A dream come true has officially become a nightmare for Josh Trank, the 31-year-old director who has gone from Next Big Thing to pariah in just a few short years. After the success of his 2012 freshman film, the sci-fi flick Chronicle, Trank was handed the keys to Fox’s newest Fantastic Four film. But the project has clearly been troubled from the start: Rumors of problems on set began to crop up last year, and since then, all eyes have been on the enigmatic young director, who seemed to have wilted under the spotlight.
The film, out today, has received resoundingly negative reviews, and Trank tried to distance himself from it on Thursday night with a (since-deleted) tweet blasting Fox for interfering with the project. That was an about-face from his strong (if infrequent) defenses of the film up through last month, which we have collected in a timeline of Trank’s public statements below.
January 2015, interview with Collider: Trank explains why Fox hasn’t released any teaser images from The Fantastic Four yet, saying that they want it to be a polished representation of a whole new world that he’s built, which is more of a David Cronenberg-inspired sci-fi/horror film that traditional superhero blockbuster. He also addresses the negative buzz that the film began receiving the previous fall.
“[Writer/producer] Simon [Kinberg] has been very good at coaching me on that too, because sometimes I… I used to be one of those kids,” he said, referring to speculative, snarky fans on the internet. “I used to be one of those guys not too long ago, where I didn’t really know what was behind the curtain, so to speak. So I understand how that speculation comes about, because I used to be speculating like everyone else … it’s not a very healthy avenue, because you want to focus on the movie and you want the creative process to be pure and unadulterated by all of these other voices.”
February 2015, interview with Empire: Trank continues to promise a different kind of superhero film, distancing his movie from the previous Fantastic Four films, and making the case that his movie will differ from other modern comic-book films.
“The original two films, to me, are very similar to a lot of recent movies that have come out, in terms of being kind of cartoonish,” Trank said. “It’s just not something that me and Simon are interested in as storytellers. There’s the opportunity to make something that is challenging and tragic and dramatic. The opportunity is right there in the material. We’d rather steer it in that direction, as opposed to just embracing a tone that comes right off the page.”
April 2015, explaining his Star Wars absence on Twitter: Trank was signed to direct one of the upcoming Star Wars spinoff films, but was conspicuously absent from the big, official Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, where a panel about his movie was held. At the time, he said he was too sick to attend.
“Hey all. So, so, so sad to have missed today. Worst flu of my life. I hear it went beautifully with Gareth. Here’s to next year. #SWCA”
Less than two weeks later, it was announced that he was no longer directing the Star Wars movie, setting off a wave of speculation about his professionalism and the status of Fantastic Four.
May 2015, responding to fan speculation on Twitter: Rumors continued to swirl that the film was in trouble, and forced to reshoot a large number of scenes. Fan speculation even had it that Matthew Vaughn, director of X-Men: First Class and The Kingsmen for Fox, had come in to direct the reshoots. Trank denied that was the case, via Twitter.
“While MV has been very supportive, he’s never been to our set. There’s only been 1 director of FF2015. Me.”
May 2015, refuting negative reports on Twitter: Following his exit from Star Wars, the Hollywood Reporter ran a story that alleged Trank was a nightmare on the set of Fantastic Four, and that his dogs destroyed the rented house in which he was staying. It was all untrue, he promised on Twitter.
“Next time you read an article, whether it’s Hollywood Reporter or SuperheroNews, if they aren’t naming sources: it’s probably bullshit.”
June 2015, interview with The Los Angeles Times: Trank, breaking his silence about his departure from the upcoming Star Wars film, explains that he wanted to make a smaller movie after Fantastic Four. He also denies reports that he was difficult to work with on Fantastic Four.
“It feels sometimes like I’m living in a Paddy Chayefsky script or something like that,” he said, referencing the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Network and Hospital. “Every misconception that could possibly be made about this has been made to a hilariously satirical degree. And it’s people who haven’t met me before. If they met me – I don’t know, I feel like I’m a pretty harmless person.”
July 2015, interview with Entertainment Weekly: In a very brief conversation with EW before Comic-Con, Trank, who previously swore off the blockbuster approach, promised just that. “The audience should expect an epic, massive, huge, multi-power slugfest,” he said. “This movie is big. A lot of stakes.”
July 2015, interview with The Los Angeles Times: Trank tries to get ahead of fan outrage at the changes his film made to the classic Fantastic Four comic book, owning the controversy.
“People are religious about comics the way people are religious about the Bible,“ he said. “But I think it’s true for a lot of movies that you can take license with adapting the underlying material and you will be forgiven for it if it’s good—and you will not be if it’s bad. I made every single choice knowing that people would question it. And what better reaction than to have people then go see the movie and understand it and feel like maybe they’ve learned something about the world, to not question the next thing they think is going to be stupid or weird. I think that’s my purpose right now in my life.”