Remember That Time Sean Astin Tried To Direct a ‘Fantastic Four’ Movie?


The Big Picture

  • Sean Astin, known for his roles in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, considered directing a Fantastic Four movie in the early 2000s when superhero films were still relatively new.
  • Despite his interest and experience as a filmmaker, Astin was not given the opportunity to direct the film, but his involvement could have resulted in a fascinating final product.
  • Astin campaigned for Michael Chiklis to play The Thing, which influenced his casting in the 2005 film.

As we are reaching the end of 2023, casting rumors around the MCU’s Fantastic Four movie are swirling in the air, and the Fox Marvel movie characters are reportedly returning for Deadpool 3, there has never been a more appropriate time to look back on the cinematic history of Marvel’s first family. At this point, The Fantastic Four has been brought to life by numerous filmmakers. Tim Story gave us the original duology in the mid-2000s, Josh Trank bamboozled us with the production mishap that was Fant4stic, and even Roger Corman produced an unofficially released live-action film in the mid-’90s. Simply put, this group of characters are no strangers to moviegoers. But what about the films that were never made? What about Sean Astin‘s Fantastic Four?

After ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ Sean Astin Wanted To Direct a ‘Fantastic Four’ Film

Image via New Line Cinema

Not many think of Sean Astin as a filmmaker, but the man himself definitely does. Around when his time as Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings was coming to a close, Astin looked elsewhere to find his career’s next big moment. What did he set his sights on? A Fantastic Four movie. This might be surprising right now, but in the early 2000s, things were very different for both Astin and superhero movies. Sean Astin was busy coming off of starring in some of the most popular movies in the world, so he would be no stranger to audiences or studios. Marvel, on the other hand, was still largely uncharted territory for filmmakers, barring the occasional X-Men or Blade movie. The stakes were not as big as they are today, so it honestly isn’t the craziest idea that Astin might take on a series as big as this. Unfortunately, he was never given the chance, but there’s no doubt that the final product would have been fascinating.

By the early 2000s, Sean Astin had firmly placed himself as one of the most likable actors in the world. He wasn’t exactly a movie star like Tom Cruise or Leonardo DiCaprio who could rake in enormous box office results just at the sound of his name, but he had great taste. If Sean Astin was attached to a project, you could bet on it being pretty dang good. He broke out as a major player in The Goonies‘ ensemble cast, starred in the acclaimed Rudy Ruttieger biopic, Rudy, and was the heartbeat of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, where he played the always lovable and admirable Samwise Gamgee. By the early 2000s, if Sean Astin was there, you’d better be too.

Sean Astin Directed an Academy Award-Nominated Short

That being said, even though Astin is largely known as an on-screen presence, he’s also a true talent behind the scenes. He hasn’t directed too many projects, but that’s not without trying. Off and on throughout his career, Astin has picked up jobs directing episodes of TV shows like Jeremiah, Angel, 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd, and Perversions of Science. He even has two short films to his name, 2003’s The Long and Short of It and 1994’s Kangaroo Court. The latter of those two was actually nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film, but unfortunately, Astin walked away that night without a little golden statue to his name.

What Would Astin’s ‘Fantastic Four’ Movie Looked Like?


Still, by the time the Lord of the Rings trilogy was wrapping up, Sean Astin was an experienced filmmaker, no doubt about it. As that iconic trilogy was coming to a close, the man behind Samwise Gamgee had to look elsewhere. In an interview with Collider’s Perri Nemiroff, Astin explained that he had his sights on The Fantastic Four, which was owned by Fox at the time. This led him down a path of finding and reading the unproduced screenplays that Fox had already gone through. After this period of research, Astin claimed “…it’s a little bit shocking. Like, I actually think most of the people in a convention could do a better job of developing most of these franchises than the studio executives themselves.”

Astin would end up getting in touch with Tim Rothman, the head of 20th Century Fox in the early 2000s, to express his interest in directing a Fantastic Four movie. Rothman was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of Samwise Gamgee helming one of his studio’s potentially massive properties, Astin would persist, but the two had a conversation about it anyway. This interaction lead to Kevin Feige calling Astin about the project! These days, Feige is serving as the President of Marvel Studios, but at the time, he was executive producing many comic book movies and leading the charge on physical production. Feige played nice by talking with Astin about the project but made it pretty clear that his chances were awfully slim. In the aforementioned Collider interview, Astin recalls it this way, “… I said, ‘Listen, is there any way in the world that you’d consider me to direct Fantastic Four?’ And he was like, ‘Well, I don’t know,’ and blah, blah, blah. I said, ‘So are you saying there’s zero chance? Zero? No chance? 100% not gonna do it?’ He says, ‘Well, I’m not gonna say 0% …'”

Unfortunately, it sounds like executives at Fox and Marvel sort of beat around the bush with Astin. He would go on to have an in-person meeting with Tim Rothman, where he was assured that he could read the studio’s script and meet with Fox again before they settled on a director. Astin would even later use his Academy Award nomination for Kangaroo Court as leverage to try and land the job. Fox execs made it clear that they didn’t care about that aspect of his career, and that their biggest focus was on cracking the right script, getting character moments down, and having a plot that works before moving forward. That’s honestly a breath of fresh air, considering today’s age of rushing out superhero movies just to meet release dates.

Sean Astin Campaigned for Michael Chiklis As The Thing

Fox strung Astin along for several months with the prospect of maybe directing Fantastic Four. During this period, Astin proposed the ideas of Christina Aguilera or Cameron Diaz for Sue Storm, better known as the Invisible Woman, and even pushed for Michael Chiklis as The Thing (who eventually went on to play the character in two films). Rothman would end up going with Tim Story to helm the 2005 movie, but in his interview with Collider, Astin recalls the head of Fox telling him, “You forced me to take you seriously as a filmmaker … you may not have been on my radar before, but you’re on my radar now.”

Ever since Marvel’s First Family fell through Sean Astin’s fingertips, they have been brought to the big screen in three feature films… none of which are all that great. The Tim Story films have a somewhat charming camp-factor to them, but there isn’t all that much to write home about. Josh Trank’s 2015 reboot, on the other hand, had a total disaster of a production, one that led to a critically panned box office bomb. Yikes. So listen studio executives: next time Sean Astin comes knocking, you better come to the door ready to fill out whatever check he needs. Here’s hoping that, eventually, Astin is given the chance to direct another film (fingers crossed for a feature), and that the MCU’s Fantastic Four manages to be stronger than the adaptations that precede it.

The 2005 Fantastic Four is available to stream on Disney+ in the U.S.

Watch on Disney+


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *