Sneaking in the back of the production meeting room during Producer Ralph Winter’s presentation, Director Tim Story crossed his arms and admired the stories and work of his team along with everyone else. Despite the obvious pressures of being in the final month of such a huge production, Story is clearly having the time of his life working on Fantastic Four again. He’s unflappable and his enthusiasm in the room was contagious.
“It’s interesting because the first film was more about characters,” Story explained. “One of the things we know is that Reed and Sue get married, and it seemed pretty obvious that the next chapter would be to get married, because they later have kids and so on. Ben’s story was all about wanting to get out of his body, and now he is comfortable. Along with him being comfortable, where do you go with he and his girlfriend Alicia? Johnny is the biggest playboy and cool kid you could imagine. What responsibilities can you now throw on him so that he actually has guilt and some other surprises? Where else can you go in terms of the powers that you take full advantage of? With the sequel, I wanted more action… and to bring back Doom and have Doom be a real issue.”
“I wanted to expand into a lot of other things,” continued Story. “There was a big issue with the Fantastic Four taking advantage of their stardom and making money being kinda, the best word is ‘rich’. Bringing up the idea that they are in business and well off, in terms of just running a corporation. I wanted to bring in the high-tech world. Reed Richards in the first one revolved around him not making a lot of money, a failed industrialist kind of thing. Now he will start to be a little bit more prone to what we know him for, which is technology.”
But is financial success not looked down upon in our heroes? “We actually kind of use that exactly to our advantage in the story,” replied Story. “These are good people and it comes down to a group of people, once you have to deal with running a corporation and what headaches that brings to being who you are. It’s said that money is the root of all evil. I’m not sure if I believe in that, but we use that to our advantage and incorporate that into the story. It has brought an additional layer to the personal stories.”
Between films, Story definitely took note of fan reaction. He recalled, “One of the biggest things I heard and knew about was wanting Grimm’s brow bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. We had it rather large at some point, but ran into the problem of lighting his eyes, because any time I lit the set, his eyes were in shadow. And we had [Michael] Chiklis, who is so amazing playing the character, the last thing you wanted to do was hide his eyes, so we ended up having to scale back the brow from what we were thinking.”
“They always wanted Doom to be more bad-ass,” Story added, “and I’ve taken those ideas. And then they wanted action. They just wanted action, action, action were the main points I got from most. I think we deliver on that 100%.”
Of course, another way to please the fans is to include supporting characters from the comics, like Alicia Masters in the first film or the addition of Frankie Raye (Nova) in this one. “Wherever I can, I try to throw in characters that maybe we weren’t as familiar with,” said Story. “There’s no other super powered characters. Frankie Raye is just, well… Johnny’s going to have a relationship, so why not go there? And what happens in the future? It does open itself up for the third one.”
In order to keep the Silver Surfer’s character relateable and realistic as possible, Story explained that “we’ve done a little situation where we’ve kept him away from human contact for as long as possible in the movie, just to keep him shrouded in mystery. Then, when he does get into contact with people… well, I wish I could tell you. But, there’s a third thing you guys will find out about that keeps him very based in reality. At some point, he’s a guy from space so what are you going to do? After that, its just the way we got the character captured and the CGI of how he moved. How he actually responds. He does have conversations in this movie, and so you’re talking to a real person who has a history and understands and reacts to emotion and that. So, although he is a space-man, an alien, we keep him very grounded in reality and I think you’ll see that.”
At the time of the visit, Story had not yet decided upon voice casting for Surfer, but we know now that Laurence Fishburne will provide the voice.. “You know, the plan was always from day one to cast a voice actor. There’s always a chance we may stick to Doug [Jones]. I listen to the humanity in the performance and it sounds very good right now.”
The chance to revisit the Four’s powers also excited Story, though he was cagey about details. “I’ll just say that Johnny’s powers are enhanced at some point in the movie, it brings some very fun and very big twists to what happens.”
“There are things with Sue that in the first movie we weren’t able to go into. People know that she’s able to create force fields and actually able to hover on top of her fields, so things like that. We didn’t get a chance to really see her play with stretchy Reed. It’s always fun to just think about Johnny and what else can you do? If you can make yourself on fire, does that make you bulletproof? Would the bullet come back? Will it melt before it gets to you? Can you go through walls because you get so hot, would you melt through a wall? That’s the fun part about doing these movies, thinking of where you can take these powers and have fun.”
“It’s making the movie about characters. Of course it’s cool to see a character set on fire or fly. Here’s a person of power, even the Silver Surfer having this ‘cosmic blast’ that he has. The idea is not to use his hands, without the normal hand gestures. Instead of going a to b, how do the powers travel? You’ve got to constantly think of new ways. We’re lucky that in the case of our characters, I always start with great character. The secret to Batman is Bruce Wayne, and I kinda believe that. The secret of these characters are giving the people behind the superhero a story and once you do that to success, then I think you’ll be OK.”
And should an opportunity for a third Fantastic Four present itself, what does Story have in mind?
“I definitely have ideas for some different characters. The ones that come to you immediately are Puppet Master, Mole Man, Inhumans, the Skrulls. Many of those you immediately think of, and what would be the coolest one? One of the things we always do is to think of the visuals and what would be the coolest thing to bring to the screen and how? I definitely have a couple of storylines that are crawling in my head.”
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer hits theaters on June 15.