With his usual low impact finesse, Marvel's movie czar Avi Arad took the stage with actor Chris Evans -- signed for three sequels, like the rest of the cast -- to field questions about Marvel's big screen ambitions, and particularly the summer tentpole "Fantastic Four."
They started off the presentation by showing finalized footage prepared specifically for the ShoWest convention, an annual convocation of movie house owners and distributors. The footage was jam packed with action, but also managed to fit in some of the personal interaction between the characters, and some good, solid looks at a certain Doctor.
Fox announced their option to make a Fantastic Four movie in 1994, and the movie is coming out this year. When asked why so long, Arad said, "Fox is slow. Seriously, what really took so long is that we needed technology to see what you're seeing here. The toughest thing was to get the script that's really about the family. This is big action, but to us what made the Fantastic Four genius, in my opinion the best thing that Stan Lee ever wrote, was a family of people who love each other, hate each other, bicker, have humor and tears. You have to service four individuals, and you have obviously Dr. Doom. Financially, making a movie like this is not easy."
Arad also touched on the decision to buy -- and bury -- the Roger Corman "Fantastic Four" movie. "It was a tough decision shelling out a lot of money to put it away. I just felt this movie deserved better."
Evans was gregarious and open with fans, talking about the camaraderie that happened between the cast. "Guys, rub your eyes, or pretend to drink your coke, the Thing will break your heart," Arad said emotionally. Evans talked about the the easy bonding that occurred "between me and 'Chikkie' -- we're both from Boston, we're both pretty thick-skinned, it'd be really fun to crack a joke and smile and be like 'thing, johnny,' this is gonna work. The four of us just right off the bat really connected. That's gotta translate on screen."
"You'll think you're dealing with real siblings, the chemistry of these four as a family, it gives you the tone of what you're going to see in this movie and they all learn something, except for this guy," Arad said, pointing at Evans.
Evans spoke at length about the challenges of the technology and technique. "It was difficult doing scenes where you're suppose to combust," Evans said. "'What's my motivation for combusting, how does one combust?' It's a very weird thing, they tried to keep me up to date, and it really makes you excited to see that little laptop pop out and see that three or four seconds of footage. The visual effects team and Tim did a good job keeping us up to date. It was different, it was difficult. I've never done anything like it before, it was new to me. I have a hard time complaining about any type of difficulty on this movie, because I would have given my arm to do it. Most of my stuff was in a harness. For all the men, it's not comfortable. you're sore at the end of the day, but if that's the worse that got thrown at me, I feel like I came out on top. Whenever I would throw fire, they would save all of that until the end. The last week of shooting is just a green screen week, where you go back and do all the stuff that requires green screens. You're alone, in a strange outfit, hanging by your privates. It was a long week. It was tough and uncomfortable, but it was a blast."
Evans also talked about finding the part, but then taking four auditions to get it right. It started off with a question about how much carryover was there from his role in "Not Another Teen Movie." "When i read the script I was like 'I've got this.' There has to be moments of sincerity, you have to kind of like this guy. But I think in the second scene, I was sweating, I just walked out of there and I knew that I blew it. I called my agent and said, 'you've gotta get me a second chance,' so I got one, and I blew it. So they said maybe Reed, so I went in and read, and it was horrible. Finally I had a good audition. It's luck. I feel kind of like I stole this one."
"Johnny Storm was a tough one," Arad said. "You need a hero who can do comedy in a way that you're not angry with him. Eventually the hero does come out, you see that he cares for his friend, he cares for his sister, he puts his life on the line. You need someone who can look heroic and carry comedy, and that's not easy."
Evans developed a friendly banter, especially with a number of prepubescent fans. When asked what hero he relates to outside of Johnny Storm, Evans replied, "probably Peter Parker, because he's kind of a geek. Don't tell anyone, but I'm kind of a geek. But this role is like winning the lottery." As for villains, Evans said, "I think it's gotta be Magneto. I had this conversation with one of my friends. We went on the Marvel website, looking at different powers and who could do this and who could do that. We realized, how can you beat Magneto? He could take a marble and run it through you twenty million times. If I was a villain, it'd have to be him." A fan shouted out, "What about Dr. Doom?" Evans replied, "Isn't Von Doom metal? He'd be ruined."
When asked about his action figure, he said, "Oh I've got him, ... and I'll be playing with him. He'll be beating up Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joes all day. They'd come to me when they'd have updates, and ask me what I thought. I'm like 'does my nose look like that?'"
"Favorite scene?" Evans wondered when asked. "I really liked the last scene. The majority of the film is this struggle of the family unit trying to cope with fame, and arguing. At the end, we have this final battle with Dr. Doom, everybody is in their F4 uniforms, we've got the Thing, Dr. Doom, and my inner child was kind of giddy, like I was a superhero. It was the first time I really felt I was making a superhero movie." He was excited about the prospect of sequels after reading the comics and wanting to explore more of what Johnny Storm could do.
"The big opportunity in this movie has the luxury of 'X-Men' that you can put in hundreds of effects that feels like an everyday use of power," Arad added. Anything these people do comes with this power. This movie is wall-to-wall use of the powers. We have the luxury of making a lot of small, fun things happen with this movie."
Arad also fielded questions on other Marvel properties. As for "Thor," Arad said, "Goyer is still involved, it's still probably the biggest saga out there, it will take time to develop it. We're now in the phase of writing Marvel's 'LOTR' type vibe. Aggressive developnment on Thor." About chances of Venom being in "Spider-Man 3," Arad coyly said, "50-50." He had nothing to say on story or director for "X-3," but noted that a Memorial Day release date had been announced at the ShoWest convention for theatre owners and distributors. As for Killraven or Captain America, "Various stages of development. No one has it. Don't believe what you read, nothing yet."
Fans pressed for a crossover between the Fox-produced "X-Men" franchise and the "FF," to which Arad joked, "I think in FF 8, we'll have it ... or maybe we'll have Wolverine fighting the Invisible Woman." Evans started to talk when a fan asked if H.E.R.B.I.E. will be in the movie, but Arad stopped him with a quick gesture, leading Evans to merely say, "Who knows?"