This weekend, Fantastic Four debuted to an abysmal $26.2 million at the box office. Of course Fox’s reboot on Marvel’s first family had almost everything going against it. Disappointing reviews (8% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this post), the marketing looked like it had no faith in its own film, and major conflicts behind-the-scenes were just some of issues that may have contributed to its inevitable downfall.
Of course it didn’t help that director Josh Trank tweeted, then deleted, that he had a “fantastic version” of the film, and that we’ll “probably never see it.” This led many to believe that the studio got in the way of Trank, who was coming off of Chronicle, his directorial debut. What sort of vision he had in store for Fantastic Four will probably stay a mystery, but based on many of the reviews, the final act makes the film feel disjointed, rendering the first two-thirds of it moot.
Now there is a new report that describes what sort of problems the film was having, and how Trank and the studio were at constant odds. More on this story below.
EW was the first to report on the news. Moments after news broke that Trank was let go from the young Han Solo Star Wars film because Disney and Lucasfilm cited his erratic behavior and hostile relationship with producer Simon Kinberg on Fantastic Four, the PR damage control began. In an interview with the LA Times earlier this year, both Trank and Kinberg said there was no truth to any of the rumors.
But sources close to the production tell EW that:
“The rift on set was not about creative differences but rather combative and abusive behavior Trank demonstrated toward the crew, producers, studio and even the stars. It’s partly linked to Trank’s personal disputes – involving accusations of deliberate damage done to the house he was renting, as revenge over a dispite with the landlord – which sources say eventually manifested on set as hostility and frustration from Trank.”
Of course in that same LA Times interview, Trank denied that his dogs did any sort of damage to the rental home, let alone $100,000 worth, and that he loves his landlord. But despite the rumors of strange behavior off-set, the rumors of disputes between him and Fox continued to swirl:
“Some who worked on the film say Trank broke, for sure, but was driven to the breaking point by the studio, and that his clash was not with Kinberg but Fox production president Emma Watts. According to several individuals who worked on the movie, the studio delayed casting and script approvals, slashed the budget by tens of millions from what was originally promised during the development phase, and tried to force last-minute script changes to the film just as principal photography was beginning.”
There were even clashes when it came to the casting. The report mentions that both were set on Michael B. Jordan playing Johnny Storm aka The Human Torch, but that Trank had to convince Fox to cast Miles Teller, a decision he would regret as the article points out that “he later developed a mutually disdainful relationship with the actor.” Trank was against casting Kate Mara as Sue Storm, and some say he treated her badly. “Some say he was cruel, others say merely cold.”
Then came the script issues. Because the script was not finalized until late in preproduction, and continued to change right through reshoots. This would stall the “crew workers who were trying to build sets, make costumes, props, and prep the movie.” Of course this may be the reason why the film felt so disjointed.
Trank’s deleted tweet revealed that studio interference got in the way of his vision for the film. Of course while producers and studio heads offering suggestions isn’t new, EW says that it wasn’t his film throughout production, and wasn’t even his film from the very beginning. But the report also points out that while Trank has been able to voice his frustration, he isn’t without blame, and that the studio was trying to protect him and the project from public scrutiny. Others say that the deleted tweet revealed something else entirely. Several individuals who worked on the movie now say he was actually biting the hand that covered him from public scrutiny.
The report then goes even deeper into the film’s problems that extend to its press day with allegations that Trank was trying to get ahead of the negativity by feeding the cast answers.
It’s unclear who really is at fault here. The allegations against Trank are really damaging, but then it looked like the studio did all it could to protect the film and his reputation. But then again, with the studio allegedly nearly breaking Trank, they are not completely without fault.
So what does the future hold for Fantastic Four? Well, don’t expect Fox to work out a deal with Marvel, unless by some miracle Fox can put down their pride and admit the FF brand needs a major overhaul. A sequel set for a June 19, 2017 release also seems unlikely, given the overwhelmingly negative response from critics and audiences. Of course, the studio could be bullheaded and just move forward with Fantastic Four 2.