The behind-the-scenes issues that plagued Josh Trank’s 2015 attempt at a new Fantastic Four film are no secret. The director himself aired his grievances about the post-production process in a concise, vitriolic tweet before most audiences even got a chance to see the film. A new piece from Polygon, however, goes into much greater detail about the young filmmaker’s journey from being Hollywood’s hottest commodity to the target of every film blogger and comic book fan’s ire.
Following the surprise success of his found footage superhero movie Chronicle, the then 28-year-old Trank found doors had opened at major studios all over town. Unlike many directors in his same age bracket, he was being given a shot at the big show on only his second attempt. After pitching an R-rated Venom feature and briefly suggesting an adaptation of Shadow Of The Colossus, Trank landed on a reboot of Fantastic Four. However, if this independently minded and occasionally antagonistic young man was going to make a big budget comic book movie, he was going to do it his way.
“The first Avengers movie had recently come out, and I kept saying, ‘That should be our template, that’s what audiences want to see!’” says Jeremey Slater, the initial writer of the Fantastic Four screenplay. “And Josh just fucking hated every second of it.” After six months of work and nearly 20 drafts, additional writers were brought in to get the script into some sort of workable condition. Meanwhile, Trank’s vision the film remained a bit of a mystery to most.
There were a few things the director seemed sure about. He wanted Michael B. Jordan cast as Johnny Storm, for one, and he wasn’t afraid to piss people off with his super specific pre-production design requests. But, as filming started, tensions on set were high and stories started to appear in the press about Trank’s attitude on set and the potential clusterfuck the movie was becoming. “I was so fucking paranoid during that shoot,” Trank tells Polygon, describing the threats he received on IMDB message boards at the time that inspired him to keep a loaded gun on his nightstand. “If someone came into my house, I would have ended their fucking life. When you’re in a head space where people want to get you, you think, ‘I’m going to defend myself.’”
Post-production didn’t go much better as the studio scrambled to produce an actual ending for the oddly morose, unfinished movie Trank had delivered. Extensive reshoots commenced and Trank reluctantly allowed studio heads to come in and manufacture the movie they thought they had paid for. “It was like being castrated,” the director says. “You’re standing there, and you’re basically watching producers blocking out scenes, five minutes ahead of when you get there, having [editors hired] by the studio deciding the sequence of shots that are going to construct whatever is going on, and what it is that they need.”
Having survived his metaphorical castration, the disappointing release of his first major studio film, and a few years in “movie jail,” Trank has returned and is, by all accounts, much happier. His latest film, Capone, a chronicle of the notorious gangster’s final, dementia-addled years starring Tom Hardy will be released on demand next week.
Read Polygon’s full profile of Trank here.
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