Talking with the Stars of "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" – Part 2

CBR News in association with Comics2Film.com presents the second of a two-part interview with the stars of "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," which opens in theaters June 15th. Part 1 can be found here. 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).

So, I noticed there's no actor here representing Silver Surfer, and his name is in the titles so I assume some of you have interactions with Silver Surfer. Could you talk about how that invisible actor works on set.

Julian McMahaon: We can't talk too much about the Silver Surfer, but he does look really good.But the way you work on set, obviously, with no one there.

Chris Evans: There's somebody there. Doug Jones. Doug Jones wears the green suit.

Ioan Gruffudd: It's the same essentially to what Andy Sirkis did for the character of Gollum [in "The Lord of the Rings" films]. He was there for the off-camera work and Doug is there for our off-camera work. So, we have a physical presence there to work with. He has dialogue and it's good to bounce off a real person rather than a tennis ball with an "X" on it, you know.

JM: I've done some scenes where he hasn't been there.

IG: Really?

JM: And I like the tennis ball. I do. It's so good having no other actors. There's no arguments. You can do what you want.

Jessica Alba: You get to be the center of attention, Julian.

JM: With all of our fight scenes, you guys have no idea what I did. There's one tennis ball there. There's another tennis ball over there. That's Ioan, that little tennis ball down there. I'm gonna burn that one.

Following up on that question, has it gotten easier to work with effects the second time around or is it just as challenging?

Michael Chiklis: Are you talking about the suit again?

Just the visual effects in general.

MC: Well I think we've all gotten better at it. It's moving more smoothly.

There's more of that than there was in the first one. Don't you think?

IG: Yeah, there's certainly a lot more green screen this time around. To be perfectly honest, the preparation for that sort of process is get yourself a lot of DVDs and a lot of PlayStation games because you're gonna spend a lot of time in your trailer.

That's just the nature of green screen images. It's so precise and it's such an art in that sense. It takes so long for them to set up just for one particular shot.

Then you come onto the set and you find that you're working two, three takes, which took about ten minutes and they've been setting up for the last hour and a half.

My hat goes off to those guys who did all the "Star Wars" movies totally against a green screen. At least we have the organic nature of working with sets and tangible things, compared to a green canvas.

MC: It's a different type of performance. This isn't what I would refer to as an actor's piece.

JM: Speak for yourself, buddy. I've done some of my best work being evil.

MC: It requires skill as an actor, absolutely. That's not what I'm saying.

CE: I think it's a different type of skill. To have to work on green screen is a different type of skill as to be able to work in a house, in a kitchen, with other people.

Actually, I think it's very developmental in regards to the way you start to think about things. Once you're working on green screen you are looking at tennis balls, you are looking at "X" marks. You have to create it all in your heads.

Like he said, take your hats off to these "Star Wars" actors. Harrison Ford flying down that thing with Chewbacca behind him, that's pretty good effort. It definitely creates another part of your brain.

MC: Sure. You have to be in touch with your inner child.

CE: And your imagination. You're flying through space or flying through the air or whatever in a car like this and you have an imagination that goes along with it that I think's very cool.

IG: It heightens your concentration. I think that's what it does, because you are searching for things that aren't physically there. It really, somehow, weirdly gives you a real focus because you have to focus on things that aren't there. It really concentrates your mind and I think it will add to all theses sequences when you see us so concentrated and so involved, we believe that we are flying this car and being tossed around by Doom.

If we don't believe, then the audience won't believe it.

The first time around making a film like "Fantastic Four," it's sort of an adventure. This second time around they're trying to make it serious. How do you as an actor find the seriousness of the part in this kind of movie?

MC: I had, frankly, in the first one I had a much more serious story line tonally. I was a guy trapped in a body he didn't want to be in and I had much more conflict in that way.

In this one, it's very light for me, so probably it'd be better for one of the other guy's to answer that.

IG: I think there's a practicality to all of it, because we have done the first movie. We were sort of setting up the story in the first movie. There wasn't much scope for adventure. We were explaining to everybody who we were. We were introducing ourselves.

Now we start the movie, everybody knows who we are. We start the adventure almost immediately. In that sense it's a massive step forward.

As far as the acting, to get back to your question, it's a pleasure to come back to a character having played it once already. It's a luxury. You don't get to do that unless you're in a show or a series. To do that on screen in a movie like this, it's a great feeling. It gives you a lot of confidence.

I've evolved over the last few years and that will in turn feed and bleed into the character of Reed Richards.

JA: To be honest, as silly and big and comic-booky as this all is, we really play it for real, with as much conviction and sincerity as anybody would be in those circumstances.

Like Ioan said, there's been a two-year gap where I've been able to do a few things as well. Where you're growing as a person, as an actor, whatever, it will definitely help you in doing the next movie.

If we get to do a third one, we'll be even more evolved, hopefully, as people and as actors.

CE: I agree.

I've never had an opportunity to work on a sequel. I've always been curious about working on television, playing a character and having an opportunity to see the way you portray it, the way it came to life and to refine your approach.

This has been a great opportunity regardless of genre, whether you have a children's movie or an action film or a deep thinking piece, it's exciting to get back in the saddle and adjust what you don't think worked and make better what you think did work.

So, regardless of whether the script is directed towards children or adults or silly or whatever, I was excited to get back in the saddle.

JM: I'm regressing. I'm not evolving.

All of you have specific…

JM: Oh, I don't get to answer that do I?

No! That's alright! I get ya!

JA: You're badder than…

JM: I will kill you later. Take down your seat number.

What was the question?

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, no, that's our job; to take it seriously. Whether it's a kid's movie or a popcorn movie or what kind of stuff, but to make it that you have to take the job seriously.

If I'm in a situation where it's funny, then you have to make it funny. If I'm in a situation where it's dramatic then you have to make it dramatic. And dramatic can be funny at times.

So, this is just like any other job. You have to take the script. You work with it where you can. You work with the other actors. You work with your director. You come up with something that's hopefully plausible, something that sticks to screen and everyone goes, "Well, I believe they're in that moment in time."

All of you have very specific powers. Can you give us a taste of what's different this time out?

IG: The powers are the same. They are limited in that sense.

What's interesting is the psychological aspect of what we're presenting in the character of the Silver Surfer, who is rather ambiguous. We're not sure whether he's good or evil. That's more of a challenge this time for the characters.

Of course, there'll be lots of fantastic special effects. Myself stretching and catapulting objects and Sue protecting us with her invisible sphere, Johnny flying and chasing the Silver Surfer and also Ben scaring away bears.

The interesting part are psychological elements. How do we work as a team against this other force, coupled with Dr. Doom. So, the challenge is twice as much this time.

JM: My powers, we have to be pretty specific to the original comic in a way. It's not like we can just come up with powers that weren't already there. I think it's just an enhancement of the storyline, enhancing of all the powers. I mean I do come back and try to get more power, which I do get for a period of time. Then at the end of the movie I kill them all.

I'm sorry. Was that…?

MC: Dammit. You blew it.

JM: Take that back. Take that back. Oh, man, my briefing.

But they already are what they are and they can just be enhanced by certain things. The Silver Surfer obviously burned us with that, and whatever. He kind of throws things into the mix. I don't know if you know the comic book very well, but the Silver Surfer's got some pretty extraordinary powers. And it's something to behold and something to reckon with, if I get ahold of it - and it's something different if they do. So, there's that kind of battle.

MC: Ioan really touched on it. The fact of the matter is the first piece is an origin piece. We can jump right in now and the stakes are raised immediately. We introduce another character in the Silver Surfer. His powers are enhanced. Now we have a bigger challenge on our hands. We can jump right into it. So, it's bigger, it's better.

JA: We all have the same powers, it's just sort of integrated in our day to day life now. At first it may have been a big deal if Johnny can toast his own toast. Now it isn't. We don't care anymore. Or if I turn things invisible, it's like, "They can reappear, Sue. Whatever!"

It's just a bit more integrated I guess.

CE: Jess took my answer. It's just more of a practical approach to the powers. Just more comfortable. In the first we were clunking around and figuring them out. Now we got it down.

You said that the script references celebrity in a way - the superheroes are now famous. Jessica, if you could tell me, what is your feeling about what the script says about celebrity? What are your feelings about that and about what celebrity has done for you? Or to you, as the case may be.

JA: Well, I hate everyone now and I don't know my family any more. I just live in a cave really. I only walk out when I'm in full hair and makeup and ready to do press conferences.

Yeah. OK. Next.

No. You know, really it just shows that they still want to be human beings. They still want a very regular family life. Unfortunately, when you're under a microscope everyone's very critical of your version of what that means. So, people are picking them apart and putting them on pedestals and lifting them up and tearing them down for newsworthy sound bites and they're like, "but we're still human beings. We just want a family. We just want to be married." Unfortunately they can't because they are superheroes and they have to sacrifice their regular life for that.

In turn, in wanting to be an actor and losing your, I don't know, you lose your anonymity a bit. The press, it only means as much as you want to give them. Does it really matters that much if someone's hair is messed up or not or whether you're wearing the right boots for the season or whether you're out partying too much? Who cares? I think it really just depends how much weight you put on it.

IG: I think also with the Fantastic Four, there was no choice in the matter with these guys. These powers were thrust upon them.

There isn't this element of choice, of being an actor you are going to be in the public eye and therefore you have to take on that responsibility. I think the Fantastic Four, as much as they've capitalized on their fame…

JA: Johnny!

IG: …they're marketing themselves and there's a certain amount of responsibility. You can't have your cake and eat it. So, that is actually brought up in the movie and it's a very interesting subject, actually.

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