black sue storm

In a recent profile of Fantastic Four director Josh Trank, the filmmaker said he slept with a gun by his bed because of threats he was receiving online due to his decision to cast a black actor as Johnny Storm, AKA The Human Torch. Now Trank says he initially tried to cast a black woman to play Johnny’s sister, Sue Storm AKA The Invisible Woman, in the 2015 movie, but that he encountered “quite a bit of heavy pushback” from the studio and essentially wasn’t allowed to. 

“There were a lot of controversial conversations that were had behind the scenes on that,” Trank said to Geeks of Color (via The Playlist) when he was asked if he ever considered casting a black woman as Sue Storm. “I was mostly interested in a black Sue Storm, a black Johnny Storm, and a black Franklin Storm. But also, when you’re dealing with a studio on a massive movie like that, everybody wants to keep an open mind to, like, who the big stars are going to be. ‘Maybe it’ll be Margot Robbie,’ or something like that. But when it came down to it, I found a lot of pretty heavy pushback on casting a black woman in that role.”

A certain section of fandom lost their minds when Michael B. Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm, and no offense to Kate Mara, but she’s not exactly a powerhouse actor who you’d move mountains to lock down in an ensemble. If the studio already had one black actor in a key role, casting another wasn’t going to double the amount of online vitriol the film received from idiots online. But this type of situation sadly isn’t uncommon in Hollywood, and Trank says he regrets not bailing on the movie altogether at that point.

“When I look back on that, I should have just walked when that realization sort of hit me, and I feel embarrassed about that, that I didn’t just out of principle,” he said. “Because those aren’t the values I stand for in my own life; those weren’t the values then or ever for me. Because I’m somebody who always talks about standing up for what I believe in, even if it means burning my career out. I feel bad that I didn’t take it to the mat with that issue. I feel like I failed in that regard.”

I’m trying to find a silver lining to this situation, and one idea keeps coming to the surface. Fantastic Four ended up being a notorious bomb, but its cast members managed to escape relatively unscathed. However, it’s depressingly easy to imagine a scenario in which the black actress who theoretically would have played Sue could have been the only performer whose career would have taken a hit in the wake of the movie’s failure. Now, that absolutely does not justify the Fox executives’ decision, because the net good of young black girls seeing themselves represented on screen in that way isn’t quantifiable. And even though this happened in 2015, it’s clear the industry still has not solved this problem…but maybe the fact that the studios are making public statements supporting the Black Lives Matter movement might – might! – move the needle a little going forward.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: