Filmmaker Josh Trank has had a rocky professional career so far. After shooting to fame with the success of his maiden venture Chronicle, the failure of his next big-budget venture, 2015's Fantastic Four, cut so deep that Trank swore off filmmaking for many years. He is now back with a biopic on legendary gangster Al Capone. In an interview for Variety, Trank explained how the intense backlash against Fantastic Four directly led him to his next movie:
"I didn't set out initially to make a movie about Al Capone at all. This came at a time when I had just experienced the most disastrous professional experience of my life. 'Fantastic Four' had just been released. My life was upended. I'd gone from being in a place where I was extremely successful professionally. For a good four-year period, I had experienced what it feels like to have the world at your fingertips. It was obviously a very surreal experience. It's kind of like being granted superpowers for a period of time. I was working with the most powerful corporations in the world and dealing with all the movers and shakers. I was in the pilot seat of the most expensive world class jet one can imagine. I'd gone from that to broke and sitting in my backyard chain smoking and not knowing what was going to happen in a few months when my bank account ran out. I had no professional opportunities coming my way in the near future."
Trank's behavior on the set of Fantastic Four had been extensively reported in the media, in exceedingly negative terms. No matter how much truth there was to the statements, the damage they did was permanent, with Trank being seen as a pariah in the film industry. It was this period of enforced isolation that led Josh Trank to think deeply about the last days of Al Capone:
"While I was sitting out there with a few months of just no activity and just being immobile and doing a lot of therapy, this seed of an idea popped into my head based on all of my own reading about Al Capone from when I was a kid. I knew about that time in his life after he was released from Alcatraz when he was suffering from neurosyphilis. He was just in his own backyard in Palm Island smoking cigars and not really interacting with other people. He was so far away from being the reigning king of Chicago and one of the most powerful and feared men in the world. In my head, I just wondered what would it have been like for Al Capone to end his life being so far removed from the Al Capone that he got to be for awhile. What would it be like if he flipped on the radio and heard a fictionalized radio play about Al Capone? How would he have felt about that? That's where it came from. I realized it was an important story for me to engage in as a human being and as a writer, because I had so much I wanted to explore with it. The more I started writing it, the more I realized that this is a story about an iconic figure in history, seen through a completely different window."
Thus, Trank was able to use his personal struggles to get inside the head of one of the most feared gangsters of all time. The film he subsequently made with Tom Hardy in the lead role explores Capone's life in his old age, as he struggles with mental and physical illnesses, and dreams back to his glory days. In the face of the current lockdown, the movie's producers have decided to bypass a theatrical release entirely, and make the feature available to audiences on-demand on May 12. Read the full Variety interview for more.