Josh Trank scored a hit with Chronicle in 2012 which propelled him into the blockbuster world, he was hired for Fantastic Four’s reboot and one of the standalone Star Wars Anthology film (presumably focused on Boba Fett), but then he walked away from playing with lightsabers at the beginning of last month. The prospect of a fan/filmmaker getting the gig of a lifetime and abandoning it didn’t compute, and the vacuum left by Trank’s silence on the matter filled with speculation of all kinds (as long as they were negative).
With Trank breaking that silence, it seems as though the amount of vitriol flung in his direction might have proved that he made the right decision. He told The LA Times:
I want to do something original after this because I’ve been living under public scrutiny, as you’ve seen, for the last four years of my life, and it’s not healthy for me right now in my life. I want to do something that’s below the radar.
When Joss Whedon quit Twitter following Age of Ultron backlash, people cried, “This is why we can’t have nice things,” until Whedon proclaimed that his break from the unparalleled public exposure that the platform provides had more to do with his writing needs than hurt feelings. Trank appears to be admitting that it was fandom that drove him away, which is powerful considering that he made a Star Wars fan film several years before Chronicle afforded him the opportunity to make a real one. His work as editor on Big Fan adds an appropriate layer of irony to all of this.
It’s also worth considering that Trank’s first foray into the larger public sphere came with a reboot that very few people seemed excited about and a dedicated group angry that he’d dare to change the skin color of a guy who flies around on fire. Diving into the deep end of the Star Wars universe brought with it an even greater chance to be Lindeloffed.
But the industry rumor machine was just as much to blame for the negativity. The Hollywood Reporter and Variety both – using those ever-trustworthy unnamed sources – said that Trank was fired from the Star Wars project because of “erratic behavior” on the set of Fantastic Four and a falling out with writer Simon Kinberg.
There were also bizarre and cartoonish reports that Trank’s dogs had caused more than $100,000 in damage to an apartment he stayed at during the shoot, and that he was behind an unhinged rant posted to 4Chan. As far as names being dragged through the mud, this was a truly special occasion.
As Trank has now spoken out, Kinberg also used the opportunity to set the record straight, defending his colleague and dispelling the claims of their falling out.
This, I would say, is particularly cruel. I haven’t really seen this level of vehemence against a filmmaker. And it’s surreal and unfair.
So, it’s unfortunate, but Trank decided that the timing simply wasn’t right to stay in the heavily scrutinized gene pool of blockbusters. Fantastic Four’s public production process must have been a rude awakening, but this is what we get when every movie is prejudged, every minute movement is picked over for opportunities to snark, and a certain consistent subsect of fandom cannot handle even the tiniest changes to their mental picture of beloved properties. Maybe we can’t actually have nice things after all.