Josh Trank on Fantastic Four

Superhero director on his dream cast, James Bond and more


Josh Trank became one of the youngest directors to have a film open at number one at the US box office when, at the age of 27, he saw Chronicle achieve the feat. To put this into some context, Steven Spielberg was 28 when Jaws was released, and James Cameron was 30 years old when The Terminator hit the big screen. Trank is now at the helm of the rebooted Marvel superhero flick Fantastic Four, and looks set for more box office success.

How did you land on Fantastic Four?
I checked in with Emma Watts, president of the studio – this was probably in October or November of 2011 – and she mentioned to me that they were already in the process of doing something with X-Men, but what did I think about Fantastic Four? And I was like, ‘Well, actually I think I have a take for you right off the top of my head. Can I come in and pitch it to you?’ So I went in and I pitched a scene that is in the movie right now. And without giving away too much, it’s the scene following the accident in which they transform and the idea of it playing out like this very real nightmare scenario, just like a horror film. And, as I say, the specifics of that scene, beat for beat, is still in this movie right now.

You’ve assembled an amazing bunch of young actors, did you have to fight to get any of your casting choices?
No, there were no fights. I’d worked with Michael B Jordan on Chronicle. We had such a great time filming together and his character in Chronicle was such an archetypal charismatic character that when Fantastic Four came about, Mike just popped into my head as Johnny. I thought that would be really interesting, just because of what that could imply for the family dynamic and the options that would open up for me in making a superhero movie based on a many decades-old property and modernising that. So we see a movie that represents the world we live in today, as opposed to the sixties. Not that there’s anything wrong with the sixties, but I didn’t want to do a period piece because that didn’t feel right with the cutting-edge science elements of the story. So, anyway, in my mind, Mike was attached as Johnny way early in the process.

Why was Kate Mara your Sue Storm?
Well, I didn’t have a particular Sue in my mind when we started, so we went through the usual rounds of meetings with actresses and I tried to keep as open a mind as possible. And then when we met Kate, she was so smart and interesting and stable and really centred, which were qualities that would work really well with the other characters.

And with Johnny and Sue being brother and sister, that means in this version Sue is adopted.
Yeah, the creative implications of them being siblings is a modern 21st century idea, the concept of mixed families and adoption being more accepted and mainstream these days. And, without trying to make too much of an obnoxious deal about it in the script, I thought it could play really nicely in having a big summer event movie that represents an underrepresented group in our world: the families of mixed ethnicity, which you don’t see often in big movies. Without being too PC about it, it is what it is, like it is in our society.

The previous Fantastic Four movies are still relatively fresh in people’s minds. In what ways is this version different?
First and foremost, there is nothing wrong with the first two Fantastic Four movies. There was an audience those movies were made for and they loved it and embraced it. The movies did pretty well. And I never looked at doing a new version of this as a way to spite any memory that anybody had of the previous films. The way that I really looked at it is that I had a tone in my mind. But if I were to discuss the challenge to overcome, in terms of perception, how we’re doing something kind of new here with a legendary and very famous superhero quartet, I would put it in terms of James Bond.

How so?
Well, in how the Bond franchise evolves and re-modernises itself with every passing decade. Moonraker is a very different movie to Skyfall. It’s a different embodiment of Bond as a character. It’s a different tone. It’s a different style. It’s a different approach all in all. But the thing that both of those movies share in terms of being a part of the same thread, is the same pre-existing character.

Have you got a favourite set-piece that you’re looking forward to watching with a big audience?
Yeah, I’m most excited for the sequence that follows the accident. Mainly because it plays out verbatim the way that I pitched it on my very first meeting with the studio four years ago. It’s very special to be here now and look at the same ideas playing out the way I wanted them to play out back then.
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