This weekend, news came down that Josh Trank, controversial director behind the most recent Fantastic Four debacle, will direct a new Al Capone biopic, Fonzo. Tom Hardy is set to play the famous gangster, which is awesome because anything with Tom Hardy in the lead is worth your time.
But something about Josh Trank getting this job doesn’t sit right with me. It doesn’t sit right with a lot of people, especially those who remember all the infighting behind the scenes of Fantastic Four. Not only did the movie turn out to be a dreary, boring disaster from top to bottom, but Trank and Fox execs brought all of the on-set squabbles and infighting to the public. Trank tweeted that he had “actually” directed a great movie but nobody will see it because of studio interference.
That innocuous tweet backfired on Trank. It brought some other controversy surrounding Trank to the surface, like how he’d been fired from a Star Wars spinoff film because of his erratic behavior on the Fantastic Four set. Like how he didn’t listen to anyone and let his ego take over the film, resisting any outside help. Like how he wore out his four castmembers with ridiculous demands to push the gloomy tone. For all intents and purposes, Josh Trank seemed to be untouchable following the Fantastic Failure, and yet, here he is, getting a big studio project with an A-list star.
And then, a tweet from Austin Shinn put it in perspective better than anyone:
While Josh Trank leaves director's jail, remember Debra Granik couldn't find funding after Winter's Bone.
— Austin Shinn (@untitleduser) October 29, 2016
Yes. For all its self-congratulation and liberal progressiveness, Hollywood will still give white male creators second and third and fourth chances in lieu of “taking risks” on female or minority directors. Granik who earned a screenplay Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone, chased several promising projects following the success of her debut film. But she couldn’t manage to square away funding on any of them and eventually directed a (pretty good) documentary, Stray Dog, about U.S. war vets.
Granik isn’t the only example of this issue in Hollywood. Females and minorities getting their second film funded has been an issue for too long, so much so that the Sundance Institute started the FilmTwo Initiative, a program to help women and people of color get funding for their follow up project. An LA Times article about this obvious problem pointed to a number of times where women and minorities had to wait years and fight through endless funding issues before getting their second film:
“Boys Don’t Cry” director Kimberly Peirce took nine years to make her second feature, “Stop-Loss”; black British director Amma Asante took nine years to follow up her first film, “A Way of Life,” with “Belle”; and African American director Gina Prince-Bythewood had eight years between “Love & Basketball” and her second film, “The Secret Life of Bees.”
And yet, here is Josh Trank, practically sabotaging a tentpole picture for 20th Century Fox, burning too many bridges to count, getting a major follow up feature fourteen months after his disaster of a superhero movie crashed and burned. His debut feature, Chronicle, was a decent movie. But it wasn’t some sort of game-changing picture that should earn Trank a lifetime of mulligans. It’s not like his movie introduced the world to Jennifer Lawrence and grabbed four Oscar nominations.
The same can be said for Chronicle’s screenwriter, Max Landis, who somehow manages to keep creating shitty screenplay after shitty screenplay while countless other scripts die on the vine every year in Hollywood. But hey, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
How does this make any sense that Josh Trank is back in charge of another major studio production? Because for all of its supposed forward-thinking, Hollywood is still run by white males who like giving white males work. And they have unfounded blind trust in white males because women and minorities scare them because maybe their movies can’t make enough money. Despite the fact that people like Trank continue to ruin major projects. This goes back for decades and can be seen in so many instances throughout the years. Remember Do The Right Thing? Yeah, one of the ten greatest films of the 20th century, that one. Spike Lee didn’t get a Best Director nomination, the film got only two nominations overall, and Best Picture that year went to… Driving Miss Daisy.
Oscars Always So White. And Male.
Josh Trank getting the Fonzo job proves there is literally nothing a white male filmmaker can do to end his career. Make a bad movie? Eh, we’ll get ’em next time. Cause problems on set and ignore everyone? Oh, it’s just the creative process. Direct a terrific debut feature on a shoestring budget and get a follow up project together to sell? Well, I don’t know. That depends, are you a female? Also, can you send us a printout from your Ancestry.com research?
Hollywood needs to practice what it likes to preach one of these days. The balance between white male directors and females and minorities behind cameras is way out of whack, and Josh Trank is the poster boy for the white male privilege polluting the studio system. I’m not saying there was anyone else interested in this Fonzo project, but that doesn’t really matter. If Fonzo is Trank’s baby, maybe don’t fund it, pass on it because, you know, he’s been a childish asshole in the past. Hold on to that check and see what sort of projects Debra Granik has in mind these days.