Here’s something we’re betting you don’t know about Michael B. Jordan, direct from our good friends at the VH1 website: ‘Jordan loves floral scents on a woman – not an overwhelming amount, just a little bit. He also loves when women keep it simple. So if you know you’re going to be meeting MBJ, keep your perfume low-key and your outfit simple.’
Sage advice, we’re sure you agree. But now for something a little more important: just maybe, and even in the face of the critical slam dunking of his latest movie, Fantastic Four (out in Dubai cinemas now, if you fancy it), Jordan is on the verge of superstardom.
His path to here has been smart – small but pivotal parts in gamechanging US TV such as The Sopranos, The Wire and Friday Night Lights and then his big movie breakout, Chronicle, in 2012. That movie, an indie sci-fi in which three kids discover something mysterious in the woods and develop superpowers, melded together the handheld-camera vibrancy of The Blair Witch Project and a mischievous, inverse Spider-Man logic (here, with great power came great irresponsibility) to incredible effect, and shot its director into the stratosphere.
That man is Josh Trank, who a year ago had the movie world at his feet. From the tiny budget of Chronicle, he was now busily directing Twentieth Century Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot and had just been drafted in by Disney and Lucasfilm to direct the second Star Wars anthology movie, apparently about Boba Fett.
Last week, having reportedly (by The Hollywood Reporter) been taken off the Star Wars gig by Disney a few months previously (Trank claims he left of his own accord), he tweeted on the eve of Fantastic Four’s global release: ‘A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve received great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.’ He swiftly removed the tweet, but the damage – with the veiled inference of meddling by studio suits – was done.
One man keeping a dignified silence throughout has been Jordan. Perhaps this is down to his relationship with Trank – who recruited him again after Chronicle to play Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four – or perhaps it’s just because he tends to rise above the nonsense.
When the internet reacted ludicrously to his casting as Johnny Storm – who in the comics was white – Jordan found himself bombarded, not least around the fact that in the movie, his sister, Sue Storm, is played by Kate Mara. Even US TV’s iconic talk show host Jimmy Kimmel asked him if he was aware that Mara is white, asking how it was possible that a black man and a white woman could be related. ‘It doesn’t mean biological,’ sighed Jordan. ‘It’s a thing called adoption. It happens.’
Later, after some even more cringeworthy interviews, Jordan wrote an open essay to Entertainment Weekly, called Why I’m Torching The Color Line to try and address the issue. ‘You’re not supposed to go on the internet when you’re cast as a superhero,’ he began, wittily. ‘But after taking on Johnny Storm – a character originally written with blond hair and blue eyes – I wanted to check the pulse out there. I didn’t want to be ignorant about what people were saying. Turns out this is what they were saying: “A black guy? I don’t like it. They must be doing it because Obama’s President.’” (You can read the whole essay here: www.ew.com/article/2015/05/22/michael-b-jordan-fantastic-four-race.)
In truth, Jordan is great in Fantastic Four. In particular in the sequence when, in the wake of the inter-dimensional accident that gives the quartet their powers, he wakes up, terrified, to find himself on fire. In these touches you can see the movie that maybe once was intended – the Cronenbergian body horror Trank claimed he’d deliver. ‘And that’s important,’ Jordan told us just after filming. ‘It’s important to remember I’m not cast as a superhero. I’m Johnny Storm, who’s just a regular guy who becomes something. We’re becoming the superheroes everyone else knows. It’s the journey to get there we’re interested in.’
Whatever the future holds for the Fantastic Four franchise – and an opening weekend of just US$26 million (Dhs96 million) against a US$122 million budget would suggest not a lot – Jordan has plenty to look forward to, not least the movie that should confirm his ascension to the A-list, Creed.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, who previously worked with Jordan on the powerful real-life Bay Area shooting story, Fruitvale Station, Creed is an extension of the Rocky franchise, in which Sylvester Stallone’s former heavyweight champion trains Jordan’s boxer for the fight of his life. For added emotional heft, Jordan’s character, Adonis Creed, is the son of Rocky’s late friend and former rival, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), who was offed so mercilessly by Dolph Lundgren’s ridiculously haircutted Drago in office favourite Rocky IV.
‘Making that movie was incredible,’ says Jordan. ‘I’d been working on it secretly for two years, putting on weight and training up. But even so, when I first walked into the ring it was so intense. There was Rocky, Sly, sat in the corner! It was crazy.’ And if the prospect of these two acting titans, old and new, still doesn’t have you excited, maybe we could send you back to our good friends at VH1.
‘In an interview with Conan O’Brien,’ they tell us, ‘Jordan admitted to not being able to fully grow a beard. He said that every time he tries, certain patches of skin don’t grow any hair at all.’ Wait for it…
‘He’s no less of a man to us.’
Fantastic Four is out now in cinemas across Dubai. Creed is scheduled for release in November