By Kim Masters and Borys Kit
While director Josh Trank said Friday that he had “made a personal decision” to leave the Star Wars universe, sources say reports of the young director’s unusual conduct during the making of Fox’s upcoming Fantastic Four movie had raised alarm among Lucasfilm executives that were entrusting him with the second Star Wars standalone film.
Trank, 30, had raised eyebrows in April when he didn’t appear as scheduled at a Star Wars celebration in Anaheim. At the time, both Disney and the director cited illness as the cause but multiple knowledgeable sources say the studio had asked the filmmaker not to attend while considering whether to proceed with him on the second spinoff in a planned series of films.
Indeed, producers on Fantastic Four, set for release July 30, are said to have faced great challenges pulling the film together given behavior described by one insider as “erratic” and at times “very isolated.” Trank did not offer clear direction, this person adds, saying, “If you’ve got someone who can’t answer questions or who isn’t sure or is in hiding, that’s not good.”
A Fox spokesman says the studio is “very happy with the movie and we can’t wait for audiences to see it” but acknowledges, “There were definitely some bumps in the road.”
Among those bumps: Trank has several small dogs who were left in a rented house in New Orleans while the film was shooting there. According to sources, as much as $100,000 worth of damage was done to the property. A source says the production considers any destruction of the property to be Trank’s responsibility.
Citing Trank’s work on the 2012 found-footage superhero movie Chronicle, an insider says: “No question there’s talent there. You can’t do Chronicle by accident.” But Trank seemed “like one of these kids who comes to the NBA with all the talent and none of the character-based skills to handle it. There’s equipment he doesn’t yet have.”
According to sources, Trank was sometimes indecisive and uncommunicative. Producers Simon Kinberg and Hutch Parker had to step in to help pull the film together, though sources stress that Trank was still on set and directing the film. (Were that not the case, the production could have run afoul of the Directors Guild of America.)
Just over three months from opening, Fox’s Fantastic Four has done re-shoots. Those were complicated because stars Miles Teller, Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan had obligations on other films. The most recent round, which involved three days of re-shoots at the end of April, had to take place on weekends because of Teller’s work on Todd Phillip’s Arms and the Dude. Parker and Kinberg are said to have been heavily involved in those re-shoots, pulling them away from duties in Canada on X-Men: Apocalypse, which they also are producing.
Given the issues with Trank’s performance, the production added Stephen Rivkin (Avatar) to help pull the film together. Trank had hired his Chronicle editor, Elliot Greenberg, on the project.
Fantastic Four is meant to reboot the Marvel superhero franchise for Fox. The comic is venerated for its place in history as it launched Marvel Comics in 1962 and was the early creation from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Fox made two movies, released in 2005 and 2007, that made $330 million and $289 million respectively but failed to capture moviegoers’ imagination. Fox hastened to make a new movie as it risked having the rights revert back to Marvel.
Kinberg, who is producing the second Star Wars standalone project (the first, Rogue One, is being directed by Gareth Edwards for a December 2016 release), is said to have communicated his displeasure with Trank to Kathleen Kennedy and the team at Lucasfilm. As the Star Wars brain trust heard more about Trank’s behavior and working style, they became less confident in handing over the film to him.
Now, having decided to part ways, the studio is searching for another filmmaker to take over the project.
Disney declined to comment.