Sometimes, being a superhero isn’t all that much fun. In the months leading up to the release of Fantastic Four, director Josh (Chronicle) Trank’s redo of the stalwart Marvel Comics quartet, the movie has been the cause of much speculation and derision on the Internet, where comic-book fandom is as important as a presidential race and where every single piece of pre-release publicity — posters, stills, teasers and trailers — is carefully scrutinized and criticized long before the actual film arrives.
This kind of viral snap judgment usually centers on the filmmakers, not the cast (the elusive Trank, who had been on deck to direct one of the Star Wars spin-off films until he abruptly parted ways with the Walt Disney Co., has been the focus of an unusual amount of rumor and gossip). But the actors, too, feel the brunt of bad buzz, and they’re also the ones who are sent out to the frontlines to talk up the movie and drum up attention. Recently, three of the stars of Fantastic Four — Michael B. Jordan (MJ), who plays the Human Torch, Kate Mara (KM), who plays the Invisible Woman and Jamie Bell (JB), who plays the Thing — made a stop in Miami to talk about the film (Miles Teller, who plays the team leader Reed Richards, was a no-show).
Q: The Internet can be a great tool to whip up anticipation for a movie. But it can also backfire and taint a film as damaged goods months before it comes out. There has been a lot of talk surrounding Fantastic Four, especially after you guys had to go back for reshoots. What’s your perspective on this kind of pre-release firestorm?
KM: It’s a really [bad] way to end the process of releasing a movie. You don’t want those kind of rumors floating around, because then there’s a stigma around the film. We worked really hard on this movie, and we’re excited for people to see it. Also, it’s not really fair, because no one’s really seen this movie. You want people to go in with a clean slate and not have all these negative connotations.
JB: The truth is every movie does reshoots to some degrees. A lot of people associate reshoots with “troubled.” But that association doesn’t make sense. In post-production, when you’re in the process of assembling your film, you often discover you left something out or you need one more piece of a scene so you have to get everyone together and go back to get it. We’re having to power through all that stuff, but we feel it every day.
Q: One of my favorite scenes in the movie — you guys have seen it, right?
Q: Well, there’s a great scene in which you all wake up in a government facility and discover what has happened to your bodies [after teleporting to another dimension]. It’s a really creepy, disturbing sequence, almost like it came out of a horror movie. I had never thought of the Fantastic Four in that way.
KM: Josh was really specific about that sequence and how it would play and how traumatizing it should feel and look. I’m relieved to hear you say that, because it’s definitely what he was going for. He was very specific about how intense it should be.
MJ: I played it from a place of thinking Johnny was in a fire coma. He’s unconscious but he’s on fire, so when he wakes up it’s incredibly shocking for him. We wanted to make it intense.
Q: What’s the difference between acting in a smaller, more realistic movie, like a drama, and starring in a film of this size, in which your performance is only a small part of a much larger project?
KM: There’s a massive amount of trust that you have to put in your director and the other people surrounding the film. You just do the best that you can and hope that the finished film reflects the vision we had when we started shooting. That’s a little bit scary, because there’s only so much we have control over, even within our performances. You have to stay true to what you believe the character should be doing, but the rest is out of our hands.
MJ: Josh Trank was so specific and had such a clear vision of what they wanted. [We] just lent ourselves to the project. We’re in a place where we’re four or five movies in, we’re established and we can pitch ideas to alter our character’s path. But this is really Josh’s vision.
JB: For me it couldn’t be truer, because when I turn into the Thing, I was doing all doing motion-capture [like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings]. You’re literally handing over the office of your performance to several people — a visual effects supervisor, digital animators. They’re all coming from different points creatively, and your director is guiding the ship and setting the tone and aesthetics. The hope is that all those things congeal and produce something that is tonally consistent.
Q: You are all serious actors who have been working for a long time. Michael played Wallace on the first season of The Wire; Jamie first broke through with Billy Elliott; and Kate is probably best known as the investigative reporter in House of Cards. Is there any kind of stigma associated with acting in comic-book movies — are they seen as paycheck roles? — or is it a genre that Robert Downey Jr. has made respectable?
JB: They’re a big deal, these movies. They can impact film culture in a huge way. When you get asked to do one, it’s a big responsibility but also a great opportunity. What I liked about this one is it seemed to be coming from such a different place: Josh’s intention with the film and Simon Kingberg’s screenplay. It felt like something different and much more up my aesthetic alley. I love all those other comic-book movies, but what I liked about this is that it was original and unique.
KM: There’s no reason why a blockbuster movie can’t have all the elements of a more dramatic, really heartfelt film. [Trank’s first film] Chronicle is what we were all really intrigued by and pulled in by. Can we do that with Fantastic Four?
JB: I can’t tell you how much this movie is right up an actor’s alley. It seemed like a dream job, because you have a group of incredible actors working together to make a big genre piece with feelings and emotions. It’s always exciting to be part of a blockbuster movie.
MJ: (laughing) I concur!
Follow Miami Herald movie critic Rene Rodriguez on Twitter at @ReneMiamiHerald