2005’s Fantastic Four may not be a film Marvel fans — or superhero fans in general — want to remember, but it exists whether they like it or not. It can be good to look back and reflect on what went wrong, or to view the movie as a stepping stone for what was to come. After all, the season where the Marvel Cinematic Universe would truly hit its stride was only few years away, so it wouldn’t be long before things turned around for the better.
The Fantastic Four franchise itself, however, never experienced that same turnaround. 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer didn’t do much to improve upon its predecessor, and 2015’s reboot Fantastic Four unfortunately followed that same downward trend. With another Fantastic Four reboot on the way, fans can only cross their fingers in the hopes that yet another film starring Marvel’s First Family doesn’t go the way of the Negative Zone.
Part of what’s going to make that happen is having the actors and director work well together, which was sadly not the case for Rise of the Silver Surfer. Indeed, Jessica Alba – who played Susan Storm, aka the Invisible Woman — didn’t exactly get along with director Tim Story. Alba had such an unsavory time filming Rise of the Silver Surfer that one particularly difficult scene in particular nearly made her say goodbye to acting for good.
Invisible Woman, invisible emotions
For a bit of context, Alba hasn’t always been on the best terms with screenwriters, being quoted in Elle magazine’s December 2010 cover issue as saying, "Good actors never use the script unless it’s amazing writing. All the good actors I’ve worked with, they all say whatever they want to say" (via The Hollywood Reporter). This caught the attention of many writers in Hollywood — most notably Go, Big Fish, and Charlie’s Angels scribe John August, who wrote a blog post in an attempt to explain why Alba’s comments were hurtful and "setting dangerous expectations."
According to Alba, that quote was taken out of context, as she explained during a press event for 2010’s Little Fockers. It’s not that Alba thinks scripts don’t matter — it’s that she personally feels she doesn’t know how to not be tied to a script and to improvise when needed, which she apparently considers the mark of a good actor. "Basically, I was saying that I didn’t have the courage and didn’t really understand how to bring my own thing to the table and I would never veer away from the script, ever, no matter what," Alba said (via CinemaBlend). "Even when actors would go off book, I didn’t know what to say."
This confession of not having the courage to stand her ground and offer her own take on a bit of dialogue or the way a scene should be performed ties into Alba’s experience on Rise of the Silver Surfer. She reportedly had a number of "experiences where she was told to read the words on the page" in the exact way they were written; that made her lose confidence in herself and her acting abilities (via Access). During one of the emotional climaxes in Rise of the Silver Surfer, Alba’s character Sue is crying as she dies in her husband Reed Richards’ (Ioan Gruffudd) arms. But the sequence as seen on the big screen and the way it was originally shot are completely different. Alba acted out the crying scene in a certain way, perhaps in the way it was written in Don Payne and Mark Frost’s script, but it wasn’t what the director wanted. According to Alba, Story stepped in to tell her to "be prettier" during the scene.
"I remember when I was dying in Silver Surfer… The director was like, ‘It looks too real. It looks too painful. Can you be prettier when you cry? Cry pretty, Jessica,’" Alba explained to Elle magazine. "The director was like, ‘It looks too real. It looks too painful. Can you be prettier when you cry? […] Don’t do that thing with your face. Just make it flat. We can CGI the tears in.’"
Jessica Alba was ready to quit acting, but she powered through
A director critiquing an actress’ work and asking for some degree of adjustment is one thing, but to take advantage of her looks rather than her emotional range and then say the animators will digitally modify her performance? It’s hard to imagine what that must have felt like. At the time, the experience made Alba question not only her worth as an actor, but also her worth as a human being. As she told Elle, "It all got me thinking, ‘Am I not good enough? Are my instincts and my emotions not good enough? Do people hate them so much that they don’t want me to be a person? Am I not allowed to be a person in my work?’"
From there, Alba began to feel differently about the acting profession as a whole: "I just said, ‘F*** it. I don’t care about this business anymore.’" Thankfully, she didn’t end up quitting acting, explaining to Elle that motherhood gave her a thicker skin and helped her become more confident in the face of criticism (via Access).
Since the release of Rise of the Silver Surfer in June 2007, Alba has gotten married (to Cash Warren, whom she met in 2004 while filming Fantastic Four); become a mother (to daughters Honor Marie and Haven Garner and son Hayes); and been in numerous films and television shows. Some of her most notable post-Silver Surfer roles include Cam Wexler in Good Luck Chuck, Morley Clarkson in Valentine’s Day, Nancy Callahan in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Victoria Knox in Barely Lethal, Maggie Price in The Veil, and Jade in Killers Anonymous. And from 2019 to 2020, Alba held a main role as Nancy McKenna in the Bad Boys spin-off series L.A.’s Finest — her first lead role in a TV series since she played Max Guevara in Dark Angel.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer may have pushed Alba to nearly quit acting, but we’re glad she didn’t let the tough time dull her shine.