Fantastic Four in Film - Future - Silver Surfer Spin-off

Silver Surfer Spin-off

Early stages

In the early 1990s, Bernd Eichinger of Constantin Film and Marvel Studios were interested in a Silver Surfer film, and approached George Lucas and Industrial Light & Magic, who found the project to be too technically challenging. Various filmmakers attempted different methods of making the Silver Surfer realistic through visual effects experiments. This included a process by which a black actor named Gerald Walker was painted with mineral oil, and filmed on Reversal stock, so that a negative image, with the intent that the dark portions would appear silvery. However, since the process inverts all light in shadows and vice versa, the resulting image was not usable. Sometime in 1992 Quentin Tarantino, fresh from critical success with Reservoir Dogs, came to Constantin with a script but was turned down.

Erik Fleming and Steven Robiner recruited a crew of friends from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and convinced Stan Lee, Marvel Studios and Eichinger to let them try their hand at a short film as a means to prove that computer-generated imagery (which was then in its infancy) could be used to create a photo-realistic silver man. Marvel agreed to let the project go forward. After filming began, Terminator 2: Judgment Day was released, featuring the chrome-like figure of T-1000. This proved that Fleming & Robiner's theories about the possibility of rendering lifelike humanoid figures with quicksilver-like bodies were correct. The Silver Surfer short film was finished in 1992 to rave reviews. Major film studios invited the crew into their offices, simply amazed as to how they completed the film with virtually no budget. When the studios found out they didn't own the rights to the comic book, they were turned down and the studio's interest turned to Marvel. Fleming stated, "It's suddenly an A-list project, and they have to bring in an A-list writer, an A-list director. That's really just how Hollywood works. We should have signed a deal ahead of time, but we were just too young and naive. A studio's word is no good in Hollywood. All that matters is a signed piece of paper." Upon viewing the short film Oliver Stone became interested in directing.

20th Century Fox

The success of the short film prompted Fox and Eichinger to hire John Turman to write the script, and eventually Richard Jefferies to rewrite Turman's script. Geoffrey Wright became attached to direct Jefferies' script that included the Silver Surfer in the company of a twelve-year-old street prostitute, similar to Jodie Foster's character in Taxi Driver. Rudy Gaines and John Rice were hired to write a completely new script, which showcased the Silver Surfer crash-landing on Earth and being romantically involved with a Brooklyn waitress. He's accidentally transformed into a human being by a secret scientific government project, while pursued by a psychotic United States Army General. Gaines and Rice wrote three drafts, which Fox liked the script but found too expensive to film, and Wright eventually left.

The project moved to Fox's children's division of 20th Century Fox Animation, which started the Silver Surfer television series. By July 1999, Andrew Kevin Walker was hired to write a completely new script. In May 2000, Marvel Studios brought Artisan Entertainment to co-finance the film. Vin Diesel expressed interest in portraying the lead role, while Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was approached to star. Baz Luhrmann was interested in directing, while Joshua Jackson was interested in portraying the lead role. Turman expressed interest in writing a new script in June 2003. By March 2005, an unnamed "Zen Buddhist with experience in special effects" was set to direct. However, the unnamed director was committed to another film, and also left because of the technical challenges of creating the Surfer on screen. Marvel and Fox opted for the character to be used in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, portrayed by Doug Jones and voiced by Laurence Fishburne. Don Payne, co-writer of Rise of the Silver Surfer, expressed interest in writing a new screenplay for Silver Surfer.

Silver Surfer was then put to a higher priority than Fantastic Four 3. By June 2007, J. Michael Straczynski was working on a new screenplay, which was set after Rise of the Silver Surfer: The Surfer returns to Zenn-La, anxious that Galactus will consume it after he betrayed him. Straczynski described Galactus in a manner more faithful to his comics appearance in the script, revealing his cloud form from the previous film was a disguise. Jones is signed on for two more films, and hopes that Fox will option him to reprise the role, and would like the opportunity to supply his own voice for the character, as was the case with Jones' second portrayal of the character Abe Sapien, in Hellboy II: The Golden Army. A large amount of filming will take place in Australia. Fox was disappointed by the box office return of Rise of the Silver Surfer. In July 2008, producer Kevin Feige said Fox was waiting to see how successful the spin-off film X-Men Origins: Wolverine would be before putting the film in active development. In 2009, it was announced that 20th Century Fox would be rebooting the Fantastic Four film series. It remains to be seen whether or not Fox will go ahead with the Silver Surfer film.

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