The big news that finished out this past week was that Josh Trank was no longer to be the director of the second Star Wars spinoff film scheduled for 2018. In hindsight, the announcement was not much of a surprise as Trank was not in attendance for the Star Wars Anthology panel at Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim last month, with the stated reason later given being that the director was sick. Coincidentally (?) enough, the newest trailer for his upcoming film, Fox’s Fantastic Four, was released at the same time that the panel was going on.
Star Wars: Anthology is the umbrella title recently revealed for Disney/Lucasfilms’ planned Star Wars spinoff films that will be released in the years between the main saga’s installments.
In a statement posted at StarWars.com, Trank said –
After a year of having the incredible honor of developing with the wonderful and talented people at Lucasfilm, I’m making a personal decision to move forward on a different path. I’ve put a tremendous amount of thought into this, and I know deep down in my heart that I want to pursue some original creative opportunities. That said, the ‘Star Wars’ universe has always been one of my biggest influences, and I couldn’t be more excited to witness its future alongside my millions of fellow ‘Star Wars’ fans. I want to thank my friends Kathleen Kennedy, [Lucasfilm VP of Development] Kiri Hart, Simon Kinberg, and everyone at Lucasfilm and Disney for the amazing opportunity to have been a part of this. May the Force be with you all.
While Trank is explaining away is leaving his Star Wars film due to an ambiguous “personal issues,” the Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Trank’s handling, or rather mis-handling, of the Fantastic Four production may have led the studio to show the Trank the door more so than him heading towards of his own volition.
[P]roducers on Fantastic Four, set for release July 30 (sic), 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.”
While an unnamed studio source tells the Reporter that the studio is impressed with Trank’s talent – “No question there’s talent there. You can’t do [Trank’s 2012 directorial debut] Chronicle by accident.” – they feel that he may not have been ready to be thrust from the world of indie film into the one of big-budget tentpole pictures, likening the director to “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.”
The checklist of behavior issues that the studio has to contend with from Trank include such things as approximately $100,000 worth of damage done to a home that the studio had rented for the director while the production was in New Orleans. Trank was also reportedly “indecisive and uncommunicative” on set, necessitating producers Simon Kinberg and Hutch Parker to take a more active, on set hand in the shooting.
The film has already gone through a number of reshoots and pickups even though its release is just a few weeks away. The most recent session of reshoots were three days done at the end of last month that had to be scheduled around the availability of stars Miles Teller, Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan who were all deep into work on other projects. The most reshoots also mean that Kinberg and Parker had to leave the set of X-Men: Apocalypse in Canada, which they are also producing.
Reportedly, it is Kinberg, who was set to work with Trank on the Star Wars: Anthology film as both a writer and producer, who communicated his displeasure with the director to Kennedy, which set in motion the decision for Trank to leave the film. Disney, of course, declined to comment to the Reporter.
If it is true that Trank was bounced from the gig for his Fantastic Four behavior, it makes sense from Disney’s point of view. The studio has much invested in the Star Wars franchise, with it and the films from Marvel Studios serving as a major part of their annual slate. These films need to be in theaters when they are planning on them being there in order to meet certain revenue expectations for each quarter. There is no room for them to miss their release dates. Variety, however, is reporting from unnamed sources that the Star Wars standalone film will be pushed back to 2019, but there has been no confirmation of that.
Fantastic Four has bounced around on Fox’s schedule with two other announced release dates for this year before the studio finally settled on August 7. It should also be noted that Fox has already announced a summer 2017 release date for a Fantastic Four sequel, though no creative personnel, including Trank, have been announced as attached to the project. It is unclear if Trank’s possible non-involvement is a result of a studio decision or one made by the director due to anticipated time needed for his Star Wars: Anthology film.
After years of seemingly uninspiring news about Fantastic Four, the most recent trailer did instill some hope in for me the project. Unfortunately, this latest word of additional reshoots so close to the film’s release goes a way to dashing them again.
So far, there has been no announced replacement for Trank on the project, but I wouldn’t be surprised if stories about a shortlist of directors under consideration for the job start to appear very soon.