BEVERLY HILLS, California — We all knew Mr. Fantastic could stretch, but who knew he could go this far? In Michael Apted’s “Amazing Grace,” fast-rising star Ioan Gruffudd portrays William Wilberforce, the revolutionary who helped end the British slave trade. Come June, he’ll move back into summer-blockbuster territory, once again portraying Reed Richards in “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.” We caught up with the charismatic actor recently for some invaluable advice on how to pull off a powdered wig, work a dance number into a superhero movie — and get away with groping Jessica Alba.
MTV: First we see you with Mr. Fantastic’s streaks, and now you’ve got a powdered wig. Why is Hollywood fascinated with giving you gray hair?
Ioan Gruffudd: [He laughs.] I’ve wondered the same thing! To me, I always insist on having a costume, of some nature, in everything I do. Even if it’s blue spandex or a theater costume — and of course, part and parcel of that is the wig.
MTV: Do you expect your fame as Mr. Fantastic to draw a different audience than could normally be expected for a biopic on an 18th British abolitionist?
Gruffudd: That is something that has presented itself since we started promoting ["Grace"], is, “Damn, we should be taking advantage of the fact that I am Mr. Fantastic!” So we’ve been pushing talking about both movies in the same breath, absolutely.
MTV: Even beneath your powdered wig, you’re wearing other wigs. How many hairpieces were you dragging around?
Gruffudd: Well, when I was playing young Wilberforce in Parliament, that was just a wig to represent real hair. Then, of course, you’ve got the wigs that they put on for the powdered wigs. You’ve just got to get over the way you look in them to begin with, and then get over them sticking on your head. Inevitably, the wind gets hold of any wig, so sometimes it would blow off and pose a lot of fun incidents.
MTV: So we can look forward to some fun deleted scenes on the DVD, perhaps?
Gruffudd: [He laughs.] Loads, loads.
MTV: Wilberforce was handed great wealth, fame and comfort in his early 20s, then nearly threw it all away to free the slaves. Watching the film, you can’t help but wonder whether you’d be brave enough to do the same.
Gruffudd: That’s what makes these people so great. I would put him in the same category as Nelson Mandela or Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King, who stood up and had their voices heard against insurmountable odds.
MTV: The title comes from the classic hymn, and you display a wonderful singing voice in this film. Is that all you?
Gruffudd: All of it, in its entirety, is me. Yes. It was recorded live.
MTV: Is it your hope that the Marvel Comics people get a look at it and give Mr. Fantastic a musical number?
Gruffudd: [He laughs.] Yes, maybe a little bit of singing for the third movie, yeah.
MTV: What would be the perfect song for Mr. Fantastic to sing?
Gruffudd: [He laughs.] I don’t know … “Twist and Shout”? He could literally twist as he sang it.
MTV: If you had Mr. Fantastic’s powers in real life, what would you do with them?
Gruffudd: You’d be able to play some great pranks on people from another room, wouldn’t you? You’d be able to reach over and tap them on the shoulder and freak them out! You could also reach into the refrigerator and get another Diet Coke — or beer, in my circumstance.
MTV: You’ve killed so much time with her on these sets, so give the single guys out there some help: What’s the best way to Jessica Alba’s heart?
Gruffudd: It’s gotta be her sense of humor. She calls me the big, goofy guy. I try to make her laugh and she’s like, “You’re so silly!”
MTV: What’s the easiest way to make her laugh?
Gruffudd: The one thing that always makes her laugh is when I do my “dirty old man.”
MTV: Excuse me?
Gruffudd: [He laughs.] I’ve got my tongue sticking out, I’m trying to make the ugliest face possible, and I’m chasing after her and trying to grope her. But, of course, I never catch her because I’m an old, withering man. That always makes her laugh.
MTV: The Silver Surfer looks amazing in the trailer for the “Fantastic Four” sequel. But how will Mr. Fantastic be different this time around?
Gruffudd: He becomes the leader that we know and love from the comic books. As much as he is a scientist and could be deemed a bit of a nerd, he has now stepped into those boots of being the leader — everybody looks to him for leadership throughout this movie. You’ll see the evolution of him, because at the beginning of the movie he’s very excited about getting married [to Alba's Invisible Woman] and slightly nervous, as he was in the first one. Then, once the Silver Surfer arrives, he is a man of action. He steps into the breach, as it were, and takes him on.
MTV: What’s the one scene in “Surfer” that you can’t wait for the world to see?
Gruffudd: I’m looking forward to everyone seeing the last scene of the movie. When we were shooting it, I thought it was so spectacular to the naked eye — I can only imagine what it’s going to look like on the big screen. We had everything there: lighting effects, rain, wind machines, it was just fantastic … I got to cradle Jessica Alba for like two or three weeks whilst we were shooting the last sequence.
MTV: Will this big finale somehow involve Galactus?
Gruffudd: Possibly. [He laughs.] … He will have a great presence in the movie, yeah, certainly.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.”
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