Feature by: Jack Foley
AT A time when superheroes seem to be getting in touch with their
darker and more intimate sides, it's refreshing to find one that's
devoted purely to fun.
So while Fantastic Four might not rate as strongly as Batman
and Spider-Man in terms of emotional depth, it does offer an amusing
break from reality that is easy to enjoy while it lasts.
Audiences in America obviously agreed with this sentiment, helping
the film to over-perform at the box office despite some negative
reviews and thereby providing a welcome relief for the actors
who play the characters.
"It certaintly seemed like they were reviewing
Wuthering Heights," joked Michael Chiklis, who plays The
Thing/Ben Grimm, at the recent London press conference.
"We went in to it knowing what it was and what we were trying
to make, which was a fun ride - something to go to with the family,
friends, or a date, with a big barrel of popcorn, candy and a
soda, and have a ride and a laugh. That's it, that's what it is,
This sense of fun is as apparent on-screen as it is in person,
given that the Fantastic Four - Chiklis, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans
and Ioan Gruffudd - seem to share an obvious camaraderie.
But this was something that each actor strove to achieve from
the outset in order to create a dysfunctional family ethic that
audiences could believe in.
Explains former Hornblower star, Gruffudd: "The success
of the film is based on the fact that you believe this is a dysfunctional
family of superheroes - and I think that's a testimony to our
relationships off camera.
"If you've got any sort of relationships off camera, it
always informs the relationships on-screen, and I think you do
believe that Chris and Jessica are always bickering like brothers
and sisters, while Michael and I are best mates and I feel guilty
for all I've done to him..."
He continues: "To be honest, the process of making a movie
like this can be quite tedious, because it's so technically-based.
"But I think we did our duty as actors to bring the characters
to life and to make them three-dimensional, and then the video
effects team have just gone and run with it, and married those
two together to create this believable film within this genre."
As passionately as the foursome talk
about the film and their characters, however, it was only Chiklis
(best-known as the star of TV's The Shield) who actually remembers
the comic books from an early age.
"When I was 12, 13, 14-years-old, I used to go down to the
corner store and get The Fantastic Four.
"I really thought I was a big comic book fan until I went
to Comicon with these guys and realised what real comic-book fans
were. They put the fan in fanatic, they're people, they really
"And I knew it was going to be a little daunting when a
man said to me, "Mr Chiklis, in Episode 283, when your character..."
and I went, "Whoa, wait a minute..."
For Chiklis, becoming The Thing was probably the most arduous
process of the lot, especially since he spends most of the film
But in spite of confessing to finding it difficult, he believes
the right decision was made to add to the overall authenticity.
"We all agreed instantly that it shouldn't be CGI, that
it should be a person.
"And it obviously ended up being an incredibly onerous task
being in that costume, but ultimately we made the right choice
because you want to see a human being in that body, because there's
tremendous amount of pathos and humanity behind Ben Grimm. If
we'd done it with CGI, it would have been lost."
Chiklis wasn't the only one to find the superhero transformation
a little difficult to cope with.
Gruffudd, too, had to contemplate kissing The Invisible Woman,
aka Jessica Alba, without actually getting to perform the real
thing - although, fortunately, he was able to do so in rehearsal.
"Jessica did kindly allow me to feel what it was actually
like, before I started kissing the air, miming it," he joked.
"But for those moments in the film, we'd do it once, naturally,
and then Jessica would step away and then I would physically resort
to mime," he concluded, before treating the assembled journalists
to an example of how he performed it.
Fantastic Four opens in UK cinemas on July 22.
Related stories: Fantastic
Fantastic Four - clips and
Michael Chiklis interview
Ioan Gruffudd interview
Jessica Alba interview
Chris Evans interview
Fantastic Four sets
US box office alight