Welcome to the inaugural Multiversity Call Sheet. Once, long ago, we ran something similar to this where we’d fancast actors in announced comic book movies that don’t have confirmed casts or in dream comic book movies we’d like to see. I’ve wanted to relaunch that idea for some time now, but with a slight twist. Not only do I want to take upcoming (or even potential) comic book movies and TV shows and suggest who I’d like to see be in the film, I also want to share how I would like to see said comic adapted to the screen, be it large or small.
For my first run around with this column, I had to pick Marvel’s First Family because, let’s face it, that Fox/Disney merger is right around the corner and a Fantastic Four film set in the MCU shouldn’t be far behind. So, Kevin Feige, if you’re out there, lend me some time to let me share what we want from the F4 in the MCU.
What We’d Like To See
The big thing for this iteration of the Fantastic Four that I would want to address is the fact that Marvel’s First Family would be getting introduced in, at the earliest, the Fourth Phase of the MCU and more than a decade into the universe’s lifespan. To me, doing yet another origin story for the Fantastic Four after four world-changing events with the Avengers would be doing them an injustice.
I propose making the Fantastic Four contemporaries to the MCU and tying their origin story to the MCU’s beginnings. Picture, if you will, an opening scene of Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben in a space shuttle orbiting Earth. They’re preparing to return to Earth after a stint on the International Space Station when, over Manhattan, a rift in space opens up and the shockwave of that cosmic energy hits the shuttle and, without the protection of Earth’s environment, fundamentally alters their DNA.
Fast forward to the present day and we find the Baxter Building in the heart of Manhattan. The apartment building where the four met during the days at Columbia University was destroyed in attack on Manhattan and subsequently bought out by Reed Richards and converted into a community science centre and living area for the think tank that has since been dubbed by the media as the Fantastic Four.
We follow a group of the brightest young minds in the MCU as they tour the Baxter Building and are told that they are the first class of the Future Foundation, an initiative set up by Reed and Sue Richards-Storm to cultivate young scientific minds. They sit in on Reed’s unveiling of The Bridge, a device that would potentially allow for the crossing of dimensional thresholds, when something goes wrong. The Fantastic Four are sucked through the dimensional rift while massive, insectoid beings fill the Baxter Building.
With the building on lockdown, the class of the Future Foundation (led by Franklin and Valeria Richards-Storm) must survive an alien invasion in a tonal cross between Home Alone and Die Hard with child geniuses. Meanwhile, in the Negative Zone, the Fantastic Four must contend with the massive changes caused to their bodies by the dimensional rift and find a way to return back to their home dimension except the tyrant of the Negative Zone, Annihilus, stands in their way.
My pitch for the Fantastic Four in the MCU is twofold: make them contemporaries to the universe and skip the origin story, keeping them adults instead of kids, while maintaining a focus on the Four as an extended, if dysfunctional family. Make this film the origin of the Fantastic Four becoming superheroes instead of the origin of them becoming the Fantastic Four.
Who We’d Like To See
The Dream Choice: Shane Carruth
Look, the reason I call this my dream pick is ’cause it’ll never happen. I know it, you know it, Marvel knows it and, somewhere out there, Shane Carruth knows. But, still, can you imagine? I mean, no, really– can you imagine. Carruth has made two of the most cerebral, meticulously calculated films of the 21st century in Primer and Upstream Colour with commanding performances to boot. He’s a writer, director, actor, editor and composer with a major in Mathematics. He’s perfect not just as Reed, but as a potential helmer for the Fantastic Four reboot all together.Continued below
But, again, it ain’t happening. So let’s look at someone with a more realistic chance at filling those elastic boots…
The More Realistic Choice: John Krasinski
You got me, this is one of the most obvious picks I could have chosen, but you know what? It works. I’m sure you’ll have seen this edit floating around and while, yes, it relies pretty heavily on the fact that a bearded John Krasinski looks a lot like bearded Reed from the tale end of Jon Hickman’s run on “The Avengers,” but there’s something there.
As I mentioned, my ideal MCU Fantastic Four film would show the family becoming more cohesive in the face of interdimensional adversity and the core to that is Reed going from aloof, workaholic patriarch to a supportive, genius father and I think Krasinski could nail that.
Sue: Emily Blunt
You know, I had no idea until after I had made my picks that Krasinksi and Emily Blunt are married. I’m sure it explains why they worked so closely on A Quiet Place and, unintentionally, I think it makes them a perfect fit for Reed and Sue. Their dynamic in A Quiet Place doesn’t exactly match Reed and Sue, but it works to show how they could play off of each other and proves Blunt has the exact right tenacity of a mother trying desperately cross dimensions to return to her children.
People have wanted Emily Blunt to be part of the MCU for a long time now, she was even the forefront pick for many to be Captain Marvel, and I think she would be the perfect Susan Storm.
Johnny: Ray Fisher
Yes, I know. Just listen for a sec, though, okay?
The MCU has been the go-to place to rehabilitate the careers of actors who starred as the Human Torch in bad Fantastic Four films. Chris Evans turned his entire life around transitioning from Johnny Storm to Steve Rogers and even though Michael B. Jordan was a big name by the time it was his turn in Fant4stic, he’s become a household name after Black Panther.
Now why don’t we let the Human Torch role in the MCU do the same for someone languishing in another franchise? That Cyborg movie ain’t happening any time soon and, if I’m being honest, it doesn’t deserve Ray Fisher after Justice League sucked all the life and energy from his performance. If you’ve seen Fisher in interviews, especially around Ezra Miller, you’d know he’s full of life and passion and this could be the role, tempered by a little cockiness in the beginning, that could give him the space to grow in a way Justice League never did.
Ben: Michael K. Williams
If there’s two things that have always been key, at least to me, to Benjamin Jacob Grimm it’s the fact that he’s Jewish and in his youth, he was the leader of the Yancy Street Gang before he left town to join the Air Force. Neither of those elements have played a part in his character in previous film adaptations and I think that updating Yancy Street to a more modern, realistic interpretation of a working class neighbourhood in the Lower East Side and having that and Grimm’s Jewish immigrant heritage factor into the role could grow the character beyond the comic relief role he’s often cast in.
And who better than Michael K. Williams to play a character who returns to his neighbourhood where he is ostracised by his former gang for selling out and leaving while all he wants is to use his Fantastic Four money to make their lives better. Add to that a conversation about the gentrification of working class neighbourhoods in Manhattan and suddenly you’ve grounded the wild, interdimensional travels of the Fantastic Four in a Manhattan that still has to deal with real, everyday problems and Ben is your link to that.
Franklin: Jacob Tremblay
Something radical I’d want to do with the F4 in the MCU is fast forward to Reed and Sue already being parents as well as already being the Fantastic Four. If they’re to be contemporaries of the MCU, I don’t want a twenty-something year old Reed Richards in a battle of the wits with a fifty-something year old Tony Stark.Continued below
So who, then, could capture the multiverse-in-a-brain capacity of Franklin Richards? The tough thing about this pick is that unless the film was currently in pre-production, anyone I name will age out of the role in the next few years. That being said, Jacob Tremblay impressed me so much in The Predator (about the only thing that did impress me in that movie) that I believe he has the range and the presence to make Franklin feel as empathetic and powerful as he is meant to be.
Valeria: Mckenna Grace
The same problem exists here as with Franklin: anyone I pick will likely be too old to realistically play a character as young as Valeria by the time the film actually enters production. But I’m here to make my picks as if I was casting the film today and after seeing The Haunting Of Hill House, I’d say Mckenna Grace is as perfect a Valeria as you’re going to get.
She is the perfect balance of wise-beyond-her-years yet feeling vulnerable in her youth. It’s going to be a real shame when Grace isn’t a part of the MC– eh? She’s already been cast as the young Carol Danvers? Oh, whatever, I’ve already made the image edit. Next!
Alicia: Gina Rodriguez
Now, in this imaginary world where, for some reason, Marvel Studios has decided to let me write and direct a Fantastic Four movie, my number one goal with the role of Alicia Masters would be to cast an actor who is actually visually impaired. There are a number of superhero characters with disabilities who have some measure of ability to overcome their disability and basically live as if they were fully abled. I’m talking Matt Murdock’s radar senses and any number of advanced prosthetic limbs.
Alicia Masters is one of the few characters in comics with a disability and no superpower to offset it. She’s blind; no radar sense, no nothing. In a world where we’re continually asking for Hollywood to push the button in terms of representation on film, I would like to see more disabled characters played by actors with those disabilities, bringing credible lived experiences to the role that would likely not be found in a performance by someone who doesn’t live with that ability.
The downside to this is that I’m not a casting agent and can’t put out an actual casting call for unknown talent so, failing that, I’m going to name Gina Rodriguez for my pick because I want her to be in every movie.
Annihilus: Willem Dafoe
The thing about the MCU is that there’s been a steady shift from human (or humanoid) bad guys in either elaborate costumes or prosthetic makeup (or both) to larger than life, CGI villains. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I think it’s a shift brought on by the success of James Spader’s performance of Ultron to prove it can work for a whole movie.
So if you were to take the Fantastic Four and face them with an interdimensional villain (because you want to avoid using Doctor Doom again and because Moleman is a bit too Incredibles) then you gotta go whole hog and have them face off against Annihilus. It’s a big stakes villain to go up against, but he shows the scope through which these F4 films could explore unknown reaches of the MCU.
And who better to portray a giant, insectoid, Negative Zone despot? Well, Willem Dafoe, of course! The thing about CGI villains is you have to think about what kind of a personality can shine through the mocap and the digital creation of the character and, boy, does Dafoe have personality to spare. He can go as large or as subtle as he needs to at any given moment and I think would make the perfect Annihilus.
The Dream Choice: Daniel Day-Lewis
Look, just because I said I didn’t want Doom to be the main villain doesn’t mean he wouldn’t factor into the film. Picture, if you will, the credits are rolling on an incredible Fantastic Four film that has cemented Marvel’s First Family in the MCU and suddenly the film fades in on a gothic, European castle estate on a snow-capped peak. Cut to an empty, darkened throne room with a huge projection screen showing an American newscaster relaying the Fantastic Four’s miraculous return from another dimension. And as the camera pans around to the armour- and green cloak-wearing tyrant on the throne, we hear one word: Richards.Continued below
Now imagine if that one word was voiced by Daniel Day-Lewis and you’re suddenly imagining my perfect alternate universe where I’m finally happy for once. Obviously, Day-Lewis is a pipe dream. No matter how big a draw Marvel Studios could ever be, I don’t see the greatest living actor agreeing to wear a mocap suit (because of course that armour is CG) and run around on time platforms as much as I would like him to. But who could…
The More Realistic Choice: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
In the same vein as wanting to cast an actor with visual impairment as Alicia Masters, I would want to spend the time to find an actor with Romani heritage to play Victor Von Doom. It’s a small thing, but Doom is one of the few Roma characters in comics and I would want to honour that with actually casting true to his ethnic background.
But I know Hollywood, so the more likely scenario is that Doom will be cast as a white European and if I had to pick, I would go with Jamie Lannister himself. He certainly has the looks Doom is known for and a presence that would carry beyond the confines of motion capture armour. Plus, the Games Of Thrones crossover articles would certainly be a draw for the film.
And there you have it, my picks for a Fantastic Four film in the MCU and how I would like for it to go down. What do you think? And what potential comic book film (not necessarily superhero) would you like to see me tackle in a future Call Sheet? Let me know in a comment down below or find me on Twitter.