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Tuesday, July 27, 2004


SAN DIEGO -- Following 20th Centry Fox's panel at Comic-Con International, three members of the cast of the soon-shooting Fantastic Four movie -- Michael Chiklis, Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba -- met with the press for a roundtable intervew.

Below is an edited transciption of the question-and answer session.

Question: It sounds like from what Avi Arad and director Tim Story have said, you're trying to do this treatment of Fantastic Four the way the public deserves to have it done.

Chiklis: That's what it is all about. I think I among us was the fan of and the most aware of the Fantastic Four growing up. Of course, that makes me the oldest (laughing). You know, I really truly was a fan and I think that we're all aware of how rabid the fans are, how aware they are of every nuance and every aspect of this -- more familiar than we are about it. I'm a fan. Like I said downstairs, I thought I was a fan until you come here and you realize people can quote just about every episode number. It's taken to an extreme so, you know, I think we all feel the weight of it. But at the same time, we're so thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved in it that weıre just going to have a blast and we're going to do it right and enjoy it.

Question: Do you see any similarities between this character and other characters you've played, like the one on "The Shield?"

Chiklis: Interestingly, yeah. There are some similarities. This is a guy who can be very scary and also be really likeable and downright cuddly. So, yeah, there's kind of a through-line in that way. But you know, his problems -- meaning Ben Grimm/The Thing's problems -- are different certainly than that of Vic Mackey or other characters I've played. There are broadstroke similarities and some specific differences.

Question: In a recent interview, Avi Arad said the story for this Fantastic Four would follow more the story in the Ultimate Fantastic Four, which is very different. As a fan, can you talk about how that's a departure and a new way of looking at the team?

Chiklis: No, in a word. I can't... I'm not nearly as familiar as I thought I was. I was just a kid who loved comics. I didn't study them. I didn't memorize them, I liked them. I had a particular affinity for Benjamin Grimm, for The Thing, just because I related to him. I could understand, you know, a guy feeling like unattractive and feeling like he's kind of on the outs, but yet feeling like you had something to offer. And feeling like there was something that you could do, and having a good inside of you and all of that. So I just liked him on a personal level, you know so... As far as the nuances between this version and that version, you are much better off asking Avi than I or Tim.

Question: Jessica, can you talk about your character and the aspect of her being the peacemaker of the group? She's always trying to mediate fights between Ben and Johnny.

Alba: Yeah, The Thing and Johnny -- and keep Ben from strangling his best friend for making him the way he is, and from Doom, you know, becoming a maniacal, evil bad guy. She keeps trying to keep everybody together. She just wants everyone to be okay. It seems like when she's trying to do that, everyone is so caught up in their problems that's when she disappears. And so it's very metaphorical. I love it. I'm not that familiar with the comic book and I read the script, and it's just great. It's just about family and it's so hopeful. With so many families breaking up and with so many people so quick to sue people and to go and fight and go to war and do all these things, this is just about solving problems.

Question: What was it that the producers and director saw in you that related to your character?

Gruffudd: I'm a mathematical genius (laughs). Gosh, I don't know.

Chiklis: I'm a thug that you want to hide from.

Question: They had so many people to choose from for these roles. Why do you think they chose you?

Gruffudd: I don't know. I think getting to know each other a little bit today and you getting to see us today, we're sort of down-to-earth people. And I think that's the main attraction of these characters, that they are real people and you can associate with them. They're just in these incredible situations. I think that's the main attraction and possibly we'd like to think we've been cast because of that.

Question: Did you test together for Fantastic Four or did you meet for the first time pretty recently?

Chiklis: The latter.

Alba: We actually met at an award shows. We presented together. And then I met Ioan at a hotel bar.

Question: Is that a scandal?

Alba: (Laughing) No, with the director. He was doing press for King Arthur and he was in the middle of all his stuff.

I honestly didn't know that this was going to happen because I so easily get typecast as the kick-ass girl or the hot girl or whatever kind of thing -- half-naked in this or that. And this is really who I am. I am a problem solver. I've been working since I was 12. I come from a really big family and I'm the oldest of 14 cousins, and we all live in Southern California. So I've always had to mediate. And I think when I sat down with Tim, he kind of saw that that's my nature.

Question: What have they told you so far about the special effects as far as the CG enhancements?

Gruffudd: Nothing much really. I think all the other movies have raised the bar now, Spider-Man 2 in particular. I have faith that this is going to take it to the next level again.

Chiklis: I find it interesting. I don't know about you but thus far we've been kept in the dark about an awful lot of things, and now things are starting to be revealed. I think part of that was because there's such anticipation and there's so many people wanting to know early what's going on that the policy for them, being the studio, has been the fewer people we tell, the less the leaks.

Alba: Even though we're the cast (laughing).

Chiklis: (Laughing) Even though we're the people. But you know what? It's a need-to-know basis. But I've been assured many times that the resources are there, they're going to bring everything to bear. There are going to be some spectacular effects in this.

For my part, I did not want to do this if Ben Grimm was going to be a CGI. If he was going to be done in the way that The Hulk that was done. I felt that I would be wasted. I was assured from the get-go that that wasn't going to be the case, and I was thrilled. They would use some CGI enhancements in creating nuances, and he told me a couple of ideas that I just thought were so hot shit. I thought they were awesome.

For an actor, it's a thrill to be involved in this type of thing. I've not done really anything of this scale. Everything I've done has been about the acting work, about character development, about people interacting. This is still very much like that, but with a huge scale of technical support around it. That's what really attracts me to this project from a directorial standpoint. Tim has said from the beginning the technical will support the character development. I think fans will love to hear that, too. That's a thrill. Often, as we all know with big, huge multi-hundred million dollar pictures, the studio or the director often makes the mistake of rushing to the next explosion. As you all know, if you don't care about your central characters, you don't care if they blow up or not. So the idea that the onus will be on the development of this family and that's why I think personally Spider-Man 2 is so successful and it's so good. Well-drawn and well-developed characters and yeah, there's spectacular effects, but you care about Tobey Maguire and Kirsten (Dunst) getting together. You know, you care about them so they take you on the ride and so those effects are effective.

Question: There are no secret identities in Fantastic Four. Will the nature of celebrity be explored?

Chiklis: That's a very different thing than any of them. We become discovered.

Alba: And what's great is Johnny Storm, he acts as every pop star young guy who's in the Star magazine, in the People magazine, the US Weekly, who gets a bunch of money and the cars.

Chiklis: He relishes it.

Alba: He loves it and he's living out the fantasy of every pop star/American Idol-wannabe guy. Reed's the scientist and he doesn't really...

Gruffudd: I'm wracked with guilt.

Alba: Yeah, he doesn't capitalize on the fame thing. I think actually Ben Grimm has a very difficult time with it.

Chiklis: I'm the one who looks at it as a malady. She's still gorgeous but she can knock people down with this force field. She can disappear. He can stretch himself but he's still the handsome, dashing cad (laughter). I'm this leper. And then when I ... I don't want to give anything away, but I'm dealing with a sense of betrayal in this picture, as well, because I wanted to believe. That's one of the great things that's written about this. You have Dr. Doom, who's trying to create a wedge between the relationships of the Fantastic Four, particularly Reed and I and causing mistrust and a feeling of betrayal. And it's like Jessica said, it's about overcoming that and those feelings and coming together as a core. And then obviously the ultimate metaphor is as a core, as a family, overcoming evil.

Question: Jessica, did your role in Sin City help prepare you to play this comic book character?

Alba: Not at all (laughing). No, Sin City is a whole other thing.

Question: Will there be the playful part of the Fantastic Four story, where Reed and Ben are like brothers going through this?

Gruffudd: Yes, I think so. I mean, I think the beginning of the story is us as real people and our friendship, and then the accident happens. So yes, certainly you'll have that element to it.

Question: What about your temples? What color will they be?

Gruffudd: I'm not sure whether I play him from the beginning that he went gray from the age of 19. I think that's the starter. Or do I then ... Since the accident does he develop those little graying hairs? That's something to play with. We'll have to talk about that and discuss that.

Question: And you're already blonde for the role.

Alba: I was actually blonde in Sin City and Into the Blue. This is my third.

Chiklis: I'm blonde too (laughing).

Question: Will you be throwing a couch?

Chiklis: I'll be throwing all kinds of things. I have a really cool moment with a lamppost in this movie. You know it's one of those things as an actor -- and I know you guys are going to hook up to this -- where you read the script and you go, "Oh cool, honey, I get to do this!" You know what I mean? Like there's... No, I can't tell.

Question: Go ahead.

Chiklis: There's so many moments where I'm reading it going, "Oh, that's awesome!" It's really well-written, I have to say.

Alba: It really is.

Chiklis: As an actor, the hardest thing in the world is when you read a script and you go, "Oh boy," at all, on any level. And even if it's just okay, then there's this feeling that you have to lift it. You have to bring something more to it. When it's good on the page, all of a sudden now it raises your confidence level because you go into it feeling armed.

The best example I have of that is I did a one-man show on Broadway once. It was really successful, and it was successful because it was a great script. And I used to go out there on Friday nights, which is the worst night in the world on Broadway because it's all the New Yorkers who are sitting there like this, "Alright asshole. I paid $65 a head, make me laugh." But I felt confident because I knew I was armed with the material. So I could go out there and go, "Okay, you're copping an attitude now but I know by the time to get to 'Alright I'm an asshole.' I'm going to get the laugh." It really feels good to be armed.

Question: Will your character have a blind girlfriend?

Chiklis: Yes, yes. And I don't know who she is yet and I can't wait to meet her (laughing).

Question: When does this start for you guys?

Alba: In a month.

Question: Did you have to prepare physically for this?

Chiklis: Iım training like a freak, personally. (Laughing) I need to trim down at the waist and bulk up at the chest. I'm hitting it big time.

Alba: I always train before a movie because it's actually quite exhausting. I mean, we're on the set literally and have to be there 14 hours easy. In order to be able to do that, you've got to be on your game.

Question: Have you tried on the costumes yet?

Alba: Yeah. I tried mine on. Did you guys try yours?

Chiklis: I think one of the most humiliating moments of my life was putting on spandex, personally. It's always nice when four women pull you into spandex when you're in jockey shorts. Yeah.

Alba: With the zippers on the inside.

Chiklis: That was interesting. And the pinching...

Alba: I was so scared of the pinching. She had to use a tool to get my right leg.

Chiklis: Did they have the fan blowing on you?

Gruffudd: Yeah.

Chiklis: That causes shrinkage too.

Alba: I had the guys making the costumes kind of looking at me like (puzzled). I was like, "Is there a problem?"

"No, I'm just looking."

Chiklis: That guy prides himself on being a pro, too. He looks at you like you're a mannequin, not like you're a person. He's doing his job.

Alba: Yeah. The costumes are very cool and they are spandex and we do have gloves and boots.

Question: Will the costumes have 4's on your chests?

Alba: Yes.

Chiklis: Now, of course, they are also building The Thing deal. Thankfully thus far they've spared me a lot of the pre-stuff. They are basically going to pare the process down to about five hours before they try it on me. Right now they are doing it on my life cast. They make it as comfortable as possible. I know if you're a claustrophobe, it's a nightmare. Thankfully, I'm not.

Alba: This was really strange for me because I was with a bunch of guys and I was by myself, and it was 8 in the morning. I had this body suit-thing on and theyıre like, "So we're going to put Vaseline all over your body." I was like, "Oh, okay. Everywhere?" They're like, "Yeah, everywhere." So I'm like, "Okay..." And then they got closer and closer to those certain areas that only, you know, certain people are allowed to go (laughter). And they were lubing it up.

Question: Why did they lube you up?

Alba: They have to lube you up before they put the cast thing on so it won't stick to you.

Chiklis: The life cast.

Alba: I think they just wanted it so they can build the costume in it. I donıt even know.

Chiklis: There's a number of purposes for them. They're for action figures. They are for the spandex suits, and they have to fit exactly anatomically correct. And you know a life cast, once they rip it off you in half, put it back together, they pour the liquid cement in there, it dries, they pull it off and they have Jessica Alba's body exactly. I don't want to say the other reasons why they wanted to make these things (laughing). No, but I mean these are all practical issues for all of it.

Question: Are you guys ready to see all three of your likenesses in Toys R Us?

Alba: I have never been in Toys R Us, by the way.

Chiklis: I have been. I have children. Jessica's lived that and I have too with The Shield now. They made a bobble-head.

Alba: It's very strange.

Question: Is it a good likeness?

Alba: I've had two of them. One was very voluptuous and the other one was very masculine, so we'll see what this one's like.

Question: Comic book fans are really opinionated and there's been a lot of speculation on the Internet as to who would be cast and all that. Do any of you ever pay attention to those comments?

Alba: Honestly, I was worried. Absolutely, obviously. But at the end of the day, when this opportunity came I couldn't say no. I just feel I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I turned this movie down. It's such a great story and I'm going to work my ass off. And hopefully people will be pleased.

Question: Is there anything you're doing to mentally get prepared to start filming?

Alba: Falling in love with a guy who just won't tell me his emotions? Yeah, I'm doing that (laughing).

Chiklis: You know, I'm re-familiarizing myself with the comics.

Alba: Graphic novels.

Chiklis: And also, I think we're all hungry to get up there and see a lot of the nuts and bolts aspect of this. How we're going to achieve certain things. It's one thing when you read it in script form and you see it in your mind's eye. But then you go, "How are we going to do that?"

Alba: Yeah, especially the first moment when they put their things to use. It's pretty fucking -- excuse my language -- incredible.

Chiklis: The thing with me and the Doc going down in the subway. That;s going to be...

Alba: You can't say things!

Question: What about the coat and the hat? Will you be wearing those?

Chiklis: I will be.

Question: What about "Itıs clobbering time?"

Chiklis: You will hear (in Thing voice), "It's clobbering time." I think that's about the right pitch.

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