CBR News in association with Comics2Film.com present the first of a two-part interview with the stars of “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” which opens in theaters June 15th. This interview was conducted last year, early in the production stage of the film. In attendance were Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic), Jessica Alba (Susan Storm/The Invisible Woman), Chris Evans (Johnny Storm/The Human Torch), Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm/The Thing) and Julian McMahon (Victor Von Doom/Dr. Doom).
Julian, tell us about the new and improved Dr. Doom and how much fun was it being more evil this time?
Julian McMahaon: Oh, I didn’t know I was. I think it’s just part of my personality — I just pretended to be an asshole. I portrayed that in the evilness of this character.
He’s just a little more evil because he’s coming back for revenge. We have the new suit, which is pretty, kind of extraordinary. I just wore it for the first time last week. It looks amazing. I can’t tell you too much about it, but it’s very evil.
At the same time he’s not that evil. I always picture this movie as kind of a kids’ movie, so you don’t want to be that evil. The little kiddies can’t be watching then.
It’s been fun. I haven’t been here the whole time like these guys have. I’ve been floating in and out because I’ve been shooting my TV show [“Nip/Tuck”] at the time so I haven’t been as immersed this time around as I was last time.
But yeah, it’s been good fun. It’s been evil.
Can I ask each of the cast members to talk about what’s new or what’s different for your characters, starting with Chris.
Chris Evans: I think everyone has a pretty good arc. They make sure everyone has a journey. I think Johnny was kind of a one-man show and wanted center stage. I think the reason Fantastic Four have always succeeded, as a group of superheroes and as a comic book is that they’re a family. They’re a unit. They’re a group. I think Johnny has to know and respect that. In this movie he learns to appreciate the relationships around him.
Jessica Alba: Nothing’s changed. [laughs]
No…I have longer hair… [bigger laughs]
We’re much more mature in our characters as superheroes, so this definitely is a product of this movie. We’re all very much a family. We all live together. We’re getting married. That’s sort of the centerpiece for my character in this movie. It’s all about the wedding. She’s sort of bridezilla in the best way. She’s stressed
[shoots a look at McMahon]
…it has nothing to do with you Julian, I’m sorry. Yep. Getting married. Yep. To him. Not to you. To him.
Ioan Gruffudd: Yes, finally Reed Richards has taken center stage, and about time too really. He’s come more to the forefront. He’s much more comfortable in his role as the leader and as the father figure of the family. I’m delighted about that. It’s a lot more interesting character to play compared to the first one where he was a little bit more nerdy or darkish. Now this time I’m stepping up to the plate and becoming the leader.
And of course, our relationship between Sue and I is much more intimate, much more real, more three-dimensional, more developed and evolved.
An interesting part that Jessica brought up, that we’re much more comfortable being superheroes. Because we are actors and people watch us do our work and we’re sort of commodities, the Fantastic Four appreciate themselves as commodities and are able to sell themselves as commodities as well as being superheroes. That’s an interesting aspect.
Michael Chiklis: I don’t know how much I have to add. They’ve covered pretty much everything.
As far as Thing is concerned, he’s taken another step in his relationship with Alicia in this picture. He’s the loveable curmudgeon. If Reed Richards is the leader and the brain of this outfit, I would think Ben Grimm would be the heart. He’s a loveable curmudgeon.
He’s much more come to grips with his malady of being a superhero. He’s also a lot of the conscience and strength of the group, as a compliment to everybody else’s function. I’ve always thought, as Chris said before, separately we’re pretty fantastic. Together they’re much more powerful as a group.
Michael, I’ve heard that your suit is actually lighter this time around. Can you talk about what kind of improvements we can expect from the Thing this time around?
MC: In the first film, I talked ad nauseum, actually, to the point where I couldn’t stand hearing my own voice about it, where it was a pretty uncomfortable situation. It was a main concern for me coming into this one that it not be the same.
It was very experimental and there wasn’t enough time to really look into everything. The last one didn’t have a zipper. I mean a pants zipper. It made trying to urinate a 45 minute ordeal.
JA: Please put that in print.
MC: Yeah, that’s lovely. So, there were things, the heaviness.
The hero suit itself isn’t much improved, meaning when I’m dressed in the Fantastic Four garb. That you really can’t fake because he’s bare-chested. Fortunately, I’m only in [the full body suit] about 25% of the movie. In the rest of the movie, and it’s really quite cute I think, you see him in the tuxedo for instance. So, when I’m dressed, in wardrobe, we’ve been able to use a much more lightweight material that breaths and creates the appearance of bulk, without the intense discomfort. It’s able to come off and on very, very quickly. This has been a markedly more comfortable experience, and much more helpful, frankly.
Aside from the popcorn and the fun, what does this movie mean to you, perhaps on a metaphoric level?
[Nervous looks among the actors, followed by nervous laughs. Nobody rushes to answer]
Let’s start with Dr. Doom.
JM: I was a big fan of the comic book and the cartoons. I always thought Dr. Doom was the most evil guy on the planet until Darth Vader came along. Then they were kind of one in the same, in a way, so to be able to play that character and to play that genre, it’s the superhero genre, and it’s ridiculous. It’s just fun, you know?
As an actor, particularly playing the evil guy, you get to just do silly, fun stuff.
MC: It’s really about vanquishing evil and about a dysfunctional family. People relate to it because we all have our own dysfunctional families. You’d be hard pressed to find a family that isn’t dysfunctional.
CE: It’s just a great opportunity to play a superhero. It’s just every little boy’s dream. In that regard, it’s just a great character.
But any film that’s this big and this exposed, it’s good to kind of get your face out there. Have meetings like this.
MC: Speak for yourself.
CE: Yeah, well, that’s a good point, actually. Sorry, man.
It’s just a good opportunity. It enables future work. It helps prolong any potential career that I might be able to have so…
JA: “That you might be able to have…”
God forbid. Because you have nothing going for you. Good looks…
He’s actually a really good actor in case you guys were wondering.
I think just being part of a comic book movie that appeals to family is kind of a big deal. And being able to play a female character that’s so strong and so dominant and doesn’t use her sex appeal to get ahead. She’s not a villain. She’s not nasty. She’s quite a noble character to play and that’s great. I think it’s a great female icon.
IG: It’s sort of like seeing myself, the image of myself that I desired to have watching these movies as a kid. It literally is a dream come true to play a heroic part. To play a super hero is a little extra bonus. So it’s seeing that childhood dream come true.
What can you say about the new Fantasticar?
MC: The Fanstasticar is pretty fantastic! I’d love to have one of those.
This breaks up into parts, into individual pieces, which is pretty awesome. This is mine right behind me. It’s kind of macho actually.
Put together it’s gonna look phenomenal. The first time I looked at it I was excited. I’m a car guy.
This one flies and you know, I don’t know, I’d like to cruise around in this if they could get it to work.
JA: It made me a little sick, actually when we were shooting. I got a little nauseous, in all honesty. We actually spent a lot of time in the car and filmed full days in the car doing a lot of the virtual stuff. CGI stuff.
It’s kind of like the “Back to the Future” ride. Going down, going up, going sideways.
Michael, going back to the suit for a second, what kind of challenge was it getting into the Fantastic car while wearing that suit?
MC: This, I guess these movies for me, a lot of the questions I’ve fielded, I guess part of it is my own fault. I’ve brought it on myself — it’s been about discomfort.
I have to say, last week, I got to work with a ten-foot tall, 1650 pound Kodiak bear. That’s one of the reasons why I love this business. That’s something you don’t get to do in life. To stand in front of a predator six feet away like that.
In spite of whatever discomfort I had to go through, it’s been quite exhilarating and thrilling sometimes.
As for getting into the Fantasticar, they made a huge bucket seat for me. I fit in there fine. So, they’ve accommodated me in whatever ways they’ve been able to, to make it livable.
Ioan, what’s it like being a British actor in a big budget Hollywood movie, but not being a villain?
IG: Well, I’m delighted to break that tradition of having a Brit or a person who isn’t American playing the bad part. I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve immersed myself into a 100% American character. That was a major desire of mine, as an actor moving to Hollywood, that I was to be believable as an American. I didn’t want any attention brought to me, to the fact that I was a British actor. I’m an actor, period.
So I’m very proud to have this opportunity.
And I’m Welsh.
JM: Does that mean that I haven’t broken any moulds? Is that what you’re trying to say?
IG: [laughs] No, I was trying to say it as polite as possible.
JM: That’s alright, no, no. I’m cool with that.
I’m just your standard, run-of-the-mill, whack-job who just got a job because they came from another country. Okee-dokee, big smokey.
IG: No, but you’ve had a chance on your show to prove yourself as an American on your show.
JM: [under his breath] Let’s not talk about my show. It’s got nothing to do with what we’re doing here. I’m very upset and angry with you.
Look for more with the cast tomorrow as they discuss the Silver Surfer, the benefits offered by a sequel and much more.
For more on the film, don’t miss our interview with screenwriter Don Payne.
Now discuss this story in CBR’s TV/Film forum.