Things might get even uglier as the fallout over the failure of Fantastic Four continues.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film's director, Josh Trank, has retained high-powered entertainment lawyer Marty Singer to "advocate on his behalf" in the wake of both the movie's spectacular flameout at the box office (just $26 million in its opening weekend) as well as Trank's own disavowal of it. In a since-deleted tweet that he posted as the movie opened in theaters last Thursday (August 6), Trank wrote that he had made a "fantastic" version of the film that audiences would "probably never see."
Whether Trank's hiring of a lawyer means he intends to seek some sort of legal action or protection remains unclear, but new details have emerged about the troubled production of the film that paints both him and the studio behind it, 20th Century Fox, in unflattering tones.
Things reportedly got so contentious between Trank, the cast and the crew that when the director wrote an email to some of them a few days before the movie opened, saying he was proud of the picture and that it was "better than 99 percent of the comic-book movies ever made," one cast member fired back, "I don't think so."
Insiders who worked on the production told the Reporter that Fox was initially behind Trank and his vision of a "grounded, gritty" take on Marvel's First Family, even when he pushed his actors to "make the performance as flat as possible" and even told them "when to blink and when to breathe."
But when Fox began seeing footage that was not deemed "salvageable," Trank allegedly resisted attempts to help him. One source said, "He holed up in a tent and cut himself off from everybody," which a crew member concurred, "He built a black tent around his monitor. He was extremely withdrawn." The crew member added, "he would go to his trailer and he wouldn't interact with anybody."
On top of that was the alleged $100,000 worth of damages that Trank and his dogs caused to the rented house he was staying in while the movie was shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which resulted in the landlord first trying to evict and then sue Trank. The incident was ultimately settled as a private civil matter, according to the local sheriff's department.
But while Trank -- who was dropped from directing a Star Wars standalone film over the reports of Fantastic Four problems -- must shoulder his share of the blame for what went wrong, a member of the production team said Fox is not innocent either. This person explained that the film was "ill-conceived, made for the wrong reasons and there was no vision behind the property," adding that the studio rushed forward with the production to avoid having the rights revert back to Marvel and stuck with Trank despite their misgivings.
The problems came to a head when Fox and the producers desperately attempted to come up with an ending for the film in reshoots. Not all the cast members were available, so the finale was cobbled together using body doubles and shots of Miles Teller as Reed Richards that were filmed against a green screen in New York. Trank was there but "neutralized by a committee," with one crew member calling the process "chaos."
Whether or not Trank's original conception of the film would have been better will probably never be known, but one thing seems clear as the story behind this mess weirdly becomes far more interesting than the film itself: no one, including Trank and the execs at Fox, seems in a position to point fingers at anyone else. You have a director going from a $12 million movie (Chronicle) to a $120 million movie with nothing in between to prep him, and a studio that hurried to make a movie without fully understanding what it was making. As yet another crew member said, "Nobody should escape scrutiny on this one."
Where do you think the blame lies -- with Trank, Fox or both?