‘I know what I want to stand for’
When Marvel Studios dropped its viral Phase 4 sizzle reel earlier this week, fans immediately noticed that it ended by teasing the overdue arrival of Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four, in the mainline Marvel Cinematic Universe. The yet-to-be-cast film will be overseen by Jon Watts, who has shepherded Tom Holland’s Spider-Man through solo adventures, culminating in this December’s No Way Home. And Watts has already got an eager audience member in Jamie Bell, who played Ben Grimm, aka the Thing, in the ill-fated 2015 Fantastic Four feature helmed by Josh Trank.
“I think anything Marvel touches turns to gold,” the British actor tells Yahoo Entertainment during a conversation about his latest film, Without Remorse, which re-teams him with his Fantastic Four co-star Michael B. Jordan. “As someone who is invested in that story and invested in those characters and invested that world, I can’t wait to see what they do. I think something new and something fresh and something different, I think we’re all very ready for that.”
Of course, Trank’s divisive take on the FF was also supposed to be something fresh and different. For one thing, he defied casting conventions by picking Jordan — whom he previously worked with on the 2012 cult superhero hit Chronicle — to play Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch, a character who had traditionally been portrayed as white in the comics. And that decision earned the endorsement of none other than Marvel icon Stan Lee.
“I said, ‘I think Michael B. Jordan is the best actor for this character, but I can see that there might be backlash from certain fans,'” Trank told Yahoo Entertainment last year about that pivotal conversation. “And [Stan] said to me: ‘Who cares about what they have to say? That’s really inspired casting — I love it.’”
Behind the scenes, though, Fantastic Four proved a grueling shoot, and reports circulated that Trank was at odds with his four actors, which included Miles Teller as Reed Richards and Kate Mara as Sue Storm, in addition to Jordan and Bell. Mara confirmed those stories last year, when she opened up about her “horrific experience” making the movie and accused Trank of engaging in “power dynamic” games.
“The thing that I always go back to on that one is that I think I should have followed my instincts more,” Mara told Collider. “Like when my gut was telling me, ‘You probably shouldn’t let that slide, what that person just said,’ or if you’re feeling a certain way about what an energy is like and how that is affecting your performance. You’re being paid to do a certain thing and if something is in the way of that, you have the right to speak up.”
Bell and Mara fell in love during the production of Fantastic Four and married two years after its disastrous release in 2017. Asked whether he observed some of the experiences that she spoke up about, the actor expressed some regrets about the entire experience. “It was a very difficult movie for everyone who was involved in it. The idea that any cast member is struggling with something while you’re with them is always challenging, and you always wish you could have done more.”
“I would say that we were a very strong team together,” Bell continues. “If someone raised an issue, we tried to do it unanimously. Everyone sets out to make the best thing; no one sets out to do something that isn’t worthy of an audience. Enough has been written and said about that movie and enough has been said about how that went, and I don’t I think I could add anything [more]. It was challenging for everyone, and I would say some more than others, for sure.”
If there’s one lesson that Bell took away from his own experience making Fantastic Four, it’s to speak up when he sees negative behavior on set. “I think where we are right now means there’s a lot that will not be tolerated — we’re seeing that a lot at Warner Bros. right now in terms of what is acceptable working conditions and collaborations and what is not,” the actor remarks, pointing to Ray Fisher’s ongoing claims about Joss Whedon’s “unacceptable” behavior during the making of Justice League.
“I know what I want to stand for,” Bell emphasizes. “I know when I need to be an advocate and when I need to step in. Saying it and doing it are two different things, and I hope that I have the confidence to do the latter always.”
Fantastic Four is currently streaming on Disney+
— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by John Santo
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