They’re a diverse range of young talent originating from all over the Western world with English, Australian, Canadian and Latino heritages combined with experiences that have the majority of them earning their reputations on the small screen rather than on film.
Now however they’re about to all get their big break as the team that is the “Fantastic Four”. Actors Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans, Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis and Julian McMahon sat down for a press conference in New York City on the eve of the film’s release to talk about their work with the press and where it’ll all hopefully lead:
Question: Everyone’s special power in the film is an extension of their personality. If you had a special power in real life and it was an extension of your personality, what would it be?
McMahon: Let’s get wacky with it! I’m ready. Jess?
Alba: Why me? They pick on me because I’m the only girl. To be honest with you, I’m always late, so I would need the ability to stop time.
McMahon: That’s a good one. But you’d never let the clock keep going, would you?
Alba: No, I would stop everything.
Evans: But you would still be able to move.
Alba: I could still move around and finish getting ready. That’s why I’m always late!
McMahon: I would like the all the powers these guys possess… and I would like to crush it! Sorry, that’s the Dr. Doom coming out of me. I’ve always wanted to fly, to be honest. The whole commercial travel thing I just don’t like. You cut out customs lines and check in baggage and all that stuff.
McMahon: I don’t know about the whole on fire and flight thing, because it would be difficult to take luggage, but you’d have to ask Chris about that.
Chiklis: I guess I’d be obnoxious man. Because that’s, you know, a further extension of my personality. I’m so chatty, I like to talk a dog off a meatwagon. I’d have the power to literally put nations to sleep with my ability to talk for days on end!
Alba: He can really talk.
Chiklis: A hungry dog off a meatwagon. I just like to chat, that’s all.
Gruffudd: I don’t know if there is a special power for patience.
McMahon: Oh come on! That’s typical Mr. Fantastic.
Gruffudd: Is there a special power for suaveness? Sophistication?
McMahon: I think you’ve got that, my friend.
Evans: I don’t have anything funny. I’d rather just see into the future, it would put a lot of my fears to rest. I’m a little over-analytical at times and that might help. Well said. OK!
McMahon: No, that was so deep it freaked me out! It hurts!
Chiklis: Obviously we’re feeling pretty loose. We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, it’s been a lot of build-up, so we’re excited.
Alba: Yeah, and we’re just loopy. We’ve been doing so many of these interviews. We’re so honest with you right now!
Chiklis: You have us like on sodium-pen right now! We’re totally honest people.
Question: Chris, you’re a pretty modest guy in real life. What was it like letting loose and playing someone the opposite of modest?
Evans: It’s fun. He’s more energetic than anything else, he loves life. I think his arrogance is a by-product of that energy. I don’t think you play it copping an attitude. You don’t choose to play that, you play his spirits, his energy. Coming to work every day playing this guy who has so much energy and loves to crack jokes – you can’t help but take that home with you. It was fun. It just took a lot of juice everyday because your energy level would start to nosedive around noon.
McMahon: I have to say though that he did it extraordinarily well. No question.
Chiklis: It was infectious to be around. I had to play against it. I was supposed to be grumpy, he put me in a good mood.
Evans: Stop it!
Question: You said it’s been a long time coming – what’s it been like for you five to go through this whole process. There’s been so much buzz and controversy, you’ve gone for reshoots. And how do you think you’ll stack up against War of the Worlds?
McMahon: War of the Worlds? Pffft.
Chiklis: By the way, they weren’t reshoots. They were little additional shots.
Alba: Every movie has additional shots and so-called reshoots, because when you see the final product you realize it might be nice to have a transition shot here. So there was no controversy. What it is really is that from the beginning we had a date. We had a release date before we started shooting. So to make that date and to make the movie as good as we could possibly make it on a schedule was really the most difficult part. That all fell on Tim Story’s shoulders, who I think finished editing two weeks ago and didn’t get a lot of sleep.
Chiklis: It’s a pretty big movie to have that hard date set.
Alba: He created an environment where we were a family. We were open to love each other and be a family and have ideas and be creative within the confines of a time schedule.
Chiklis: We all knew 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 how many people loved it and anticipated it. We also knew there would be a lot of people – there would be a lot of conjecture out there, out in the ether. You can’t really get pre-occupied with that because people are talking without seeing and without knowing.
The reshoots is a perfect example of that. It was all this [makes typing motions] Ooh, ooh, they’re in trouble because they’re doing reshoots! They didn’t know that like you needed a connector shot for the green screen here so we could make the transition smoother. It wasn’t like we were redoing scenes and altering plotlines or anything. It was little enhancements. It’s thickening the broth and making it better. You read these things and you go, whatever. They’ll see it when they see it. And I think they’re going to love it.
Alba: And War of the Worlds is rated R and we’re not. [Sorry, wrong] You can take your kids to this movie. You don’t need a babysitter.
McMahon: I take my kids and my babysitter. No, I’ve got be honest. Besides the first two weeks where I went through 14 different accents, 7 different hair styles and 18 different suits and looked like anything from a – I won’t even start. This movie has been an extraordinary journey, I think for all of us but I can only speak for myself. We’ve had so much support from the guys at Fox, and so much support from the guys at Marvel and obviously as these guys just mentioned, we had a wonderful atmosphere on the set because of Tim. The first couple of weeks when we were shooting and he was the nicest guy in the world I thought he was having me on because I just hadn’t worked with somebody like that before. He was like, “Yeah that’s great man! Just go again.” I was like, “I’ll hit you if you say that again.” But it’s true!
We kind of developed this atmosphere on the set of real camaraderie and real friendships and real relationships, so when you’re sitting here now and tonight’s the night we’re launching the whole thing, it’s great to be sitting here with this guys and seeing Tim and Avi in the back of the room – this is a family movie made by guys who are now part of my family.
Chiklis: You know what was cool to me is that with all this conjecture going on we were able to have moments of epiphany where we could look at each other and go, “We’re in the Fantastic Four!”
Alba: It’s so cool!
McMahon: I never did that.
Chiklis: Well, you were never in the Fantastic Four. You were against us.
McMahon: I was just the loser on the outside.
Question: Michael, you had the most elaborate costume of the cast. What was it like wearing that?
Chiklis: So much has been said about this costume and I almost feel like I’m the complainer of the group. I don’t want it to sound like that at all, it just was something that was very scary for me. The first day we put it on it took five and a half hours. We got it down eventually to just a little over two hours by the end of the film. But everyday it was somewhere between two and a half and three and a half hours every single day. It was a very claustrophobic, very scary sensation for me at first. But as time went on I knew what I was into, I knew how to cope with it, I was incredibly uncomfortable.
But then it started to get into a fascinating sort of actor exercise, where I’d have to learn how to manipulate the emotions of this mask. It was interesting – Tim had this experience with me where he thought I might have been upset with him, and it was because neutral my face was this [makes a blank face], but with the mask on it was [grimaces]. I didn’t realize this at first, that I could be misconstrued. I’ve never been a mirror actor, where I had to sit and do my lines in the mirror. I never did that in my life. But with this one I had to spend some time with the mirror, getting to know another person.
It is difficult to have glue in your mouth and your nose everyday. But at the same time Tim did something that I love him for. He knew what a difficult time I was having, so he would shoot the wide shots and then move in as the day went on. So we’d be inside the feet, and I could take the feet off. The feet were 12 and a half pounds a piece! Then we would get inside the legs and OH! The legs would come off. Relief would be on the way as the day went on. And he did something incredible about a month into shooting, he put together a couple of scenes and he showed it to all of us so that we could get a taste of what we were doing. It got us psyched and spurred us on to continue. In a six month shoot you sort of can’t see the forest through the trees at some point. When you get to see some small assembly like that it really gets you excited.
Question: What was it like when you first saw yourself in costume?
Chiklis: I just went, Wow, my kids are going to love this! I was so glad we didn’t go with CGI, that this was as living, breathing thing that comes off the page and becomes a life. It was just very exciting for me.
Question: Any actor who has been successful as a superhero has dealt with being seen as that character throughout their career. Is that a concern for you?
Gruffudd: Well I’ve been renowned for playing a character named Horatio Hornblower for the last several years, so I’m very glad to be carrying the name of Mr. Fantastic. It’s not such a bad name to have.
Chiklis: Personally I consider this a part of the body of work of my life. And with me it’ll be hard to typecast me as the orange rock guy.
Evans: I guess since this is one of my first things I could fall into that little pigeonhole. But if the movie does well and we end up making more of them and that would enable me to be pigeonholed, hopefully it will also enable me to have more control over the choices I make on the downtime between these movies. To choose projects that legitimize myself as an actor and show range and versatility. That came out a lot better than I thought it would.
McMahon: He’s just sitting over there thinking the whole time, isn’t he? Damn you! That’s the last press conference I do with him.
I think you have to look at the positive side of this thing. You have a wonderful opportunity to work with Fox Studio – for me particularly as I’ve worked in television most of my life and I’ve got the opportunity to work in a movie, which is a very different feel. To have the opportunity to work with Marvel, which has been bringing out wonderful movies for the last ten years particularly. You kind of look at it as opening doors, never for a second did I think about it as closing a door.
Chiklis: Well struck.
McMahon: How was that? I thought about that!
Alba: Sue has blonde hair and blue eyes and I don’t! I’m free and clear. It’s so wonderful to be able to dive into a character and be a chameleon and change and show different sides of my personality in a very specific way. This just enabled me to do that.
McMahon: Plus if you didn’t notice, she’s in every other movie coming out this summer.
Chiklis: From Vic Mackey to The Thing, when you see that – and Chris is just going to explode.
Alba: Chris is on to another movie now. It’s great. Plus I knew Sue was going to be getting married and having babies, so hopefully that’s what I’ll be doing soon. In 12 years!
Chiklis: Whoa! I thought there was a bomb being dropped.
McMahon: This is supposed to be about the movie!
Chiklis: Her publicist is in the back going, WHAT?
Alba: No! Because it’s a three picture thing.
Question: Assuming there is a sequel, what would you like to see for your character?
Chiklis: A zipper. Zippers are good for men. You need them. Honestly, some re-engineering. We’ll be able to work some bugs out. This was mainly about pressed for time, all about the exterior look of the character. The onus wasn’t on the comfort of the human being inside. A zipper would be a phenomenal addition.
McMahon: Why the zipper, Chiki?
Chiklis: Do I have to spell it out? Stay with me! 45 minutes to go potty is tough!
McMahon: It is a struggle. I had no zipper in my suit, just so you know. But I’m used to peeing in my wetsuit.
Evans: That’s disgusting!
Chiklis: You can tell we had a really horrible time on set.
McMahon: I’m sorry. Can we rewind that?
Chiklis: It’s a little late!
Question: But storywise, what are you interested in for the next go-round.
Alba: Storywise I’m really interested in seeing how they deal with being superheroes and having to live also their daily lives and balance that. It’s not like a celebrity where they’re famous and people want their autograph – people want them to save the day. To be larger than life and be heroes. That’s huge. That’s a lot of pressure and they can’t hide behind a mask. To deal with the family aspect of their every day life, going grocery shopping and him solving the world’s problems. Everything they do as scientists and people but also as superheroes. I would like to see where Tim is going to go with that next.
McMahon: I’d like to come back and kill them.
Chiklis: Remember, this was an origin picture, similar to Spider-Man 1, where there was a certain amount of track we had to lay for the audience. Similar to Spider-Man 2, we’re going to be able to go right into the storytelling, whatever that may be. I’m sure that like the Spider-Man series we’ll stay true to some of the storylines that are well-known and established from the comic books.
Alba: And I think Tim put some secrets in this movie that will later be revealed in the next movie.
Chiklis: There will certainly be that familiarity. But obviously if we’re going to do three of these, whatever the number, we’ll have to capsulate certain things. Remember, this is a Marvel comic that’s been out there longer than I’ve been alive!
Alba: The Fantasticar!
Chiklis: Yeah, cool things like that. Things that came from the progression of the comics. The sky’s the limit. That’s what’s wonderful about these comics. Now technology is such that whatever you can imagine you can realize it on the screen. The wonderful thing about making this movie now as opposed to ten years ago or even five years ago is that when the technology became available, people went technology crazy. Now Fox and Marvel and Tim and everybody involved have been smart enough to make that marriage happen between the technical that makes the dream comes alive – and we knew from day one that this movie would live or die by the camaraderie and the rapport of this family. That’s what engages the audience, that’s what makes the audience care who gets blown up in a special effect.
Gruffudd: As far as character, yes, as Michael said this is sort of a prequel in a sense. We’re setting up how we became the Fantastic Four. Certainly from my character’s point of view he was something of a geek, a dork, and living inside his mind. He has a great arc and becomes a leader by the end, so I’m looking forward to barking orders at the rest from now on.
I’m looking forward to seeing us in the environment of New York City. I think that will be great, seeing Reed Richards walking down the street in a crowd of people and stretching his neck up to look over the top, or hailing a cab from the other side of the street or something like that. Simple things. And also developing that blue costume into real, everyday clothes that are able to stretch and do all these superpowers.
Alba: Something chic!
Question: Any truth to the rumor that Ioan’s… manhood had to be diminished with CGI? And Julian, what’s up with Bond?
McMahon: Well, he is the stretchy guy.
Alba: I never heard that. I’m uncomfortable!
McMahon: You’ve asked so many questions I don’t know where to begin.
Gruffudd: Let’s start with my crotch.
McMahon: That’s where we always start.
Gruffudd: At the beginning you’re testing out the suits and the costumes and we had codpieces, as they were all-in-one suits. As the first sets of dailies were coming across, they were a little bit distracting to say the least. There was no CGI enhancement there! We just had to… make it undistracting for the audience.
McMahon: Quite simple, wasn’t it.
Gruffudd: Yes, very simple. I just had to tie it up and….
Alba: Oh my goodness.
Chiklis: Ladies and gentlemen, tip your waiters.
Gruffudd: I’m sorry.
Question: And Bond?
McMahon: The Bond thing? I think Ioan is playing Bond. Aren’t you playing Bond?
Gruffudd: No, no. It’s just a very flattering rumor.
McMahon: Can you say the “Bond, James Bond” thing?
Gruffudd: No, I don’t want to jinx it, do I?
Chiklis: Guys – I’m sorry to lay this on you, but… I’m playing Bond. Wait. What are you laughing at?
McMahon: I want to hear you say it, Chiki.
Chiklis: … Bond. James Bond. Thank you very much. I felt that with the silence in the room I had to go with it.
McMahon: Let’s all play Bond.
Question: Jessica, question for you. How do you like the way you’re being perceived now? You’re being called the 21st century fantasy heroine. Barbarella Jr.
Question: And tell us about the blue contacts you had to wear.
Alba: Uh, they were blue contacts.
Evans: “And I had to wear them.”
Question: They didn’t give you any trouble?
Alba: Actually I need glasses and I used to wear contacts. I’m a bad daughter because my mother gets mad at me that I don’t wear my glasses. I don’t wear my glasses but I used to wear contacts, so it wasn’t a big deal.
Question: And the 21st century heroine?
Alba: It’s very flattering the way certain people write some of the articles. I don’t know what to say other than thank you and I hope to be employed a long time.
It’s why I wanted to play Sue Storm. I think she’s a wonderful role model for women. I think she’s intelligent, she’s maternal, she keeps these boys in line. She has an amazing power to have a force field which basically protects people. To me, as a maternal person and someone who wants to have kids and who does have dogs that are naughty and like to go into the middle of the street, it’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. She’s not too manly that she’s walking in and kicking people’s butts for no reason. She does it when she has to. She does it all like a lady.
Question: Did any of you collect comics as kids? Did you read comics or was this new to you?
Chiklis: I’m going to start because I was the only one in the cast who was a big Marvel fan.
Chiklis: You were too? I’m sorry! Let me rephrase. Of the Fantastic Four I was the only one. Around 12 I discovered the Fantastic Four and other Marvel comics. I loved them as a kid. I particularly loved the Thing. He was my favorite. I thought the idea of a reluctant hero, this curmudgeonly everyman who did the right thing for all the right reasons and didn’t want a pat on the back for it. The selflessness. Something about the idea of someone massively strong who would stand between the bully and the little guy that I 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. It’s true. It’s not a joke.
Question: You still have them?
Evans: Yeah. [weeps] I love them!
McMahon: When I was about five years old I was the little kid who snuck out of my bedroom and switched on the TV without my parents knowing. Fantastic Four was one of three cartoons I used to watch. Then when I was 11, 12 years old I started getting into the comic books. In Australia we had cards – it’s funny, I only remembered this the other day. I had this like bubble gum cards, where you get the gum and you swap out the cards? I used to swap them out with my friends. We were pretty dorky too. I was a huge fan. Fantastic Four particularly was my favorite cartoon as a kid.
Gruffudd: Personally I never read any comic books when I was younger, so I came to this purely on the basis of the script. It soon dawned on me when we were at the comic book convention last year, when we were introduced as a cast that we were entering into this extraordinary world, the comic book world. Particularly the whole world of the Fantastic Four. When I was younger I used to collect all the Star Wars figures. I still have them all in the attic. So to finally play a character who going to eventually be turned into a toy is very exciting and something of a dream come true. He looks like me. I’ve seen examples of them. Because of the protruding nose you can tell it’s me in the character.
McMahon: And the codpiece.
Question: How do they get the likenesses for the toys?
Alba: We got scanned.
McMahon: The scanning process they do – they have this one scanning team that has it’s own jet and flies around the world. You have to wait for the scanner because it’s off doing Spider-Man. It’s so invasive that it’s ridiculous. It picks up every little bump and crevice. Yes, including my good friend’s codpiece here.
Chiklis: You feel vulnerable.
McMahon: You do! You’re basically there naked with this life sized sock on and they’re like, “We’re going to scan you from head to toe.” How do you stand? Like this [arms out] and spread eagled.
Chiklis: You’re being photographed from every conceivable angle. It turns into a 3 dimensional image of… your entire body.
McMahon: Then you get to see the Burger King one inch doll and your head is this big and it looks just like you. That is freaky.