New York The Boston Red Sox have been known to drive their fans crazy. For longtime, wicked-diehard Michael Chiklis, they helped keep him sane.
While shooting the movie "Fantastic Four" in Vancouver, Chiklis spent long, arduous hours being transformed into the comic-book superhero The Thing.
It was hot, heavy, head-to-toe.
"It was hellish," said the actor best known for playing tough-guy detective Vic Mackey on the FX television series "The Shield."
But fortunately for the New England native, all this was taking place last October while his beloved Sox were making the run to their first World Series victory in 86 years - and that provided some relief.
"The Red Sox sincerely got me through this movie," Chiklis told The Associated Press over an egg-white omelet breakfast.
"Sixty pounds of latex - it was hellish. So I spent most of my time in the makeup chair watching the Boston Red Sox, which was phenomenal. This was during the playoffs and the series. I saw all of it," said Chiklis, who turns 42 on Aug. 30 - the same birthday as Ted Williams.
"Sometimes I saw whole games without doing a shot in my full makeup. I needed something, anything, to get me out of my head when I was in that."
Chiklis had famously changed his body four years ago to win the part of Mackey, a cop with a fluid sense of right and wrong, which earned him a surprise lead-actor Emmy in 2002 and a Golden Globe the following year. He'd shaved his head and worked out two hours a day, six days a week, to shed the roly-poly shape he had from playing John Belushi in the 1989 film "Wired" - his first big break, which bombed - and starring in the '90s TV series "The Commish."
(In person, the affable, blue-eyed Chiklis has some of the same energy as his TV persona, as if he's about to burst out of his skin even before his first cup of coffee.)
Fantastic Four * 1/2
Its plot is stretched thin. Its creativity is nearly invisible. Its logic is rocky. And the whole enterprise goes up in flames. Marvel Comic's latest and least impressive entry into its recent superhero adaptations comes across as hokey and dated under director Tim Story ("Taxi"), whose campy approach does the material no favors.
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But after preparing to play Ben Grimm, an astronaut who mutates into the hulking, orange Thing after being exposed to radiation, he realized, "I blew it - I did the wrong thing."
"I thought, well, I'm gonna be in this suit all day, I'm going to need endurance, so I started running 10Ks," he said. "The day I put it on I realized I had made a mistake - I had trained improperly for this. It's 60 pounds and it's insanely hot. And I rarely got into any kind of cardiovascular area, but my heart rate went up immediately because of the heat. What I should have done was put a 60-pound pack on my back and walked around with it for 12 hours."
Director Tim Story ("Barbershop," "Taxi") tried to be attentive to how Chiklis was feeling. He shifted around the schedule with co-stars Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba and Chris Evans and used doubles whenever possible to get Chiklis out of the costume quickly.
"When he first got in the suit, I remember him going - with just the mask on - 'I don't know if I can do this.' And in that instant, as we sat and talked about it, he felt better," Story said.
"It was scary when he first said that to me," he added. "This guy is such a professional; for him to say that, you know he's serious. He's not a diva who cries when he has blue M&M;'s in his M&M; jar."
A summer popcorn movie might seem like a surprising choice for someone who has received such acclaim for the powerful work he's done with meaty, adult material.
Chiklis acknowledges: "I didn't take this because it was going to be a tour de force as an actor. I have that satiated with 'The Shield,' I really do. ...
"I did this for my kids, for myself," he said with a laugh. "I loved The Thing when I was growing up."
But appearing in a big action movie which could turn into a franchise is part of a bigger plan, something he's discussed with his wife of 13 years, Michelle, with whom he has two daughters: 11-year-old Autumn, who also plays his daughter on "The Shield," and 6-year-old Odessa.
"Frankly, quite honestly, for a career, it's not a stupid move to become involved with something like this," he said. "It's employment potentially for 10 years. It gets your name out there in an international context that puts you on all those lists that you must be on as an actor in order to get movies greenlit. It's a giant, tremendous stepping stone, is what it is. But it's also great in itself - a great job to have, a great vehicle to be involved in."