Fantastic Four director Josh Trank recently discussed his tumultuous experience on the 20th Century Fox film where he declared he had no interest in watching “a movie about a bunch of white people.”
Trank appeared on the the First Cut YouTube Channel, where he revealed he originally wanted a black Sue Storm and detailed his battles with Fox executives over the direction of the film.
In the middle of talking about his decision to cast Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm in the film, Trank detailed, “So the question of diversity, it was like maybe like the second thought to be honest, you know? Because it wasn’t really like I didn’t think about that as much because to me that’s by default you need diversity in movies.”
He continued, “In Chronicle, in the script it doesn’t specifically say that Steve is a black guy. It doesn’t say that in the script. It’s these three kids. And to me that’s just sort of like, that’s not three white kids, that’s three kids.”
Trank elaborated, “But that’s just me. Because you now some people might not think about it like that they might be like, ‘Hey, I just grew up with white people so that’s all I identify with.’ But I mean I grew up in a very diverse environment in Los Angeles. To me it’s always important to show a world that reflects the world I see otherwise it’s kinda creepy and weird.”
He then stated, “I don’t want to see a movie about a bunch of white people. That’s just not interesting to me.”
Trank added the caveat, “me unless, unless it’s saying something specifically about a world that is inherently white. Because that is important to see. For instance, if you look at Silicon Valley in the early 90s or something like that or the mid 90s, that was like the whitest world that possibly existed. But if you look at Silicon Valley now it is completely diverse, but like if you want to show something for historical purposes then that’s important.”
He continued, “But like in terms a story about four young people who are forever changed by these incredible…you want to see a diverse cast. It just goes without saying. So for Mike and I that was just a natural conclusion. Of course you are going to be Johnny Storm because you are like the f***ing coolest dude there is. You’ve got charisma for days. Who else would play Johnny Storm? It just made sense. I brought it up to the studio and they were just like perfect. There was just no question about it.”
Stan Lee Approves
Trank then brings up that Stan Lee gave his approval for casting Jordan as Johnny Storm, “We started talking about Chronicle and I just said, ‘Did you like Michael B. Jordan?’ He was just like, “Ah! The mighty Michael B. Jordan.’ Like immediately he started throwing his Stan Lee stamp on it. And I said, ‘What do you think about him as Johnny Storm?’ And he goes, ‘I love it.'”
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly before the release of Fantastic Four in July 2017, Lee did give his approval saying, “It was more than okay. I thought it was a great idea!”
However, Lee would also add his opinion regarding the blowback to casting Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm. He stated, “They’re outraged not because of any personal prejudice. They’re outraged because they hate to see any change made on a series and characters they had gotten familiar with. In Spider-Man, when they got a new actor, that bothered them, even though it was a white actor. I don’t think it had to do with racial prejudice as much as they don’t like things changed.”
Lee added, “But I think they’re gonna get to love this character. So I’m not the least bit worried about it. I always tried to pepper these groups with as much racial diversity as possible because that’s the way the world is.”
However, two years prior in June 2015, Lee had a very different opinion when it came to changing Marvel characters. He spoke to Newsarama about the leaked licensing agreement between Sony and Marvel Comics regarding Spider-Man which detailed that “Spidey should be male, not smoke tobacco nor abuse alcohol, and not be a homosexual’ (unless Marvel has portrayed that alter ego as a homosexual).
Lee stated, “I wouldn’t mind if, Peter Parker had originally been black, a Latino, an Indian or anything else, that he stay that way. But we originally made him white. I don’t see any reason to change that.”
He elaborated, “What I like about the costume is that anybody reading Spider-Man in any part of the world can imagine that they themselves are under the costume, and that’s a good thing.”
Lee concluded, “It has nothing to do with being anti-gay, or anti-black, or anti-Latino, or anything like that. Latino characters should stay Latino. The Black Panther should certainly not be Swiss. I just see no reason to change that which has already been established when it’s so easy to add new characters. I say create new characters the way you want to. Hell, I’ll do it myself.”
Blowback to Michael B. Jordan Casting
In contrast to Lee’s comments about why Jordan’s casting as Johnny Storm was met with outrage by fans, he declared it was because of racism.
Trank began, “I thought there was going to be a little bit of blowblack, a little bit, in the corners of the internet. But I had no idea, which probably just speaks to my own whiteness or privilege that I wouldn’t be aware of how intense a racist reaction there would be to that. I was shocked.”
He continued, “From the moment that was announced, I left Twitter because of it for about two years or something like that, a year, and then I eventually came back. But it was just my mentions were filled with so much rage and just racist shit left and right, and the message boards.”
“I don’t know if you guys remember the IMDB message boards, but they were a wasteland. There were message boards that were literally about wanting to kill me and to kill Mike. And it freaked me the f*** out,” Trank stated.
Trank then stated, “I don’t regret any of it to begin with, but that was a very interesting time to sort of go through because if we were doing that same shit right now, you would definitely have your detractors, and you would have that, but I think there is more of a majority on the internet that would beat those voices down.”
Trank added, “I’m telling you guys in 2013, 2012 when that was announced those voices were not loud like that in opposition to the racism that existed on the internet. There was no woke people popping up in the mentions with the clapping hand emoji every word…That shit was not happening.”
“I feel like me and Mike were fighting against the tide a bit back then,” he concluded.
What do you make of Trank’s comments?