[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.]
Alex Hyde-White feels fantastic.
The film and television actor whose career spans decades has a number of projects in the works, including appearing in Jordan Peele’s highly-anticipated nope, and a memoir on the way this summer,titled In the Volume through Archway Publishing.
One of the last “contract players” in Hollywood through the old studio system, the London-born actor has appeared in such film classics as beautiful woman and Catch Me If You Canalong with a slew of TV shows, including Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, bones, NCIS, Dexter and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
But he knows what most fans want to talk about, and he is more than happy to oblige. Hyde-White, along with Rebecca Staab, Jay Underwood, Michael Bailey Smith, Carl Ciarfalio and Joseph Culp starred in Roger Corman’s notorious 1994 film, Fantastic Four.
Produced through Concorde-New Horizons, the first live-action take on the iconic Marvel Comics group, directed by Oley Sassone, was primarily made (on a shoestring budget) in order for the late Bernd Eichinger to keep the Fantastic Four film rights. Still, Corman, as Hyde-White tells The Hollywood Reporter, very much believed in the film and was determined it would be distributed. However, right before the film was to premiere at the Mall of America, Eichinger ordered all promotions halted and the negative destroyed. The exact reason why has been debated. The film would never see the light of day — at least, that was the intention.
Bootleg copies of Fantastic Four would make their way onto VHS and finally online. Today, the entire film can be watched on YouTube. Nearly 30 years later, the movie has found a cult following, the actors making a splash whenever they appear at conventions. The fiasco behind Fantastic Four was the subject of the 2015 documentary Doomed!: The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four and a 2019 book, Forsaken: The Making and Aftermath of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Fourwhich is being adapted for Audible through Hyde-White’s production company.
Fantastic Four would be the first of four misfire attempts to bring the group, created by the legendary Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics in 1961, to the big screen. And it seemed for a while that, despite superhero films being billion-dollar tentpoles for studios, the Fantastic Four would never get their cinematic due. Then last week, something extraordinary occurred: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness arrived in theaters, containing the first member of the Fantastic Four, via John Krasinski as Reed Richards, within Kevin Feige’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. Fans were elated about the moment and the Fantastic Four’s future — and that included Hyde-White.
Do you have any intention of seeing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness?
I actually saw an ad, and I thought, “Wait a minute! I would be interested in seeing that.” I guess the proliferation of Marvel Comics into film, it’s gotten a bad rap in a way, and maybe because there are so many of them. But I’m a fan of that pop culture aspect of it. What goes around, comes around. I don’t have to pretend I wasn’t Reed Richards anymore! (laughs.)
Since you’re aware of the spoiler, thoughts on John Krasinski playing Mister Fantastic in Doc Strange 2 and likely in future MCU projects?
Well, that’s not a surprise. He’s been rumored for a while. It’s exciting! He’s proved himself to be a heck of a storyteller and as a lead actor and a producer and director. Krasinski is a force to be reckoned with because he has a joy of storytelling, and he’s a good leader. Those are Reed Richards’ characteristics of him.
If you were to send out a casting spec for Reed Richards, you would say “Excellent leader, control-freak — but nice about it. Collaborator willing to take the blame,” which I felt was the psychological currency of our Fantastic Four. We dealt with the motivations of the characters.
How did you become involved with the 1994 picture?
Well, I was on a roll. beautiful woman came out in 1990, and then I was offered some TV movies. I was in Ted Turner’s first Civil War movie, ironclads. I auditioned right around Thanksgiving time for Fantastic Four and within a week, they called. Now, I’d done a couple of Roger Corman movies, so there was recognition. But Roger didn’t really have too much to do with it, except probably just approving it.
I was personally motivated. I’d been going through a bit of a life change which usually happens, hopefully only once in your mid-30s, and it just worked. I think my natural approach, my ability to handle the dialogue in that sort of slightly melodramatic star trek way—I was able to employ those faculties quite naturally. I remember at the time there were a lot of guys going in for it, like my friend Max Caulfield. It was considered a nice part to get, and it certainly was.
The rumor is the film was never meant to be released, and then there is a rumor it was simply too bad to be released. Can you shed some light?
I don’t think it was ever really judged because it was never given a marketplace test. And we shouldn’t be judged too harshly, of course. They say the film cost $2 million to make, but no, it hardly costs anything to make. Does that mean that the film was never really meant to be made properly? Well, if Roger Corman was going to make a movie, he was going to make sure that it was releasable. And for example, we wrapped the film in early February ’93. And two months later, we came back to reshoot the ending scene where Dr. Doom falls into the abyss. Whatever it cost, it was a reshoot that Roger had to pay for. That is not a move from somebody who has given up on the film.
I knew that if it was going to be any good at all, it would really rely on just how much of a commitment Roger had to finishing it. And as it turned out, he had a heck of a commitment. But then it fell apart. It was almost as if I had been prepared. You see, the film was finished, and we had ostensibly scheduled to premiere at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. Then my publicist friend called and said they were done. It was over. 20th Century Fox came to an agreement that Roger gets paid, then Roger gives up any claim over the negative.
And the story goes, that was destroyed, leaving only bootleg tapes and now footage on YouTube. So, it has lived on, and it has found audiences. That must feel special nearly 30 years later.
You know, this story, there’s been a documentary made about it, doomed!a book written about it called Forsaken and finally now my production company is handling the audiobook for Forsaken, which comes out at the end of June on Audible. (Laughs.). You know, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It was just a silly little fun film. And people can again say, “It was never meant to be made,” or “It should never have been made.” And I get to say, I’m really glad it was because, you know, it’s like creeping ivy: you can trim it, you can cut it, you can even think you’ve destroyed it — but you go away for six months , and it’s taken over the side of the house.
I’ve never been anything other than happy that I had the chance to play Reed Richards. And it turns out that the story of the original Fantastic Four film is not simply the how and why of making it — although that’s interesting — it’s what’s happened to it since. That’s a far greater story.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters.
Interview edited for length and clarity.