The call to Mark Frost from his agent in 2003 started out, “This might seem like a crazy idea ...”
The agent was suggesting that he think about writing the script for the live-action version of “Fantastic Four.” As far as Frost was concerned, the only crazy part about the suggestion was that he would need time to think about it.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Kerry Washington, Doug Jones, Andre Braugher, Julian McMahon, Laurence Fishburne
(Fox; US theatrical: 15 Jun 2007 (General release); 2007)
“I was a huge fan (of the comic books) as a kid,” he said. “I collected lots of comic books, but especially those.”
Frost, who co-created TV’s “Twin Peaks,” returned to the Fan 4 fold to co-write the sequel, “Rise of the Silver Surfer.” The movie, which opens Friday, was a different sort of project than the 2005 original.
“The studio had very strong notions about what this should be,” he said. “In a way, that made it easier (to write) because the scope was narrower. This movie was very studio driven, and you have to go with that.”
It helped that Frost strongly agreed with the studio’s decision to introduce the Silver Surfer, who has the ability to channel beams of energy. The Surfer also has superhuman strength, sight and hearing and, thanks to his silvery skin, can travel among planets.
“He was introduced in the third full year of the comic books and went on to become one of the most popular characters,” Frost said, giving the impression that, if the listener had the time, he could talk about Fantastic Four history for an hour. “He’s actually more popular in Europe than the original Fantastic Four are. He’s an iconic figure globally, which is one reason the studio chose to build this movie around him.”
Frost, 53, began his writing career as a Minneapolis teenager when he wrote a play, “Between Looks,” that was produced by the Guthrie Theater’s high-school touring company. Since then, he has written a little bit of everything, from TV and movies to novels and a continuing series of nonfiction books about the history of golf.
“But this is a very different process than what I’m used to,” he said of the big-budget, special-effects-driven adventure. “This is like creating a blueprint for a big building. Once they put the building up, you’re invited to the opening so you can say, `I was part of this.’”
“And I am just a part of what became a world-wide production. My work was done a year ago. I haven’t even seen the whole movie yet, and I won’t until the premiere.”
Frost didn’t spend the year just sitting around and waiting for the movie to be finished. For starters, he wrapped up work on a novel, “The Second Objective,” a World War II thriller that was published last month.
“It’s based on a true story,” he said. “But not much was known about it because the files were classified until only recently.”
With the tide of the war starting to turn in the Allies’ favor in 1944, Germany recruited a team of men who spoke English. They were outfitted in American uniforms and dropped behind the Allied lines.
“They were extensively trained,” Frost said. “Some of them had even spent time undercover in POW camps studying American mannerisms.”
Frost’s book focuses on 20 Germans who were assigned to infiltrate Dwight Eisenhower’s headquarters at Versailles and kill him.
“Eighteen of the men were caught right away,” Frost said. “The other two were never found. My book speculates what might have happened to them.”
He’s also been researching the next book in his multivolume golf history. “The Match,” which is due to be published in the fall, follows “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” which was made into a 2005 movie of the same name.
“I’ve worked my way up to the 1950s, which is more fun because I’m finally able to speak to people who are still alive,” he said. “I had a wonderful interview with Byron Nelson.”
Frost doesn’t know what he’ll tackle next. He’s kicking around a theme for a TV series. And, of course, there’s always talk about another “Fantastic Four” installment, although he’s leaving that for other people to talk about.
“I know that it was conceived as a series, but the studio really didn’t make a decision about doing a second movie until they saw how the first one did,” he said. “And I don’t think they’ll make their minds up about whether there will be another movie until they see how this goes over.”
And if he gets the call? Don’t think that he might say “no” because that’s, well, crazy.
“There are hundreds of other stories in the comic books” that could be used for movie fodder, he said excitedly.