Five Times The Fantastic: The "Fantastic Four" Cast Talks

Sun, July 10th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

TV/Film
Kendall Smith, Guest Contributor

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Continuing our coverage of the "Fantastic Four" press conference held in New York City last week, now it's time for Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffud, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis and Julian McMahon to share some (often times hilarious) anecdotes about making the movie.

For more with Producer Avi Arad and Director Tim Story, click here. For reviews of the film click here or here.

Each character's power is an extension of their personality in the film-- if you could have a special power that explains your personality, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Jessica Alba is Sue Storm AKA The Invisible Girl
Alba: To be honest with you, I'm always late, so I would need the ability to stop time.

McMahon: You'd never let the clock keep going, would you?

Alba: I'd stop everything, but I could still move around and finish getting ready.

McMahon: I'd like to posses all the powers these guys have, and crush it. (said in a German-like voice) (laughter) That's just the Dr. Doom coming out of me. To be honest, I've always wanted to fly. The whole commercial travel thing I just don't like. So you know, you'd cut out baggage and customs lines. I don't know about the whole "on-fire and flight" thing, because that would be difficult to take luggage, but you'd have to ask Chris about that.

(silence)

McMahon: Chris is bored.

Chiklis: I guess I'd be obnoxious man because that would be a further extension of my personality. (laughter) I'm just so chatty I could talk a dog off a meat wagon. I would have the power to literally put nations to sleep with my ability to talk for days on end.

Alba: He can really talk.

Chiklis: I just like to chat.

Gruffudd: I don't know-- if there was a special power for patience...

(objections and groans from the cast)

Gruffudd: Yeah, it's a bit boring.

McMahon: That's typical Mr. Fantastic!

Gruffudd: How about the power for suaveness, sophistication...?

(laughter)

McMahon: I think you've already got that covered.

Chiklis: Chris, c'mon, you're not getting away with this.

Chris Evans is Johnny Storm AKA The Human Torch
Evans: I don't have anything funny. I'd probably be able to see into the future-- probably put a lot of my fears to rest. (sarcastically) Ok, well said.

McMahon: No, that was so deep it freaked me out. It hurt! Now I need to come up with something intelligent!

Chiklis: We've been waiting for this day for a long time, so it's been a lot of build up and we're all really excited.

Alba: Yeah, we're just loopy. We've been doing so many of these that we are being really honest with you now.

Chiklis: You have us on like Sodium Pen right now. (laughter)

Question for Chris. Chris, you're a pretty modest guy in real life, what was it like to kind of cut loose and play someone who is pretty much the opposite of modest?

Evans: It's fun. He's more energetic than anything else. He loves life and I think his arrogance is a byproduct of that energy. I don't think you play the cocky attitude-- you don't go in there choosing to play it like that, you just play his spirit. It's his energy and that's just fun. You've got all this energy and you're cracking jokes and you can't help but take that home with you. It just took a lot of juice everyday. My energy level would just start to nosedive around noon. (laughter)

McMahon: I have to say, though, he did it extraordinarily well.

(agreement from the cast members)

Chiklis: It was infectious to be around actually. It was hard to play against it-- I was supposed to be grumpy, but he put me in a good mood.

You mentioned it's been a long time coming, what has it been like for the five of you to go through with this movie? There's been so much controversy about the re-shoots or whatever, and how do you think you're going to stack up against "War of the Worlds?"

McMahon: War of the who? (laughter)

Chiklis: They actually weren't re-shoots, they were just little additional shots needed.

Alba: Every movie has additional shots and so-called re-shoots, just because when you see the final product, you're like, "Oh this might be nice, or that might be nice." There was no controversy on that end. I think from the beginning that we had a release date before we started shooting, and to make that date and to make the movie as good as it possibly could be on that schedule was really the most difficult part, which kind of fell on Tim Story's shoulders who, I think, finished editing two weeks ago. He hasn't had a lot of sleep. He created an environment that was so much like a family. Through it we were open to love each other and be a family and have ideas and be creative within the confines of a time schedule.

/a>
Michael Chiklis is Ben Grimm AKA The Thing
Chiklis: We all knew that there was a tremendous amount of pressure to make this movie on a timeline and obviously we were well aware of the history of this franchise and of how many people would be anticipating it and we also knew there would be a lot of conjecture out there in the ether. You can't really get preoccupied with that because people are talking about something without having seen it and the re-shoots were a perfect example of this. "Fantastic Four is in trouble because they're doing re-shoots." Well they didn't know it was like we needed a little connector shot for the green screen here so we could make this transition smoother. It wasn't like we were re-doing scenes and altering plot lines, it was just little enhancements, thickening the broth and making it better. So you read these things and go, "yeah, whatever," they'll see it when they see it and I think they'll love it.

Alba: You know, "War of the Worlds" is rated R, and we're not. (laughter) You can take your kids to this movie, you don't need a babysitter. I think that's good for parents.

McMahon: I'd take my kids and my babysitter.

(laughter)

McMahon: Date night! (laughter)

You know, I have to be honest. Aside from the two weeks where I went through fourteen different hairstyles, seventeen accents and eighteen different suits, this movie has been an extraordinary journey I think for all of us just because we've had so much support from the guys at Fox and so much support from the guys at Marvel. We had such a wonderful atmosphere on the set because of Tim who really is the nicest guy in the world. The first couple of weeks when we were shooting, I thought he was having me on because I hadn't worked with anyone like this before. He was like, "Yeah man, that's great, just go again." And I was like, "I'll hit you if you say that again." (laughter) So we kind of developed this atmosphere of real camaraderie and friendship, so when you're seeing us now, we're finally launching this thing and we've been working so hard on it and for so long, it's nice to be sitting with these guys and seeing Tim and Avi. It's a family movie played by guys who I really feel are part of my family now.

Chiklis: You know what was really cool for me? That among all the conjecture and all of that, we had moments where we would just look at each other and go, "We're in the Fantastic Four! Yeah, this is so cool!" (laughter).

McMahon: I never did that. (laughter)

Chiklis: Well, you were never really in the Fantastic Four. You were against us.

McMahon: I was just the loser on the outside. Yeah, they're the Fantastic Four!

Question for Michael. Can you talk about the make up process with The Thing suit, and what was it like the first time you saw yourself?

Chiklis: So much has been said about this costume and I almost feel like I'm the complainer in the group and I don't want it to sound like that at all. It was something that was very scary for me. The first time we put it on, it took five and half hours to put it on and we got it down to just over two hours by the end of the film. It was somewhere between two and a half to three hours every single day and it was a very claustrophobic, very scary feeling for me at first. As time went on, I knew what I was into, I knew how to cope with it, but it was incredibly uncomfortable. Then it started to get into a fascinating actor exercise where I had to learn how to manipulate the emotions of this mask. Tim had an experience where he thought I might have been upset with him, but it was because neutral, my face is this (makes normal face), but with the mask on, it was this (scowling) and I didn't realize this at first and I could be misconstrued. I've never been a mirror actor where I have to sit and do my lines in front of a mirror, but with this one, I actually had to spend some time in front of a mirror an go, "Yeah, OK, that works." It was like getting to know another person, it was kind of a fascinating experience. It is difficult to have glue in your mouth and in your nose and all over you every day.

Tim did something that I loved him for because he knew what a difficult time I was going through, he would start with the wide shots and work his way in as the day went on. "OK, we're inside the feet," and the feet were like twelve and half pounds a piece. So that was like, "Ahhh." Then we'd get inside the legs, and the legs would come off. Then relief was on the way as the day went on. He did something incredible about a month into shooting-- he put together a couple of scenes and showed it to all of us so that we could get a taste of what we were doing and it really spurred us on and got us psyched. In a five month shoot, you can't see the forest for the trees at some point and when you get to see some small assembly like that, it really got us all excited and spurred us forward and that was genius.

How about when you first saw yourself?

Chiklis: I just went, "Wow, my kids are going to love this!" I'm so glad that we didn't go with the CGI that this is now a living, breathing being that comes off the page and becomes a real life. It was just very, very exciting for me.

With any actor who has successfully portrayed a super hero, there's always that danger of being seen as that super hero for possibly the rest of their careers. Any thoughts?

Ioan Gruffud is Reed Richards AKA Mr. Fantastic
Gruffudd: Well, I've been known as a character called Horatio Hornblower for the past ten years, so I'm very glad to be carrying the name of Mr. Fantastic. (laughter) It's not such a bad name to have.

Chiklis: Personally, I consider this part of my body of work and it'll be hard to type cast me as the orange rock guy. (laughter) So no fear of that.

Evans: I guess I could kind of fall into that pigeon hole, but if the movie does well and we're making more, hopefully that will also let me have more control and navigate the choices I make in the downtime between these movies-- be able to choose roles that legitimize myself as an actor and show the range of my abilities.

Alba: I told you, you're honest today.

McMahon: I really have to go. He's just sitting over there thinking, isn't he? He's just thinking, "I'll show them all." I can't even say something like that. This is the last press conference I do with him.

I think you have to look at the positive side of this thing. You have this opportunity to work with Fox Studios-- for me, I've worked in TV for most of my life and now I've got this opportunity to work on a movie. It's a very different feel to work with Marvel, which is a franchise which has been bringing out wonderful movies over the last ten, fifteen years, so you kind of look at it as opening doors. Never for a second did I think about it as closing doors. It's just been an extraordinary opportunity.

Chiklis: (in a British accent) Well struck.

McMahon: How about that? I thought about that, guy in a hat (referring to Evans' baseball hat). (laughter)

Jessica?

Alba: Sue has blonde hair and blue eyes, and I don't. (laughter)

McMahon: We don't even know who she is!

Alba: I'm free and clear. It's so wonderful to get to really dive into a character and be a chameleon and change and show different sides of my personality in a very specific way, and this enabled me to do that.

McMahon: Plus, if you didn't notice, she's also in every other movie coming out this summer. (laughter)

Chiklis: Chris is just going to explode.

Alba: He's already onto another movie.

Chiklis: And I'm doing another movie right now, so you've got to look at the positives of this situation.

Alba: Plus, I knew Sue was going to get married and have babies, so hopefully that's what I'll be doing soon. In twelve years! A twelve-year time period!

Chiklis: Oh, I thought there was a bomb being dropped here! (laughter)

Alba: No, no!

Chiklis: Her publicist was in the back going, "What?!"

If there are sequels, what would you each like to see for your characters?

Chiklis: A zipper. (laughter) Honestly, some re-engineering. I think we'll be able to work some bugs out. With this, we were a bit pressed for time and it was all about the exterior look and the onus was not really on comfort. So I'd like to see that altered a little and that'd be fine. A zipper would be a phenomenal addition to that. Um...help me?

Julian McMahon is Victor Von Doom AKA Dr. Doom
McMahon: Why the zipper, Chicky?

(laughter)

Chiklis: Forty five minutes to go potty, it's tough. It's a struggle.

McMahon: I had no zipper either, just so you know. (laughter) But I'm used to peeing in my wetsuit, so there you go.

Chiklis: You can tell we had a really horrible time on set.

McMahon: (picking up one of the tape recorders on the table) I'm just going to rewind this...(laughter)

What would you be interested in seeing next time around?

Alba: I'm interested in seeing how they deal with being super heroes and also having to live their daily lives, and how they balance that. It's not just like they're celebrities where people just want your autograph-- people want you to save the day, to be larger than life and to be heroes. That's huge pressure and they can't hide behind a mask. I think that combined with their everyday lives, and things like grocery shopping and solving the worlds problems. I'd like to see where them being people and superheroes cross and how they deal with that mix.

McMahon: And I want to come back and kill them.

(laughter)

Chiklis: Remember, this was an origin picture, similar to "Spider-Man 1." There's a certain level of track we have to lay there for the audience, and next time around, similar to "Spider-Man 2," we'll be able to just go right into the story, whatever that may be. I'm sure like the Spider-Man series, we'll stay true to some of the story lines that are well known and established from the comic.

Alba: But I think Tim put some secrets in this movie that can later be revealed in the next movie.

Chiklis: So there will certainly be that familiarity and obviously if we're going to do three of these or whatever the number is, we'll have to encapsulate certain things from the Marvel comics that have been out there longer than I've been alive.

Alba: The Fantasticar.

Chiklis: Yeah, it's cool things like that. The sky's the limit and that's what's wonderful about these comics. Now, technology is such that whatever you can imagine, you can realize it on the screen. As the technology became available, people kind of went technology crazy, and what Fox and Marvel have been smart enough about is the technical marriage-- as Jessica pointed out, we knew this movie would live and die by the camaraderie and the rapport that we created as a family. That's what engages the audience, that's what makes the audience care who gets blown up in a special effect, you know? If it's all special effects then there's no story and there's no camaraderie, and it's kind of like, who cares?

Gruffudd: As Michael said, this is sort of a prequel and we're setting up how we became the Fantastic Four. Certainly, from my character's perspective, he was a bit of a geek, a bit of a dork and living inside of his mind. Then he has this great arc where he becomes the leader. So I'm looking forward to barking orders at the rest of the cast. Certainly in the environment of New York City, I think it would be great to see Reed Richards walking down the street in a crowd of people stretching his neck up just to look over the top, or hailing a cab from the other side of the street, or just something like that. Also developing that blue costume into real, everyday clothing.

Is it true about the CGI removal of Ioan's...manhood? (laughter)

McMahon: What?!

We heard rumors that it was somehow altered with CGI.

McMahon: Well, he is the stretchy guy.

What about the Puppetmaster, and what's going on with Bond?

McMahon: You've asked so many questions.

Gruffudd: Well, let's start with my crotch. (laughter).

McMahon: That's where we always start.

Gruffudd: At the beginning, you're testing out the suits and costumes, and we obviously had codpieces because it was all in one suit. So, as the first set of dailies were coming across, they were a little too distracting.

Alba: They were distracting.

Gruffudd: No CGI enhancement there. You know, we just have to make it less distracting for the audience, really. Very simple, really. Just had to tie it up, and ... (makes tying and tucking motions)

Chiklis: Oh!

(laughter)

McMahon: What was the next part?

Do you think you'll be teaming up with the Puppetmaster and what's going on with Bond?

McMahon: Avi? What about the Puppetmaster?

Arad (in the back of the room): (unintelligble)

Chiklis: (in perfect Arad impression) I don't think we know the answer to this question yet. (laughter)

McMahon: The Bond thing...I think Ioan's playing bond, aren't you?

Gruffudd: Nope, no, it's just a very flattering rumor. Although can you say the "Bond, James Bond" bit?

McMahon: No, I don't want to jinx it.

Chiklis: Guys, sorry for laying this on you, but I'm playing Bond. (laughter) What are you laughing at?

McMahon: I want to hear you say it, Chicky.

Chiklis: Bond. James Bond. (cheers and clapping) With the silence in the room, I feel like I actually had to go through with it.

How about a female bond?

Alba: I am with you, girl.

McMahon: Okay, let's all play Bond.

Jessica, how do you like the way you're being perceived now? I've seen headlines talking about you as the 21st century fantasy heroine. And tell me about the blue contacts you had to wear.

Alba: Um, they were blue contacts. I actually need glasses and I used to wear contacts, but I'm a bad daughter because my mother gets mad at me that I don't wear my glasses, but I am used to wearing contacts so it wasn't a big deal. It's very flattering the way certain people write some of the articles and I don't know what to say other than thank you and I hope to be employed for a long time.

And about being looked up to as a 21st century heroine?

Alba: That's why I wanted to play Sue Storm-- she's a wonderful role model for young women and she's maternal. She keeps the boys in line and she really has the amazing power to create force-fields which basically protects people. To mem as a maternal person who wants to have kids and who has dogs who are naughty and run into the street, that's something I would like to have. I think she's a great role model and she's still very much a woman. She's not too brutish and she's not too manly and kicking people's butts for no reason, but she takes care of business when she needs to.

Well you're no longer invisible, that's for darn sure.

(laughter)

Alba: Yeah, it's been a very good year.

Is there anytime you've wanted to be invisible?

Alba: I've had my days, sure I think where Sue was invisible, it wasn't really a choice, it was more of a product of her feeling like people don't listen to her. I was the youngest person on set most of the time-- I started acting when I was twelve in a predominately male dominated business and I did feel invisible as a young woman a lot of the time. James Cameron really helped me to embrace myself and find my voice and to not feel invisible anymore. So it's been a really lovely progression in that way.

McMahon: (to gentleman feverishly typing on his laptop) I feel like I'm in court and you're the stenographer! Am I on trial here? I swear I didn't do anything.

I can stop.

McMahon: No, go for it! You're just freaking me out a little bit.

This material has such a huge fan base, I'm just wondering when you were first introduced to comic books or to the Fantastic Four.

Chiklis: Let me start because I was the only one of the cast who was a big Marvel buff.

Gruffudd: I was, too.

Chiklis: Oh, okay. I'm sorry. Let me rephrase-- I was the only one who collected the "Fantastic Four." I must've been twelve when I started collecting the "Fantastic Four" and other Marvel comics. When I was a kid, I particularly liked The Thing. He was my favorite. I liked the idea of the reluctant hero, the curmudgeonly everyman who did the right thing for all the right reasons and didn't want a pat on the back for it. There's something about the idea of someone massively strong who stands between the bully and the little guy that I just thought was amazing.

Evans: I didn't read the comic books at all.

Alba: Did you ever collect anything?

Evans: Yeah, I collected coins. I was really cool. (laughter) It's true, it's not a joke. (more laughter)

McMahon: When I was about five years old, I was the little kid who snuck out of his room to watch TV without my parents knowing and the "Fantastic Four" was one of I think the three cartoons I used to watch. Then I was about eleven or twelve when I started getting into the comic books. In Australia, we had these cards where you would get the cards and the gum and you'd swap them out and stuff. I used to swap them out with my friends and stuff-- we were pretty dodgy. The "Fantastic Four" was my particular favorite as a kid.

Gruffudd: Personally, I never read any comic books when I was younger so I came into this on the basis of the script. Then it soon dawned on me when were introduced at Comic Con as the cast of the movie that we were entering this extraordinary comic book world, particularly the Marvel world. When I was younger, I used to collect all the "Star Wars" figures. I still have them up in my attic, so to finally play a super hero which would eventually be turned into a toy was exciting and somewhat of a dream come true, really. He really looks like me, with my protruding nose...

McMahon: ...and the codpiece...

Gruffudd: ...yes, and the codpiece. (laughter)

Can you talk about being turned into a toy?

Alba: We got scanned.

McMahon: There is like one scanning thing and it has its own jet and it flies around the world, and you have to wait for the scanner because it's off doing some other Spider-Man or something. It's so invasive it's ridiculous because it picks up every little bump and crevice and whatever else. Yes, including my good friend's codpiece here. (laughter) It's ridiculous because you're basically naked wearing this life-size sock, and they're like "We're just going to scan you from head to toe," and you're like, "OK." And you have to stand like this. (assumes a spread-eagle pose)

Chiklis: You get photographed from every conceivable angle in order to create a three dimensional image of your entire body (laughing).

McMahon: And then you get to see the Burger King one inch doll, which is about this big, and the head is this big, and it looks just like you. (laughter) And that is freaky.

Alba: Yeah.

Gruffudd: Yeah, it is freaky.

 
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