Interview: Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Bell Talk “Fantastic Four”
I’m sitting down at a roundtable interview with Jamie Bell, Kate Mara, and Michael B. Jordan, when someone asks if they reached out to any of the cast members from the 2005 adaptation of “Fantastic Four” for advice. Bell — who starred in 2013’s “Snowpiercer” with the original Johnny Storm/Human Torch, Chris Evans –– shakes his head no. “I don’t know what you would say,” Bell says. “To be fair, what I wanted to say to [Evans] was, ‘this must make you feel old – we’re remaking a film you did ten years ago!’” Jordan and Mara burst out laughing in stunned agreement. “That’s crazy,” muses Jordan.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Based on the popular comic book series of the same name, this reboot comes ten long years after the adaptation starring Jessica Alba and Chris Evans, which was a critical failure, due in no small part to the overly cheesy, comedic take on the comic book series.
This “Fantastic Four” takes a darker approach to the story, while bringing a new spin to the familiar tale. The movie is about four teenagers: Reed Richards (Miles Teller), Sue Storm (Kate Mara), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) and Ben Grimm (Jaime Bell), who find their lives forever changed after an accident leaves them with superpowers. Only, the film never calls them superpowers; to our four protagonists, these physical changes more closely resemble a curse or a disability.
“That was one of the reasons I wanted to be a part of it, because that’s a unique way to deal with characters who become superheroes,” Mara says. “And [director] Josh Trank was always really specific about that, and wanted to make it as real and honest as possible.”
“I guess it’s about anti-cosmetic powers,” says Bell. “It’s anti ‘look how big I got!’ It’s more about, ‘look how I can use what’s happened to me in my life, and do something good’. And I appreciated the message in it, because people do have to endure and go on.”
One of the things that stands out about “Fantastic Four” is the casting. Teller is perhaps most associated with last year’s Oscar-nominated film “Whiplash;” Mara has been steadily rising to fame thanks to her role in the Netflix series “House of Cards;” Jordan received heaps of praise for his performance in the Sundance hit “Fruitvale Station;” and Bell recently portrayed a masochist in Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac: Volume II.” In some ways, these four are the opposite of who you would expect to be cast in a big budget comic book movie like this. And when it comes to the differences between filming their previous roles and that of “Fantastic Four,” Jordan and Bell agree that it’s all about the pace.
“Fruitvale [Station] took like 21 days to shoot,” Jordan says. “It was just every day, just going at it, six days a week for 21 straight days. And the amount of material that you’re shooting in one day is a lot. Then when it came to “Fantastic Four,” you’re shooting an 1/8th of a page or half a page a day. So it’s a lot of sitting around; you’re in your trailer a lot.”
“I think the approach is still the same though, like how you deal with the characters — Whether you’re hitting [“Nymphomaniac” actress] Charlotte Gainsbourg in the face or not, it’s the same thing,” laughs Bell.
The press tour for this movie hasn’t been particularly easy on the leads. They dealt with ignorant questions regarding the brother/sister relationship between Mara and Jordan’s Sue and Johnny Storm, and Teller was portrayed in a less-than-flattering light in a profile written about him in Esquire. But with each media-induced stumble, they found support in each other, with Teller’s three co-stars taking to Twitter to defend their friend against the harsh judgment of the internet. And during our interview, when a fellow journalist asks Jordan about his much-discussed piece in Entertainment Weekly entitled “Why I’m Torching the Color Line” — his response to those criticizing the decision to cast a black actor as Johnny Storm — Jordan politely declines to comment. “I kind of said everything I wanted to say — nowadays people keep asking me that question because they want a different reaction,” Jordan says. Bell and Mara are quick to mimic his sentiments. “I think [continuing to comment on it] perpetuates that exact thing you weren’t going for,” says Bell.
Some may wonder if this intense camaraderie and friendship is an act – after all, how often do we hear the whole “we’re like family” spiel during interviews? – but such is not the case here. When “DuckTales” comes up while the trio is discussing their favorite childhood TV shows, they find themselves caught up in a hilarious impromptu sing-along of the theme song. A couple minutes later, Mara gets the sudden urge to FaceTime Teller — who’s currently filming a movie in Atlanta — during the interview. Mara and Jordan push their chairs close together, and Bell crouches behind them, their pose looking oddly and endearingly similar to the one on the official poster for the film. As soon as Teller’s face appears on the screen, the group instantly erupts in cheers and greetings. “We’re doing press!” Mara exclaims, turning the camera to face the journalists gathered around the table. “What the fu*k, I thought you guys were calling me because you actually wanted to, like, talk!” Teller laughs. “We’ll call you later you f*cking assh*le!” Mara quips back, smiling broadly.
And if all goes well, the four won’t be parted for long. A sequel has already been green lit, and “X-Men” director Bryan Singer has hinted at the possibility of a “Fantastic Four” and “X-Men” crossover film. And the actors seem game to make it happen.
“[The studio] wants this to do really well, and we want this to do really well,” Bell says. “We want to make more of these movies, and there’s no reason why these two franchises wont meet, and we’ll spawn a whole other universe. I think it’s a big honor.”
“Fantastic Four” is now playing in South Florida theaters.
Lauren Cohen was born and raised in Miami Beach and graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s degree in Motion Pictures. She has been writing about film since 2009, with her movie reviews and features appearing regularly in Examiner.com and Miami Beach News, among others. She’s interviewed some of the most recognizable faces in the film industry, including Daniel Craig, Emma Stone, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Javier Bardem. An avid supporter of the arts, Lauren also works with the Miami Film Festival to promote the best of world cinema to the Miami community.