RETROVISION EXCLUSIVE: Director Oley Sassone on The Fantastic Four -UPDATED with Movie Trailer
As far as director Oley Sassone was concerned his 1994 production of Fantastic Four was intended for theatrical release and not designed to reach fans as convention-sold bootlegs. At the time, CBM editor Ed Gross conducted an interview with him about the project.
It seems that the director was apparently unaware that producer Roger Corman was filming the $1 million flick just to keep the license to the franchise, which he would later sell to Fox for millions more.
Since then, Sassone has gone on to direct a number of action television series (She Spies and Mutant X among them) and relatively low budget featues, but this conversation -- again, conducted in 1994 -- is strictly on the FF, which starred Alex Hyde-White as Reed Richards, Rebecca Staab as Sue Storm, Jay Underwood as Johnny Storm and Michael Bailey Smith as Ben Grimm.
RETROVISION: Upon hearing that Roger Corman was doing the Fantastic Four, an eyebrow can't help but be raised.
OLEY SASSONE: It's kind of cheesy, but the other partner in this is Constantine Film Development. That's who brought me into the project, because I didn't want to do a movie with Roger Corman. Nothing against him, but I'd directed a couple of movies there in the past and it's a hell hole.
RETROVISION: In what way?
OLEY SASSONE: It's a little film factory and it's great for people just starting out. I go the opportunity to make a film and it was a good film that turned out very well, actually, called FORCED TO FIGHT, a kick-boxing movie. It was an 18-day shooting schedule, no money, but we shot on location and it worked out really well. But you don't want to keep working in the same place all the time, because he's got his way of making movies and that's that. Eighteen to 20 days, 22 if you're lucky. He's got his own cameras, his own stages and you work with whatever he gives you to work with. He doesn't give you any extras and that's the bottom line.
RETROVISION: With all of this in mind, do you think you'll be able to pull off Fantastic Four successfully?
OLEY SASSONE: I do, actually. I'm not saying it's going to be a great movie. It's not going to compare to a Spielberg picture or a James Cameron film.
RETROVISION: I had read a first draft script and I would imagine that it's been rewritten.
OLEY SASSONE: The first draft had too many stories, it wasn't focused I told the writers that the story needed one person's point of view, more or less. They had to bring the conflict down between Reed Richards and Doctor Doom. That's what the movie should be about. We had a couple of story sessions, the writers went back into it and really honed that part of the story. There's a little less of the Ben Grimm/Alicia story. Although that still exists, the story really focuses on Reed and Dr. Doom's relationship in the past and present.
RETROVISION: What do you think the appeal of the film is going to be for audiences?
OLEY SASSONE: I think the appeal is you can't take away from the fact that these guys have been around for over 30 years. The appeal for me is that these were familiar characters, these were characters I grew up with as a kid. I was literally a Fantastic Four fan, I can't lie. Spider-Man was my favorite guy, but Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom were number two when it comes to comic book heroes. I think the appeal is going to be the fact that they've been around for so long. And the movie's good, the special effects are going to be interesting and the charcters are pretty well developed. I think on that level people will like this movie.
RETROVISION: But will audiences accept it, or have they come to expect a darkness in superhero films along the lines of BATMAN?
OLEY SASSONE: This is not dark at all. This is very comic book in nature. This movie defiitely relates more to the old Fantastic Four than it will the darkness of something like Batman. It probably compares more with Ninja Turtles than it does Batman. This movie is definitely made for kids, and adults who know the Fantastic Four will like it because they're familiar characters. But the story is not deep. There's an intensity that's going on between Reed and Doom, but the story is very simplistic and I think that's good. Why overcomplicate it and make it something that it's not? It's really chapter one, how these four people become who they are. There's a lot of inner conflict in the characters in coming to terms with the fact that they have what they consider to be an abnormality. and then, "How do we use it? What do we do with this? How do we put this to use? How do we overcome it?" There's a real touching scene in the movie where Ben Grimm calls himself a freak and says, "You guys can look normal, but look at me, I'm going to look like this forever. I'm a freak," and he goes out on the street. You really feel some sympathy for this guy. So it's a little bit of soul searching for the characters, who they are, what they've become. At the end they finally band together in the common cause to battle Dr. Doom, and then they realize what their goal and purpose is now, to become a bastion for good, not evil. That's really what the story is about.
RETROVISION: I assume it's a stepping stone for future movies?
OLEY SASSONE: I hope so. But it's been a little frustrating right from the beginning because of the budget constraints, and the limitations on time. But what can you do? I look at my position in all this and say, "I'm the hired gun, the filmmaker. I have to take what they give me and make the best of it." Believe me, I really did my homework to make this the best possible film. And, frankly, the producer of this film just said, "No. No more shooting time. No, you can't have this crane. No, you can't have this. No, you can't have that." So the whole thing was a major frustration.
RETROVISION: You don't seem too fond of Concorde [Corman's company at the time].
OLEY SASSONE: Because they're a bunch of cheap bastards. Their whole output is straight to video. All they give a shit about is video.
RETROVISION: But something like this could be such a franchise if successful.
OLEY SASSONE: That is exactly what I've been tyring to tell them. And the line producer says something like, "Yeah, I know, but go and try and tell that to Roger." For me, the director, I HAVE to make a good movie. Aside from the fact that I want to, because I'm totally dedicated to whatever I do, this has to be a good movie because everybody in town knows I'm doing it. Just for selfish reasons, it has to be good. I have to get a job out of this, and you don't get jobs from bad movies. Aside from the fact that I love the Fantastic Four, my heart and soul is into this project, but just for a career move it's GOT to work.
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