Film - Thunder Force


Ahead of the film coming to Netflix on 9th April, here's the story behind the story of Thunder Force...


Press Release

The THUNDER FORCE origin story began in 1983, when a massive pulse of interstellar cosmic rays struck Earth. Within months, those rays, originally declared harmless to humans by scientists, triggered a genetic transformation in a select few, unleashing unimaginable superpowers.

Unfortunately, for reasons still unknown, these superpowers were only unlocked in very rare individuals who were genetically predisposed to be bad guys. Overnight, a new problem for humanity was born. These new “super human villains” came to be known as “Miscreants,” who for years ran amok wreaking havoc.

Researchers and scientists worked on DNA/genome sequencing with the goal of giving regular people the power to fight back against the Miscreants. 

Among those researchers were the parents of Emily Stanton (Octavia Spencer), who were killed during a Miscreant attack when Emily was 12 years-old.

Forced to move in with her grand-mother in Chicago’s Hyde Park area, the studious Emily was befriended by Lydia Berman (Melissa McCarthy), a blunt, rough-around-the-edges, 12-year-old who was less interested in school and more interested in classic rock.

Inseparable as kids, the duo grew apart as their professional paths diverged. Determined to stop the Miscreants, Emily followed in her parent’s scientific footsteps while Lydia pursued a career as a heavy equipment operator.

Flash forward: The pair reunite on the night of their 25 year high school reunion when Lydia visits Emily’s scientific compound trying to lure her away from her work to attend the reunion.

While waiting to see her friend, Lydia finds herself in Emily’s lab where she ignores Emily’s warning to not touch anything. She ends up fiddling with knobs and levers and ends up in a specially designed lab chair and is injected with a super strength serum that Emily spent years creating for herself.

Furious at her friend but with no choice but to work with her, Emily obtains her own power, invisibility, and the pair become the superhero duo known as THUNDER FORCE!


ASSEMBLING THE TEAM

Like all good superhero tales, THUNDER FORCE itself also has an origin story. This one begins when director-producer-writer-actor Ben Falcone was a boy.

“I was a comic book aficionado or, really, a nerd,” says the Illinois native. “Nothing made me happier as a kid than to read comic books. I would read them all the time, especially if I was having trouble falling asleep.”

Fortunately, Falcone did not have to hide his passion from his parents. “Mom helped feed my addiction,” he jokes. “She put a shelf on the wall next to my bed so I could have easy access to them.”

It is an addiction that continues to this day and, naturally, Falcone has always wanted to make a superhero film.

The idea came one step closer to reality one day as Falcone was walking to work in LA. “I was trying to think of what I wanted to do next,” he says. “And I quickly thought what if Melissa and Octavia (Spencer) were superheroes. I came up with a basic loose plot on that walk. I went to work and tried to punch holes in the idea. I found a few but fewer than I originally thought might be there. Then the script became the fastest thing I have ever written.”

Falcone presented the idea to wife McCarthy and she says, “I was like ‘Done and done!’ Because we have known Octavia forever but we haven’t worked together in so long. So, we have been trying to figure out something to work together on for quite some time. When it came to this I was like, ‘Oh my God please, please let it work out.’”

At first, Oscar winner Spencer (THE HELP) was a bit incredulous. “Ben tells me he has a part for me in a superhero movie,” recalls Spencer who assumed she would be playing a doctor-type role. “He said, ‘No. You get to be a superhero and a scientist.’ I immediately said, ‘Sign me up.’ I mean, hello! No one would ever call me to be a superhero in an action film except for friends like Ben and Melissa. It was pretty amazing.”


FRIENDSHIPS, HEROES, AND HEART

Falcone, McCarthy and Spencer have been friends for over twenty years or as THUNDER FORCE producer Adam Siegel explains, “They have been friends since Octavia was waiting tables and Melissa was doing improv.”

That real-life friendship was a crucial component for the onscreen relationship. While THUNDER FORCE is a story about two women who become superheroes, at its heart the film is about the friendship between Lydia and Emily.

“I think it is a love story between our characters in the sense that all friendships are a love story,” explains McCarthy. “You’ve got to love your friends who you have ups and downs with. Just because you’re friends doesn’t mean you don’t drive each other crazy. But what Ben captures so well in the script is that no matter what happens friends are still there for each other.”

“I love that it is a lifelong friendship story, especially one between two women, who are really quite different” adds Spencer. “Ben knows our history together and he plugs a little bit of that into the plot.”

McCarthy defines their character’s relationship as an unlikely one.

Spencer describes McCarthy’s Lydia as an every woman.“She works hard, is funny, scrappy, blunt and the person you literally want next to you in a schoolyard or bar fight,” she says. “She is that friend who will always have your back. She has had Emily’s back since childhood. That being said Lydia can also at times be a bit of a disruptive force”

“I love that Lydia is just completely who she is. She’s not trying to be somebody else, right or wrong,” says McCarthy. “At her core she’s a really good person. I related to her quite a bit although, she is perhaps more blunt than I am.”

Spencer also feels a kinship to Emily. “I’m one of the crazy adults who is always at a superhero film. I love that Emily is not a mad scientist. She’s somewhat of an angry scientist because while she wants to help society by coming up with super powers to fight the Miscreants there is a part of her that wants revenge because they killed her parents,” she says. “Emily’s goal to do good for society appealed, intrigued and excited the activist part of me as a person.”

“Lydia and Emily are both to some degree flawed characters. I love seeing flawed characters. I think those are the ones you can relate to,” adds McCarthy. “I don’t know how to be perfect. I don’t know anyone perfect. So, when I see a character who has no bumps and bruises I always think, I don’t know how to do that. Both of these women definitely have their flaws but that’s what you end up loving about somebody, it’s not only all their wonderful things, It’s also all the weird things.”

Lydia and Emily are joined in their mission by Emily’s equally studious and superintelligent daughter Tracy, played by Taylor Mosby.

“When Lydia meets my character’s daughter, she cares about her as much as she cares about me. They develop this playful, fun bond that Emily has never had with Tracy,” explains Spencer. “That bond is a somewhat painful reminder of what Emily is missing out on and becomes a driving force to Emily connecting on a new level with her daughter.”

Spencer and Mosby also developed a special connection off screen. “Ms. Octavia is really, really fun to work with.” says Mosby, recently seen playing Tiffany Haddish’s daughter in the TBS comedy THE LAST O.G. “She’s so funny and lighthearted And her laugh is so contagious. You can just see a smile come across the cast and crew’s faces when she walks on set,” says Mosby. “But what was really great for me was that she always took time to teach me little things sometimes in between takes. She really worked on our chemistry so that as our relationship grew and we became closer you see Emily and Tracy’s relationship get better for the camera.”

“Taylor is just a brilliant talent. She’s going to have a long career in front of her because she takes the work seriously. And she’s a lot of fun.” says Spencer.

McCarthy adds of Mosby, “We completely got hit with the lucky stick with Taylor. First of all, she’s really good and she’s incredibly sweet and professional.”

Rounding out the team is staid and stern former CIA agent Allie (Melissa Leo) who, along with Tracy, runs Stanton 4.0 and the behind the scenes activities of THUNDER FORCE. When the disruptive Lydia shows up and starts bumbling around the company the former agent’s loyalties to Emily may be put in jeopardy.

“I was delighted at the idea of getting a chance to work with the amazing Melissa McCarthy and her wonderful husband Ben Falcone,” says the Oscar winner.


ROGUES’ GALLERY OF MISCREANTS

“There are these sociopaths who have been mutated and receive superpowers. They are known as the Miscreants. They are the villains of the movie,” explains McCarthy. “People are just trying to go about their daily lives and the Miscreants are wreaking havoc and causing chaos all over the place – people are being killed, buildings are destroyed, there are explosions around the city and crime rates - especially robbery - are running rampant.”

William Stevens (Bobby Cannavale), who prefers to be called “The King” is a power hungry, shipping magnate and billionaire with political aspirations to become Chicago’s mayor and eventually president of the United States. The King has a secret: he is a Miscreant with the power of super strength and he has assembled a team of villains.

“Because of my character’s wealth, he is able to gather and ‘unionize’ a band of Miscreants,” says Cannavale, who also worked with McCarthy and Falcone in 2020’s SUPERINTELLIGENCE. “For years they have used their superpowers for malevolent purposes. It isn’t until Emily comes up with these formulas that enable regular people to have super powers that the Miscreants face a challenge for the first time.”

Among his malevolent crew are Laser (Pom Klementieff), The Crab (Jason Bateman) and Kenny (Falcone).

“Laser can manipulate the energy in the room and the spaces around her to create these big balls of power that she unleashes and destroys whatever is in her path,” says Klementieff, best known for her role in Marvel’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY franchise. “She is a psychopath who enjoys killing people. She has a very dark past.”

While Laser serves as The King’s muscle, another Miscreant, The Crab (Jason Bateman), serves as his right-hand man/sounding board.

The Crab came into his mutation in a different way from other Miscreants: his genitals were grabbed by a radioactive crab while skinny-dipping over a radioactive reef while on his honeymoon.

“My character became The Crab due to this unfortunate incident and ends up with these crab claws,” says Bateman, who previously worked with McCarthy in 2013’s IDENTITY THIEF. “He doesn’t have any real superpowers other than powerful claws - just these smelly seafood arms. And although they are powerful, they don’t open the door for a lot of opportunities. I can’t shave. My breath is horrendous. My zippers have a lot of big pulls. And I won’t even get into the bathroom stuff. Understandably, I’ve lost my job. The Crab tried to hold down a basic retail job and then he tried to, bless his heart, become a blackjack dealer at a local casino. He couldn’t keep any job so he turned to a life of crime and that’s how he found The King.”

Bateman thought it was a joke when Falcone first talked to him about playing the role. “I think Ben first mentioned it at drop off at school where our kids, who are best friends, go,” he says. “Ben says, ‘Hey we’re doing a film and we want you to play a crab in it.’ I probably said something like, ‘Great. Bye. See you at pick up.’ Then it slowly penetrated my reality. I read the script and thought, ‘What have I done?’ But at that point I was in. Otherwise, I might have destroyed our daughters’ relationship and my relationship with Ben and Melissa.”

“Jason Bateman or Jay Bae as we call him, is one of our dear friends, from way back,” says Falcone. “And, when I was writing the script, I thought well he’d be really, really funny as this snippy snarky crab.”

Similar to how the brash Lydia forms an unlikely friendship with the brilliant Emily, she also inexplicably develops an unlikely romantic relationship with The Crab. “In this fantastical world of the movie The Crab and Lydia’s relationship starts very contentious. As her superhero character, she comes in on a crime I’m committing,” says Bateman. “There’s an immediate spark. It is this unexplained, unexpected kind of chemistry between the two of them.”

“Lydia is a good person with a really good heart. The Crab isn’t a psycho Miscreant. He is a sensitive good-hearted man who just got his junk grabbed by a radioactive crab,” says McCarthy. “So, you can kind of understand the attraction.”

SUITING UP

The super suits for THUNDER FORCE were created by Jose Fernandez of Ironhead Studio who has done sculpting for and created suits and costume pieces for among others the X-MEN, AVENGERS, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, TRANSFORMERS and ALIEN film series.

“Jose is a baller – just this amazing artist,” says Falcone. “There are only a few places that can really do super suits because they’re incredibly complex to make and it takes months to make them. There is a lot of comedy in our film but I didn’t want a bunch of super bright colors that made the suits look comical. I wanted our suits to fit seamlessly into the world of superheroes.”

“I got choked up the first time I put it on,” says McCarthy. “Octavia and I, we’re maybe not of an age that usually gets to be the super heroes so, this was really cool.”

“Ironhead did such an amazing job that every time I put the costume on, I felt like I was turning into a super-hero,” says Spencer with a giggle. “Melissa and I did a lot of posing when we first saw each other in them. I am a fan of superhero films so this was a dream I got to live out.”


FAMILY AFFAIR

While casting the role of a younger Lydia, Falcone and McCarthy realized that the best person for the part was their daughter Vivian.

“We’ve kind of kept Vivian out of acting but she’s very good at it,” says Falcone. “We needed a person to play a twelve-year-old Lydia and Vivian is a dead ringer for Melissa at that age. She’s like her mom in that she can stay in the scene and then you can pitch her alternate ways that the scene can go based on what you think might be a little funnier or different - and she is able to make those adjustments. And she is only twelve.”

McCarthy and Falcone’s younger daughter Georgette also makes an appearance in THUNDER FORCE.

“In superhero movies you always need people to react to these amazing things that are going on. For the scene where Lydia throws a bus, I didn’t want to show a bunch of background actors just looking at what was going on,” says Falcone. “I wanted someone to say something. I thought a funny way to do it was to have a kid say, ‘That lady threw a bus.’ And we decided we would let Georgie do it. And she did a great job.”

In addition to actual family, over the years McCarthy and Falcone have put together a large family of friends many of whom they have worked with multiple times – some of whom appear on screen, others work behind the scenes.

Bateman who previously starred alongside McCarthy in IDENTITY THIEF and who claims the duo as his best friends, attributes part of the family feel on set to Ben.

“Ben is one of the kindest people you’ll meet and that permeates the set. He creates a really nice, comfortable, easy place to work,” says Bateman.

Cannavale and wife Rose Byrne have known McCarthy and Falcone since the two actresses worked in the Paul Feig directed BRIDESMAIDS. Later, both couples appeared in SPY, another Feig-helmed flick and then again in 2020 in SUPERINTELLIGENCE.

“We had such a good time working on that film that we said, ‘We have to do this again,’” he says. “They are just such swell folks. They surround themselves with people they enjoy being with. They take that and mesh it with this terrific work ethic. And that creates this atmosphere that is such a pleasure to work in.”

FEELING THE FORCE

When asked what they hope audiences will take away from the film, McCarthy says, “Of course, we want to entertain the audience. The action is amazing, the characters are great and Ben has put all of this heart into the story. And I want them to take away how these two strong women can be such close friends in spite of their differences. Also, we’ve all had friends that we were really close to as kids. I have remained friends with some of them forever. Others have kind of floated away. Maybe we all need to reach out to some of those friends who we have lost touch with because there is just something hopeful and even a little magical about long-standing friendships.”

“I want people of all ages to appreciate the idea that superheroes can come in every gender, shape, size and age,” says Spencer. “Really it is the idea that anybody can be a hero. You just have to decide what side of history you want to come down on.”

“What Melissa and I try to do with all of our movies is to put something good out there, not just a really entertaining movie but also a good-hearted movie,” says Falcone. “Hopefully, they laugh a whole lot and just walk away with a good feeling. Also, everybody in our family has their own preferences for things they like to watch. What I hope we have achieved with THUNDER FORCE is that we have given families a movie they can watch together and enjoy.”


Images - HOPPER STONE/NETFLIX © 2021.