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Josh Trank Looks Back at ‘Fantastic Four’ Death Threats and Losing Final Cut Privilege

Ahead of the release of "Capone," Josh Trank looks back at the debacle that was his 2015 comic book tentpole.

"Fantastic Four"

“Fantastic Four”

Fox

Josh Trank’s “Capone” is set for a VOD release this month and is notable for being the director’s return to moviemaking after the infamous “Fantastic Four” debacle. Rumors swirled during the making of the 2015 Fox comic book tentpole that Trank’s unruly behavior on set resulted in him being locked out of the editing room and losing final cut privileges. Trank says in a lengthy new interview with Polygon that various NDA agreements still prevent him from talking about the “Fantastic Four” debacle in detail, but the director does open up about where the film went wrong. It’s clear the movie was on rocky ground from the start, as Trank disagreed with screenwriter Jeremy Slater on its tone.

Slater was planning for a “Fantastic Four” that would hew closer to the razzle dazzle sensibility of Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers,” which had come out to rave reviews and massive box office at the time the “Fantastic Four” scriptwriting was getting underway. Slater said to Polygon, “I kept saying, ‘That should be our template, that’s what audiences want to see! And Josh just fucking hated every second of it.”

“The trials of developing ‘Fantastic Four’ had everything to do with tone,” Trank said. “You could take the most ‘comic booky’ things, as far as just names and faces and identities and backstories, and synthesize it into a tone. And the tone that [Slater] was interested in was not a tone that I felt I had anything in common with.”

More tension was added to the production because of casting after Trank fought hard to hire his “Chronicle” actor Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, a character who is white in the comic books. As Trank explained, “For the world I grew up in, a racially intense Los Angeles where we were used to seeing white superheroes, some of my friends who were black should have seen a black superhero […] so I felt that while being in a position of power, I could change the system a little bit.”

Trank said casting Jordan as Johnny Storm led to widespread backlash from comic book fans that persisted through production, “I was getting threats on IMDb message boards saying they were going to shoot me,” Trank said. “I was so fucking paranoid during that shoot. 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.’” Trank said he slept with a .38 Special gun on his nightstand during production and returned the gun after the shoot wrapped.

When Trank’s cut of the film did not match the desired fun tone Fox wanted, the studio brought in “Avatar” and “Pirates of the Carribean” editor Stephen Rivkin to recut the project. Trank said Rivkin “ultimately chose different takes for every single scene in the movie” and became “the de facto director.” As for the studio itself, Trank said, “They really do pay attention to what people are saying on Twitter. They look at that and they say, ‘Shit, people are freaked out about how it’s not going to be funny. So we need to spend $10 million to do a comedy rewrite.’”

The studio demanded Trank show up to reshoots that were out of his control. The director compared showing up to set as “being castrated.” Trank said, “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. And then, because they know you’re being nice, they’ll sort of be nice to you by saying, ‘Well, does that sound good?’ You can say yes or no.”

The tension between Trank and Fox became fodder for the internet and ultimately affected the director’s relationship with Lucasfilm, who signed Trank to direct a “Star Wars” movie based on his pitch for a Boba Fett film. Trank pulled out of the film when it became clear Lucasfilm would never move forward with him in the director’s chair. Head over to Polygon to read Trank’s profile in its entirety.

IndieWire has reached out to a representative for Trank for further comment.

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