The basis for this story is coming from some unnamed sources at The Wrap and is, as of this writing, lacking official confirmation, so make of it what you will, but reports are that Fox is nearing deals with all four leads for its upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. As we’ve heard previously, Kate Mara, Miles Teller, and Michael B. Jordan are being tapped for the roles of Sue Storm, Reed Richards, and Johnny Storm, respectively, with English actor Jamie Bell the first name to emerge in connection with Ben Grimm/The Thing.
Jordan would seem to be closest to a sure thing at this point, with Mara a close second. As we’ve suggested, this reboot looks like it could be breaking from some of the expectations of the Fantastic Four, quite possibly brining in the versions of the characters from Marvel’s Ultimate continuity (think of it as an alternate universe where most of the same characters exist as re-imagined versions of themselves), and the casting of Jordan and Mara together would take another step down that path. Sue and Johnny Storm are traditionally siblings – biological siblings – but clearly director Josh Trank and the film’s producers have something a little different in mind. It remains to be seen exactly what the new relationship between Sue and Johnny will be (adopted siblings, half-siblings, maybe cousins, even?), but what will absolutely be worth keeping an eye on is how this dynamic is used by the movie. The desire to add diversity to a very whitewashed slate of characters (most of the superhero characters gracing the big screen today were created in the racially divided period of the mid-20th century) is commendable, but it could be viewed as an attempt to cash in on Jordan’s celebrity, particularly among black moviegoers (if you’re given to a more pessimistic reading of the facts available). We don’t mean to suggest that this needs to be a focal point for either character – in fact, it could be that the movie is best served by offering little more than a single line explaining one or the other was adopted – but it’s certainly a choice that could swing very poignant or very exploitative very quickly if it’s something the filmmakers decide to emphasize.
And from closest to set we move to most likely to change in Teller. Teller is reportedly the studio’s top choice to play Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic, probably not much of a surprise given his recent run of success with the acclaim Whiplash drew at Sundance in January, the success of The Spectacular Now last year, and the potential for mass-market awareness stemming from the impending release of Divergent, in which he has a key supporting role. It’s actually this last commitment which is endangering Teller’s presence in Fantastic Four. Teller’s character in Divergent will be returning in the sequel, Insurgent, which currently has a significant production overlap with Fantastic Four. Both pics are expected to shoot in Louisianna in September, which should help if dates can be worked out for Teller to be on both sets. Otherwise, Fox may have to pick from the other names on its short list, including Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones) and Jack O’Connell (Eden Lake).
The Wrap report also cites a studio source (again unnamed, so exercise caution) which said that if Teller were to drop out it might impact Bell’s casting due to concerns about the chemistry among all four leads. It’s a little hard to take this too seriously, as it seems like if Bell already tested well with Mara and Jordan substituting another actor for Teller wouldn’t be the biggest concern. Then again, Bell hardly cuts the physically imposing figure that supposedly protected Reed from bullies when the two were younger (following again the Ultimate versions of the characters). Bell has been a consistent feature presence for nearly fifteen years now since starring in the 2000 adaptation of Billy Elliot and has more recently appeared in The Adventures of Tintin and Man on a Ledge. He’s due in theaters later this year in both Snowpiercer and Nymphomaniac.
Fantastic Four has already been bumped back from an original March 2015 release date, and is now expected to hit the big screen June 19, 2015.