies for them.

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 20 times today. What little kid didn’t tie a towel around his neck and jump off the couch to be a superhero.

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

Julian, have you had to do any prosthetic work yet?

McMahon: Mine’s a little more painful than Michael’s, just so you know (laughing). He’s trying to make it look better, but just look at that outfit, look at him up there (referring to the banner featuring The Thing that’s hanging behind them)

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

McMahon: To answer your question, I have started the prosthetic thing. Once they come back to earth, Victor gets a cut in his head and he starts to develop this stuff in his hand and it’s a very cool thing. It’s a very slow evolution of this man turning into a metal steel getup. So far it’s just been stuff with my face and stuff on my hand. It does develop more into a Thing-like prosthetic, what you expect it to be. The thing really for me is, the prosthetics have evolved for so many years, and the computer effects, that you can actually see the actor beneath it. You can see Michael behind that face, you can see the expression of his face when he’s going through certain types of emotions.

Chiklis: That was a huge issue for me. I felt very strongly that I gave myself a 100% to this. I really wanted it to be a costume, because I felt that if it was just a CGI than you would loose the humanity part. The other question was, can we make it so it looks and feels like the original character? And that’s the extraordinary thing that these guys have accomplished. Even when I’m in the 60 pounds of make-up, the prosthetic, you see it’s my eyes, it’s my face, and it moves along with my face. I think it’s a pretty big accomplished, to marry the technical with the emotional, the human. And hopefully that will translate onto the screen.

In the comics, the Fantastic Four attracted a lot of other Marvel superheroes at times, will there be a superhero cameo in the film?

Arad: Well, we always have a couple of mystery acts, for the true believers, and as you see the movie you’ll see some and you’ll say, ‘Oh, I thought that was…’ Watch for Stan Lee’s cameo and some other vinette, but these are the best kept secrets especially here.

Does the loyal fan base, who question a lot of things, affect how you make the movie?

Story: If you can create the spirit of what comic books are, and you find the best actors the role and you find a script and you go for it, then all you 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 screen, and how Hugh Jackman wasn’t right for Wolverine and now you can’t see that franchise being anything without him, so all you can do is give it a 180% and put it out there. I think here with the actors, specifically, they have taken on this role and just made the characters better than I can imagine. And I can’t wait for people to see it. I’m definitely not one to talk before it’s released but I think they’re doing it justice. Avi and Ralph forbid me to look at Internet stuff and comments, and this and that. You know when this or that comes up, some people will shoot it down. That’s not always a negative thing, because they’re just so in love with the character and story that they want it done right.

Stay tuned for more from the set! Fantastic Four hits theaters on July 1, 2005.

Source: Superhero Hype!