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Fantastic 4: Rise Of The Silver Surfer - Michael Chiklis interview

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Interview by Jack Foley

MICHAEL Chiklis, star of TV’s The Shield, reveals why reprising his role as Thing – aka Ben Grimm – was easier second time around for Fantastic 4: Rise Of The Silver Surfer.

He also discusses why he’s top dad at his children’s school and why last Halloween provided him with a genuinely memorable experience…

Q. You manage to project a great deal of emotion in spite of your make-up. Talk us through that process…
Michael Chiklis: In all honesty, coming into the first Fantastic 4 movie I honestly thought it would be a breeze from an acting perspective, but it really turned out to be one of the great acting challenges of my career. I had to tap into some of the old theatre training, harking back to the Greek theatre training with a mask. I did something that I would never normally do, which is mirror acting. You always play your characters from the inside out because you want the emotional side of the character to be alive and well.

But because early on in the first film I found that a lot of people thought I was angry because I’d be sitting there with a neutral face on, and I had this scowl built on my face, people would be constantly asking me if I was alright. So, I found I needed to stand in front of the mirror and see how I could project certain emotion. It was because I’d never worked so technically before that I found it to be one of the triumphs of my life!

Q. Was it easier with the suit this time? Was it redesigned to allow greater mobility?
Michael Chiklis: There was a huge redesign. For the first movie, it took three and a half hours to get my face and head on, and then another hour for the body. On this one, it was an hour and a half to get the face on and seven minutes to get the body. Once the take is over, the body comes right off. It meant I could actually get to know my fellow cast members this time and talk to people and be a person in the world. So it was great.

Q. How difficult is it to work with special effects for so much of the time?
Michael Chiklis: Well, a common question on this movie was: “Tim, what am I looking at? How loud is the thunder? How far away is it?”

Q. How does it feel to have your own action figure?
Michael Chiklis: As a father, it’s the greatest thing in the world. I’m top man at my kid’s school. Children come running up to me and asking me to sign things. It’s pretty cool. In fact, I was walking down the street last Halloween with my wife and my children and all of a sudden I heard my voice going: “It’s clobberin’ time!” So I turned around and there was this 10-year-old kid in The Thing’s regalia and whenever he hit his hands together my voice came out of it. I looked at him and he looked at me and we were both like: “How cool is that?!” So then I signed his hands.

Q. What have you got from the comic book experience – was it what you expected or something different?
Michael Chiklis: From my perspective, it’s a thrilling time to be in the movie business at the moment because anything that can come out of a wonderfully creative mind like Stan Lee’s can be incredibly realised on film. So a lot of this stuff, for me, is like being in film school. I’d be in the background, out of the way, watching the guys from Weta working on some of the sequences I wasn’t involved with, just to learn.

It’s been a phenomenal experience in so many different ways. The Silver Surfer alone – to have two different individuals and two different performers [Doug Jones and Laurence Fishburne] coming together to form one character was really fascinating.

Q. Would you agree that this plays a little younger than the last one? Was that conscious?
Michael Chiklis: Well, my character might be a little lighter but in terms of what happens to the Fantastic 4 and what they have to deal with, that’s decidedly darker. It’s a balancing act… to me, anyone who’s a real, true fan of the comic books knows the tenor of the Fantastic 4.

To compare it to other films, which are decidedly darker and more enigmatic, loner-style characters… one of the things I responded to from the beginning as a kid reading the comics was that there was a lightness about them, and there was an accessibility about them. If you’re eight, 18 or 80 you can watch this movie. There’s a love, honour and camaraderie about them that’s incredibly admirable and that’s what I like about them.

Read our review of the film

Read our interview with Chris Evans