You gotta give major props to director Tim Story, not only for chasing after his dream gig, a movie based on Marvel’s Greatest Comic characters the Fantastic Four, knowing that he’d have to face angry comic fans if he got it wrong, but then also quickly bouncing back to make the sequel armed with the knowledge of what worked and what didn’t in that movie.
Story has experience with high profile movies, having directed Ice Cube’s Barbershop, but this weekend, all eyes are on Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, his follow-up to the 2005 blockbuster, to see if it will follow Spider-Man 2 and X2 as Marvel-based sequels that were better than the original movies.
Superhero Hype! caught up with Story as he finished up post-production on the movie, before heading to London for the movie junket, and we had a chance to have an extensive talk with him, as he mentioned a few times being a reader of this very site! (Another reason to give him major props.)
Superhero Hype!: A lot of people are excited about this movie on ComingSoon.net and Superhero Hype!
Tim Story: Cool, man. Those are the two I spend a lot of time checking out people’s comments on. It’s one of the ones I check all the time just to see what everybody’s talking about, and that’s how I keep informed on what people are saying besides on my MySpace.
SHH!: Not sure if you saw but “Rise of the Silver Surfer” was #1 on our June poll, which is pretty impressive considering the competition.
Story: Oh, really? Wow, that’s great.
SHH!: The Silver Surfer is what’s getting everyone excited about this movie. I don’t know if you’ve been to New York recently, but there’s images of him everywhere. They don’t even need to put the title of the movie on there, and everyone knows what it is.
Story: I haven’t been [there] and I hate that, ’cause I haven’t been able to see anything. I’ll take your word for it, but it sounds great.
SHH!: I assume after the first movie did well, they immediately decided to do the sequel, so at what point was it decided to bring in the Surfer? Was he the only choice for this movie?
Story: Yeah, for the most part. The fun part of doing a sequel is to talk about, “Okay, who do you bring to the universe next?” Sure, we talked about Puppet Master, we talked about Mole Man and Silver Surfer. Other than Dr. Doom, he’s the most famous villain, though he later becomes their ally. In the beginning, he and Galactus are the greatest story after Dr. Doom. It seemed pretty fitting, but it took a second, because Fox was planning to do another film on the Silver Surfer, and to get everybody to agree to put that on the backburner to introduce him into this film, it took a little bit of talking. At the end of the day, everybody agreed that it was the only way to go.
SHH!: I didn’t realize Fox already had the Surfer. I know that with Venom, there was this issue of another studio owning the movie rights.
Story: That’s the same thing that happened with us with Namor. Universal has the Sub-Mariner, and of course, there’s a big story in the Fan Four with Namor, and unfortunately, we won’t be able to use that character, because Universal does have it and are planning a movie to it. Every now and then, you get lucky because the other properties, because they were splitting them up so much, we really lucked out that the Silver Surfer was still at Fox. It was like one of those “Thank God it happened!”
SHH!: You had to spend a bit of time in the first movie working out the FX for the Fantastic Four, but now you have the Silver Surfer, who is basically all FX, especially with those new powers you’ve added. Can you talk about creating and modifying the character for the movie?
Story: What was interesting was that when it came to the visual look of him, it was pretty simple. We threw a couple things against the wall, and at the end of the day, the design was perfect when they first did it forty years ago and it held up. We just said, “You know what? Let’s just stick with the classic look.” That was a pretty easy one. The next part of it, which I guess was a little bit harder, was dealing with his powers. In the comic book, they don’t always specifically deal with what he can do. With the cosmic blast they show a lot in the comic books, that was pretty straight forward. He sends this blast, and it’s what happens on the other side of it that we had to figure out. How strong is it? What kind of damage does it do? So that was actually fun. When we went back and read the definition of what is really described as his powers, he can pretty much change elements of any matter to whatever he so desires. In thinking about that, it really became interesting. Okay, how can you play with that? And that’s when the whole idea of him going through his board and going through buses and building, that’s where it became fun. Because you say, “Wait a second. If he can change matter, then technically, he can walk through walls”, and then that just became the fun part of coming up with powers. We really did just take to the source material, but then asked ourselves the question, “If he can do that, then what does that mean?” If I can change matter into anything I feel then if I want to go through something, I can literally change it into water while I walk through it and then let it go back to what it was. We had a lot of fun of just figuring out what he can do. Of course, the flight of the board, it was just so fun, because when WETA started animating him, they had some surfers over there that would just take classic moves and throw ’em in there, and it was really cool to make that happen.
SHH!: Did you work on WETA on the first movie, too?
Story: No, this is my first time working with WETA and we knew that we had to go after one of the big boys because we were doing a total CGI character, and who’s had better success with CGI characters than WETA? With Gollum and King Kong, their characters looks so real to life and once we figured out what it was going to look like and how reflective he was going to be, it got so easy after that, because they just started cranking out shots faster than you can imagine. Anything you thought about, they would do it, and you’d go “Wow, that’s cool” and you’d even go a step further. It just got really fun after they figured out exactly what he was going to look like and how he was going to move.
SHH!: And you got Doug Jones, who’s done a lot of these types of characters, then combined that with the voice of Laurence Fishburne. Can you talk about how you came up with that combination and working with those two guys?
Story: Well, with Doug, it was just great to figure out how he was going to move. Aside from dealing with an animator who’s halfway around the world and try to figure it out, we just decided to get one of the guys that is best at character movement and have him help us design the moves, have him help us think about how this guy would lean over, bend down and fly. All these ideas, instead of trying to just put them down on paper, we decided to grab all the comic book art that we could on the Silver Surfer, then we started having Doug do those movements. Once we started getting into motion capture and started to grab some of his movements, we’d use them to animate the CGI character. It made a shorthand, because you’re no longer saying, “Hey, move that finger” and then they don’t move it far enough. Here, you’re actually able to talk to a person and Doug was invaluable in creating [him], you couldn’t have done it without him. It made it human and it made it real. Then of course, with Laurence Fishburne, it just created the cycle in terms of “What’s he going to sound like?” We got what he was going to look and move like, we got what his powers are, we got all that stuff, but then it came down to one last idea which is what he was going to sound like. We’d been waiting to hear the Surfer on film and here he is, and what better voice than Laurence Fishburne? He was my first choice and luckily, he said yes, and it’s on celluloid for life now.
SHH!: We’ve heard the story about how you directed “Taxi” to get in with Fox to be able to direct the first “Fantastic Four.” Having that under your belt, with the second movie, were you given it a bit more free reign in terms of getting more involved with the plot and the script and everything else?
Story: Yeah, all of that. I was on the project from its inception, so I got a chance to talk about the story from frame 1 and that’s always great, when you’re able to be on a movie from the beginning, because you just know the history of the project and you know where you’ve been and what worked, so it was fun to create the story with the writer. In terms of giving me freedom, what it did, being on the first one of course, there was a lot more freedom, but that freedom came in the way of me having the experience to deal with visual FX, to deal with action, to go after more things, and to be able to direct this vast amount of people and to get your vision across. In the beginning, with the first one, I was learning as I went, so it was really hard to figure out… you kind of knew what you wanted, but it was hard to orchestrate it, so this time around, I knew the areas where we could improve and most importantly, I knew the areas where we wanted to replicate what we did before which worked. It was a pretty good combination of just experience and people around you having a little bit more confidence in what you can do and finding ways to have them follow you a little bit better. Everything you said was really true about what happened with this second film.
SHH!: Did you read any of the reviews of the first movie? A lot of critics were very harsh, though obviously, the movie did well, so there must be people out there who liked it. Did reviews or comments made online have any effect on how you proceeded with the sequel or did you already know what you wanted to do?
Story: I had my own thoughts, but at the same time, some things were obvious. I knew everybody, including myself, wanted more action in the movie. I would go online myself–your site being one of the big sources of that kind of material–and just read what people were saying, because what I started to find as I dug deeper… in the beginning, I must admit, it was just an ocean of negativity, and I’m okay with someone saying “I didn’t like this, I didn’t like that” but you also were looking for constructive criticism. You were looking for “Okay, what is it you thought you were missing?” as opposed to just “I didn’t like this, I didn’t like that.” So I would go online and read these things and at the end of the day, I knew what I was going to do, but it helped to hear people who were just wanting more. When you hear that from somebody, it kind of excites you, because you go, “Oh, okay, you wanted that.” The obvious thing was we wanted Doom to be more of a badass, and with the first film, it didn’t set-up for Doom to be completely what he was supposed to be, because it was starting from an origin kind of thing. We had to get him to Dr. Doom, and now that we got him there, it was real simple for us to make it happen. I gotta admit, it was rather cool to go back and look at the internet and use it as information, but at the end of the day, I kind of knew what I wanted to improve on and what I wanted to do with the next film. It wasn’t brain surgery for me. It was just go for it, once the second movie comes, it allows you to start from Frame 1 and make it happen.
SHH!: That’s the big problem with any comic book movie, because you have to introduce the characters assuming that you have more than just regular comic book readers in the audience. I remember Bryan Singer’s “X2” was far better than the original because he had already established the characters, and I think it’s still one of the best comic book movies. I assume that some time has passed since the last movie, as we now see that Sue and Reed are getting married.
Story: Yeah, you figure almost the same amount of time since the last movie came out. Basically, we figured it was about a year and a half, maybe two years, and here we are picking them up at present day.
SHH!: Has a lot changed in their world since the last movie and do we assume they’ve already faced a lot of bad guys at this point?
Story: Yeah, we wanted to say that these guys have already stopped a lot of bank robbers, and basically, what’s fun about the Fan Four, which I always loved about the comic books, is they’re not just superheroes. They’re more adventurers and more explorers than anything, so we say that they’ve been doing it and will continue to do their superhero job, but then there’s also this thing of them becoming entrepreneurs. They’ve started to sell their likeness and have made a lot of money from being the Fantastic Four, so they’ve been able to revamp the Baxter Building. There’s that and there’s just them being comfortable in their skin to the point where they can go out in public and people say “Hi” to them and they’re like celebrities. There’s all of that we wanted to bring to the next film, because that’s what was such a big part of Fantastic Four in the comics is that they’re the only superheroes who actually own their copyrights and make money from it and why not?
SHH!: What’s your favorite run of the Fantastic Four comic books? There’s obviously the Stan Lee-Jack Kirby run which are considered classics, but anything since then?
Story: Really, that first run of the Kirby and Lee, the first couple dozen issues, they’re just so cool. I mean, the Mole Man and Dr. Doom and later with the introduction of the Surfer and Galactus and Black Panther. That Kirby run was just really good. Also, John Byrne, his run was really good, too, gave us a lot of classic stuff, and then I must admit, I liked the Marvel Knights version. I mean, there’s a lot of different versions that I really really liked. I’ve said it often before that I did like the Ultimate Fantastic Four, I liked a lot of the tone even though they changed the origin. It was really fun in the beginning, and how they dealt with the Negative Zone afterwards. There’s so much that I drew from.
SHH!: We see that they switch powers in the trailer, so was that something inspired by the recent Mark Waid story?
Story: Actually, we pulled it out a year and a half ago, and I didn’t even know it was in the comic books. We always dealt with the issues of Ben going back and forth, but I didn’t even know it was in a recent version of the comic book. I’ve been away from the comics a bit in making the movie.
SHH!: It’s definitely different, and it seems you’re using it both for a bit of humor but also to show off some cool effects ideas.
Story: This whole switching of powers really goes somewhere later on in the film, and I can’t wait for people to see how we use it later on. It’s not just us having fun. It really serves a dramatic purpose, and I can’t wait for people to see that in the movie.
SHH!: I hate to ask this, mainly since I like being surprised when I see the movie, but what’s the deal with Galactus? Do we see him in the movie or not?
Story: You’re going to see Galactus in the movie. It’s coming and I can’t wait for people to check it out. I will say that there is a bit of a set-up for possibly a run at a Silver Surfer franchise, and it is a little bit of a tee-up, but I can’t wait for people to see what we’ve done with it. I think it’s pretty awesome, and we do leave something for the audience to contemplate when it comes to a new Silver Surfer movie. You’ll have a lot more answers to find.
SHH!: Do you get into the Silver Surfer origin story about Norin Radd and all that stuff?
Story: We do touch upon some of the information as far as the origin and where he’s from, but of course, we don’t dive into it in-depth, and that’s what’s going to be great about having a Silver Surfer movie, because now, you get to find out what this guy is all about. Since he’s been introduced in our film, it’s going to be awesome, just to figure it out and see it.
SHH!: I’m a big fan of Kerry Washington, to the point of having more than a little crush on her, so will we see more of her relationship with Ben in the movie?
Story: Definitely. She becomes like the fifth member. We see a lot of the Fantastic Four world with the Fantasticar, and Kerry Washington having more time onscreen with her boyfriend and the Fantastic Four. We even put her in trouble a little bit.
SHH!: Can you talk about how the movie got a PG rating?
Story: Yeah, here’s what’s interesting. Our cut of the film, when Fox told us that we may be able to get a PG rating, we changed nothing in the movie. We didn’t change anything to get the PG, and it was great, because it’s not as if we sacrificed anything to get a PG, it was just that “Hey, we can get a PG-rating and why not?” I would love for young kids to be able to go into this movie and check it out, because it’s fun and it’s such a multi-generational film that I would hate to exclude anybody. It was more of a coincidence than anything, it just worked out for the best.
SHH!: You’ve just finished this movie after spending four years in this world, so where’s your head at in terms of doing another one or directing the Silver Surfer spin-off? Are you doing something else now?
Story: I’m looking to do something else right now. I’ve been inside of this world for close to four years now and I just want to branch out and do something else and then hopefully, there is a #3 and if I’m invited back, we’ll make a run for it. Right now, I just want to go somewhere else. I’m still growing as a filmmaker. I wanna try other things. I can’t wait to get to some other stuff.
SHH!: Do you have anything else lined-up yet?
Story: No, I’m just kinda circling stuff. I’m producing a film with a first-time director by the name of David Talbert, which is a small movie at Screen Gems with Ice Cube. It’s just a comedy (called “First Sunday”), but there’s some other stuff that we are talking about. There’s the idea of doing a film based on the… what’s that? You know what? I can’t let that out yet, but as soon as it’s official, there’s a big surprise. (Note: There sure was! Five hours after this conversation, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter announced that Story was attached to make a film based on the Vertigo Comic “The Losers,” and our own self-professed reader wouldn’t even let us know about it a few hours early? C’mon, Tim!)
SHH!: With your background in comedy, would you go back to directing something smaller after doing a big budget action-effects movie like the FF?
Story: Absolutely. I’m constantly looking just to do a small movie. At some point, I will get back to doing those intimate movies that may be kind of fun, and take me back to my independent days. I can’t wait to do it. I don’t know what it is yet and I haven’t found it, but I’m definitely open. Doing big movies like this is great, there’s nothing like it, but you also want to stretch your legs with doing small pieces.
SHH!: Do you think you’d get back into writing?
Story: You know what? That would be fun, but I don’t know if I have the patience for it. I have so much respect for writers because I don’t know how you lock yourself in a room and do that. It’s really difficult, but I don’t foresee myself doing too much writing, but I love the writing process and that always is fun to me.
Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer opens nationwide this Friday, June 15.
Source: Edward Douglas