When you talk to Josh Trank – which is, of course, over the phone these days – he sounds like he’s in a pretty good place. Yes, by now we all know the trials and tribulations that went into, and came out of, his last film, the ill-fated Fantastic Four. A piece that hit Polygon fills in a lot of the gaps about what Trank has been doing the last few years after Fantastic Four and after his Boba Fett Star Wars film was canceled. But, still, I didn’t know what to expect as far as demeanor. If I’m Trank, I’m probably pretty wary and skittish when it comes to talking with media.
If Trank is wary and skittish, he does a great job of hiding it – bringing up topics I would deem as “touchy” before I even mentioned them. He truly sounds like he’s in “no fucks to give” mode.
Speaking of “no fucks,” Tranks’s new movie, Capone, is quite the thing. It’s remarkable it exists. Tom Hardy stars as famed gangster Al Capone during the last year of his life, hanging out in Florida, slowly dying from syphilis, experiencing fever dream after fever dream after fever dream. Capone is … quite the trip. And then there’s the scene everyone will be talking about, where a halfway lucid Capone is being lectured by law enforcement about some possible hidden money, which ends with a long scene of Capone/Hardy farting and shitting himself.
Ahead, Trank tells us all about that scene, in which Trank even appears as an actor. I asked him about his canceled Boba Fett movie, specifically, when he was writing the script, how did he approach a character that Attack of the Clones painted into such a corner (namely that Fett would have to still look and sound like Temuera Morrison). Also, I asked Trank if he felt any schadenfreude when Dark Phoenix came out to poor reviews, basically in a, “See, isn’t so easy, is it?” way at his former Fantastic Four producer who took over directing duties for Dark Phoenix. It’s obviously something Trank has been thinking about.
But, first, in the aforementioned Polygon piece, Trank mentioned he had a “shit list” of movie journalists. So, yes, I was curious if I was on that list or not.
You mentioned you had a list of movie writers on your shit-list. I don’t want names specifically, but was I on that?
I don’t think so.
Well, this was in early 2016 and it had been about six months or whatever since after Fantastic Four came out. The reverberation of the nuclear blast that was the release of that film was sort of, it’s still kind of fresh in my insides and I hadn’t really talked to anybody at all. My whole thing is that, having sort of had my five years in Hollywood circuits in that way after once Chronicle came out, I just noticed that there’s so much politicking that came in this with interviews and with people that I know doing interviews and seeing colleagues doing interviews – in a way that it felt, not nefariously false, but just like more selling of kind of propaganda of just everything being as good as possible when in fact there’s a lot more interesting stuff to say. But, if you have something interesting to say, why peel the curtain back for everybody to realize that we’re just a bunch of crazy people running around trying to stay relevant and figure out what to do next?
Are you talking about something specific? Or just in general?
I’m just talking about in general. Just on anything. I’ve always read books and interviews of everybody – all filmmakers from history that I’ve been interested in – to learn about the reality of this. And I just had always felt that there’s no selling of the reality. Because if you do sell your own reality, there’s a risk of coming across maybe unlikeable, or polarizing, or something. And when he put out the piece, whatever, a few days ago, I had not seen a word of what it was, because I didn’t want to. I read it when everybody else did. So when I got to that part when he had mentioned this shit-list of the bloggers, it wasn’t so much that I had a shit-list. It was that there were particular people, which I would say, extremely off the record, would probably be like [Trank names a movie blogger] or someone like that. We follow each other on Twitter! And we were following each other on Twitter then. And I’m just like, “Bro!” But it’s not you. It was definitely not you.
Okay, I think it will be best to redact that person’s name.
And by the way, if he wanted to interview me now, I don’t hold any grudges about any of that. It makes sense, because the story that was being sold about me was troubling at the time and I can see how everybody would have an opinion. And my memory of what I had gone through was very different than what I was reading about this person and Josh Trank, so it was just very complicated.
And a year after that whole thing, I was still wrestling with my feelings about it, like holding onto being defensive. I felt on some level like betrayed by people who I felt I had done nothing to personally. But, that they had such a strong opinion about how they think I handled the situation professionally, differently than how they would’ve handled it. I just was like, “Yeah, but at the same time, every time you tweet about somebody whose situation you were not there to be a witness to, and who you don’t know in real life, and it’s your verified account on the internet, you’re ruining that person’s credibility.” It seems like nothing to just add to a conversation, but it’s more than that at the end of the day. But I’m glad that I withdrew from that, because it didn’t break me. Ultimately, it made my understanding of things a lot more nuanced in a way that I think has only contributed to what I write, what I work on creatively and the stories that I want to tell. So it really colored my life experience in a way that no college education could’ve ever given me.
In Capone, the scene I think a lot of people are going to be talking about, that you’re actually in, is when Tom Hardy defecates in his pants.
Yeah, he ripped.
Yeah, man. It was awesome. It was fun. Because Tom, in real life, is one of my best friends. The thing about Tom – as an actor and from my experience working with him professionally and also outside professionally just on a personal level – is we’re all playful people who have fun with each other. Look, there’s nothing fun about what’s going on at the heart of that scene. And certainly, it’s not about taking a piss out of somebody who can’t control their bowels, because of a physical impairment. But for me to be sitting there in a costume, in a period costume, directly across from Tom Hardy acting in a scene where he’s shitting his pants was, I mean, that’s like top 10 moments. You know?
He was great. I’m a ham. I know it. And I got to sit there with Neal Brennan and Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden. But we all know each other as people and as human beings. And that’s part of the fun for me; getting to work such incredible world-class talents like Tom Hardy and the entire cast that I had at my disposal to collaborate with, because I get to know them as human beings, and I respect the relatable human being side of people so much more than the myth of who these people are. So for me, it was mainly just sitting with my friends and just doing the scene. You know?
Your Boba Fett movie that didn’t get made, what I’m curious about is, when trying to write a script based on Boba Fett, how much did Attack of the Clones paint you into a corner? I’ve thought about this way more than is healthy for someone not paid to write a script.
The main answer is that, unfortunately, I’ve signed so many NDAs, that legally it would be irresponsible, and I would be liable.
I figured that. That’s why I’m wondering if you can be as vague as possible and still answer that? Because I don’t need specific details, but just how do you approach something where there’s such a constraint on what this thing can be?
Legally, I can’t say anything, but the one thing that’s out there is just that the canon is the canon.
The canon that they work with is not including the Dark Horse comics, or any of the books, novelizations, or anything from the video games and any of those plot lines. So, I mean, I think the way that a creative would look at that would be the same way they would look at playing in anybody else’s sandbox. If you’re going to tell a story, you want to sort of distill all the elements of what exists around it into what matters for the story that you’re trying to tell. And I think with any one of those characters that exist in the Star Wars universe or in the Marvel universe, or in the DC universe – or any giant, deeply storied, decades old, century old universe – you could take 5,000 different creatives and they’re all going to have a different idea of what story they want to tell. And I think that’s right in the world of comic book writers.
They all get an opportunity to jump in and take a character from Marvel and create their book out of that character. So I think the best of what’s going on with Star Wars would be something like that. But, you know, I haven’t been involved in any of that since 2015, so it wouldn’t be cool or responsible for me to have any comment on it. I mean, other than the fact that I have deep, deep, deep respect and admiration for all the filmmakers who are involved their currently and have been involved. And that’s not political. It’s just true. It’s absolutely true. I really respect all of them.
I have a hypothetical question. Let’s say, hypothetically, you made a movie that caused some strife in your life. And then there’s a lot of behind the scenes reporting and all this stuff comes out. And the producer you worked with who maybe didn’t always have great things to say, that producer made a movie that got terrible reviews.
Sure. Hypothetically…Hypothetically, does make that make you want to say, “Hey, not so easy, is it?”
Well, hypothetically, if that happened, and then hypothetically, I at that very moment had received numerous text messages and phone calls from all kinds of hypothetical people that I know, asking me how hypothetically vindicated I would have felt, my answer in real life is not vindicated at all. Because I know he worked hard on that.
When I’ve mentioned many times that I don’t regret anything that happened with any of these things, and I don’t regret having made Fantastic Four and having lost Fantastic Four, and having tweeted about Fantastic Four, I don’t regret any of it. And I don’t have any negative feelings in my heart towards any of the people involved, like Kinberg or Hutch, or Emma… they work really hard. And they care about what they do. They just creatively are interested in things differently than I am, and that’s not their fault, and it’s not my fault. It just wasn’t a good match.
And again, like I said, I’m not interested in giving anybody a political answer about anything. I’m interested in giving answers that come from my heart and are also can be helpful to anybody else who might be going through a situation like that in and out of this business. Because everybody has their Fantastic Four. If you’re an architect, you have your Fantastic Four. If you work as a carpenter, if you work in marketing, or if you work as a journalist, we’ve all had our Fantastic Four.
When you say it’s, “Work with all the wrong people,” the people aren’t wrong. It was just the combination of the people was wrong. It was not a good combination for us to be making something. Whereas me being combined with Tom Hardy and Bron Studios and Linda Cardellini, Matt Dillon, Kyle MacLachlan, Noel Fisher, Al Sapienza, and everybody involved in Capone, that was a good combination. For everything that was wrong about Fantastic Four, everything was right about the experience making Capone. So, when that movie came out, Dark Phoenix, I mean, Simon Kinberg has had tremendous success in his career, and he’s worked on some wonderful movies. He’s worked in this business for a long time. He’s seen a lot of stuff.
I mean, I’m still relatively new in my career. This is my third film. And while that was going on, unfortunately, it didn’t seem to work out, but I was in the middle of working on my movie that couldn’t have worked out even better. And so, there was no schadenfreude or anything like that. I’m too far away from that and I’m too grateful for the fact that the thing that I wrote from my heart after Fantastic Four was something that I was lucky enough to pull together with all of my favorite actors in the world and be able to make it for a budget that allowed me to do it the way that I always dreamed of doing it. I mean, unfortunately, I don’t have any shots fired.
I like how you gave this hypothetical movie a title out of the blue. I don’t know where you even came up with “Dark Phoenix.”
[Laughs] I’m a creative guy.
‘Capone’ will be available via VOD starting May 12. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.