After watching his version of the Fantastic Four epically bomb in 2015, followed by the very public loss of directing a Boba Fett movie for the Disney-acquired Lucasfilm, Josh Trank is back with the Tom Hardy-starring Capone, but the road between his fantastic flop and working with one of the top actors in Hollywood wasn’t an easy one.
In a lengthy interview with Polygon that took place over four years, Trank speaks candidly about what it was like going from the critical acclaim of his debut film Chronicle to watching a major blockbuster spiral out of control on his watch as it wreaked havoc on his professional and personal life. While gallons of digital ink have been spilled on Fantastic Four‘s doomed production, what hasn’t been written about is the emotional pressure Trank was under while dealing with Fox executives, a crumbling marriage, and death threats that forced the director to sleep with a gun next to his bed.
Thanks to his clout from Chronicle, Trank was able to secure the casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm with no questions asked from Fox. Unfortunately, close-minded comic book fans were not happy to learn that the classic character would be played by an African-American actor, and Trank soon found himself on the receiving end of several death threats. It should probably be noted that throughout the interview, Trank admits to a problem with obsessively reading online reactions to the detriment of his mental health, and this situation certainly didn’t help.
“I was getting threats on IMDb message boards saying they were going to shoot me,” Trank said. To find some level of ease, the director kept a loaded .38 Special on his nightstand.
“I was so fucking paranoid during that shoot,” said Trank. “If someone came into my house, I would have ended their f*cking life. When you’re in a head space where people want to get you, you think, ‘I’m going to defend myself.’” Trank returned the gun after wrapping production.
In the midst of Fantastic Four‘s troubled production in 2014, Trank was also secretly navigating a second job with Lucasfilm, who he had met with shortly after his success with Chronicle. Now that it was under the control of Disney, Lucasfilm was ready to move forward with new Star Wars movies and reached out to Trank, who pitched the studio on a standalone Boba Fett movie. Before he knew it, Kathleen Kennedy was announcing him as part of the Star Wars family. Within a year, Trank would be out the door once word got out that Fantastic Four was falling apart.
No one had seen the cut of Fantastic Four that would arrive in theaters (including Trank), but the he-said-she-said dispute was enough to shake her confidence. Trank said he and Kennedy agreed that the director should sit out his scheduled appearance at the 2015 Star Wars Celebration in April, but even then, he couldn’t pick the conversation back up. Fantastic Four, the Star Wars spinoff that wasn’t, all the other development deals — they were the end of something. Shortly after bowing out of the convention over a case of the “worst flu of my life,” as he tweeted, Trank told his managers he wouldn’t do Star Wars and wouldn’t look for more blockbuster work. Days later, the trades announced that the director was “fired” off his Star Wars movie.
To be clear, while Trank technically quit Star Wars, he’s also very upfront in saying he did it because he knew he was going to be fired. The writing was on the wall. But after years in what he refuses to call “Movie Jail,” he managed to build a rapport with Hardy and convince him to star in Capone, which focuses on the less glamorous later years of the gangster’s life. And in a Star Wars twist, the film has already received the approval of Rian Johnson who calls it “batshit bonkers in the best possible way.”