You had great chemistry on screen with Dakota Fanning in a brother and sister kind of way. Did you feel that immediately?
Yeah, I think the first day I met her; we kind of hit it off. She can’t get enough of my jokes. She loves my sense of humor. There was an instant kind of bond. I felt an instant ease with her. I’m so wildly immature and she’s so ridiculously mature, that we meet somewhere in the middle. It all kind of worked out.
Chris, this is a great meaty role for you. Did you do a lot of training? How did you prepare to play Nick Grant?
The first piece of the puzzle is trying to believe in this stuff. It’s such a fantastical topic. You have to accept that this stuff exists if you are going to act it or portray it. I spent a few days on the internet reading about these people who dedicated their entire lives to this. You can just type in Youtube.com and get a hundred Datelines and 60 Minutes real life psychics, and people who are studying telekinesis. It’s out there. It’s real. So once you kind of accept that its truth, then it’s a matter of getting inside the character’s head and going to Hong Kong and being in that environment definitely lends itself to playing a guy who’s hiding on the opposite side of the world.
You speak Cantonese in this film. How difficult was that to learn?
Well, kind of speak it Maybe. I’m not really sure. I made sounds and it was really difficult. It’s a tricky language. It’s the subtlety, the slightest change in inflection could mean you are greeting someone or telling them to shove off. It’s tricky. It’s a delicate language.
Both of you are in the coolest and the most technical sequence in the film. Can you talk about the fish market scene and the difficulties of shooting that?
It was great. It didn’t smell great, but we built an extension to this fish market so actually a lot of those shots are the real fish market where we are seeing how a lot of these people live. Again it lends itself to the actors having a tangible environment to play off of. For the actual exploding of the tanks, it was nerve-wracking. You only had one take to do it, because it takes 24 hours to re-rig. So there was a lot of pressure. Dakota sustained some injuries that day. She took some shrapnel.
You can actually see it in the movie, she grabs her arm because this piece of plastic just exploded and ripped through her jacket. But she took it like a champ. She kept on going.
What was your initial reaction when you read the script?
It was one of those scripts where I didn’t get bored once. It was a page turner and the second I finished it I wanted to read it again to a, make sure everything checked out and b, I understood all the parts I didn’t. But then you sit down with Paul (McGuigan, director) and he has such an interesting take on how he wanted it to look with the colour palette and his use of natural light and hand-held camera work. It just felt like it was a take on a genre I hadn’t seen before.
You’ve made a number of science fiction movies. Is this a genre you’ve gravitated towards?
It certainly wasn’t deliberate. I love those movies. I love a movie if I think it’s going to be good and it just so happens there was a string of films with Sunshine – Danny Boyle, sure. I’ll do anything he wants me to do. And then this came along and the ducks were in a row, I liked what Paul had to say. I hear Dakota’s name and I guess, I was gearing up again for another one of these. It’s not intentional, but by no means do I deliberately avoid them either.
Which powers would you like to have?
I’m going to say ‘mover’. As ‘pusher’ you can get yourself into a lot of trouble. The ‘pushers’ eventually wear off. You can convince someone of something but eventually it’s going to wear off. It’s temporary.
What do you think makes this movie different from a lot of superhero movies?
Most of these movies usually have a pretty glossy veneer. This film felt a little more dirty with the guerilla documentary style shooting. I think this is a pretty interesting way to see this film.
What did you dislike about Hong Kong (where the film is set and shot)?
The food was where I kind of…… I mean, I didn’t think I was a picky eater, but apparently I am. I think it was just the redundancy, the same type of food day in and day out. That became a bit of a challenge, but we did have a Nobu in our hotel. We were surviving off of Nobu. Yeah, the food was tricky and they work long hours over there. There is a strong work ethic. Its long days and I spent a lot of my time on the set. I was ready to get back home when we wrapped.
The outfits were very edgy and stylish. Would you wear them in real life?
That’s Dakota’s design. I will her give her credit. That entire look was created by Dakota.
Do you ever think about what your characters will be doing afterwards?
Once the script ends, I can only think as far as the script. In every scene it’s good to know where you’re going and where you came from, but once the script is over, I don’t put too much thought into it. But there is certainly room for more stories.
As we mentioned previously, we have seen you play super hero characters. Would you like to do a romantic comedy?
I would love to. It’s just a matter of finding the right one. I love those movies. Those are the ones I like to go and watch which is kind of embarrassing to admit. They really entertain me. It’s a matter of finding the right director, the right story and the right co-star.
Is there an actress who you’d like to be your leading lady?
I don’t know. It’s a specific animal. You can be a phenomenal actress or actor, but to tap into a romantic comedy you have to be very accessible and free. If you play it too heavy you’re intimate and it’s not sharing enough. It takes a certain set of skills to pull it off.
Are you still recognized for playing Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four?
Absolutely. Yeah, mostly by little kids. It makes me feel great though.
Is it weird seeing a doll of yourself in a store?
Oh yeah, if you walk into my house in Boston you will see my mother has bought up every doll out there. It’s like Toys R Us! I’m like: “Jeez ma, the kids want to buy them too.” It’s pretty crazy. Kids are something else man. I’ve had a full beard, hat and sunglasses and a little kid would still recognize me. I’m like: “Damn, this kid is good!” It’s amazing.
What was it like to work with Danny Boyle on Sunshine? It looks like he’s got a good chance of winning the Oscar for Slumdog.
He better. He’s unbelievable. He comes from the same world as I do, he has a theatre background. His love is the actor’s process. Rehearsal is such a rare thing in the film world and if they do give you a rehearsal, you might get a week and that’s like a big deal. With Danny, we rehearsed in London for six weeks before we started shooting Sunshine. If when we weren’t running lines, we talked about it and we developed trust and understating. And aside from his approach to the actor’s point, he’s unbelievably gifted with the camera. His brain works so organically. If you show up on the set and you decide at the last minute the direction your character is going to walk, you can just watch his brain. He is so confident that he will be able to shoot that any which way. He’s so deserving of the attention he’s getting right now. He is such a gifted talent.
How much prep time did you have on this film?
Not so much. But with Paul, some directors like to keep it fresh and let it happen spontaneously on set and there’s room for that too. As an actor you’ve got to learn to work with everybody, its collaboration.