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Countdown to ‘Hulk’: Producers Avi Arad and Gale Anne Hurd talk

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Q: The idea of Ang Lee directing the hulk. What was your first reaction?

Avi Arad (AA): Wow!

That was my first…well, when Gale and I had this very short list of
directors, we knew that to do the Hulk, we couldn’t use a shooter. It needed to
be a character-based director. 

At the very, very top [of the list] was Ang, especially after “Crouching
Tiger” because “Crouching Tiger” showed us, more than “The
Ice Storm,” showed us that he can do a great character piece and
outlandish, out of this world action. The action in “Crouching Tiger”
didn’t make any sense: walking on twigs. Flying on water and all this biblical
stuff. We knew that this movie would have to be a really complicated mix of high
drama and out of this world action.

Ang, as you know, was not a reader of the
comics. His kids were. He had to get inside it, because the world offered him
every movie, obviously after “Crouching Tiger,” and he had to get his
arms around the base story about who is Bruce Banner and how do you qualify to
eventually erupt and have the patience to deal with the drama of our character.
And answer this old age question, controlling your anger.

You send your kids
to pre-school so they socialize and they learn to control their anger. And you
go to the shrink to control your own, and so on, and so forth.

So that’s a
really, really interesting metaphor for our world. We needed a genius  to
come in and embrace that, and really get into it and understand the kind of
people he had to bring with him.

James is his partner, collaborator. James is
almost too intelligent for his own good. In this case it was very, very
important to bring the movie to now, because it’s a forty-year-old property. We
had to bring the science up to date. What was science fiction forty years ago,
today is starting to really get grounded in interesting science.

For that you
need a team that is really intelligent and committed and wants to tell a
difficult story. Above all you need to find a director who just stood up to the
challenge of directing CGI. Until now we saw CGI as augmenting the figure or
morphing someone. This had to come to life. We had to get close-ups because the
story of Bruce and the Hulk starts [with the eyes].

Q: James received sole
story credit. What was it about the story that James and Ang pitched? There must
have been other scripts out there?

AA: Well, it’s a controversial question so
let me count to ten…

It’s all source material. I think it’s an issue that
will continue with the writer’s guild. Source material is sort of an adaptation.
As you know after forty years we have a lot of stories.

Actually, unless you
are sort of a Marvel geek, you may not even know that we have a great issue in
which we show baby Hulk, baby Banner with a green halo around him.

After a lot
of soul searching, the differences that James and Ang and us chose a different
story than just Rick Jones on a motor-cycle and Hulk cut his finger and becomes
the Hulk; just the simplicity of adrenaline. You cannot make movies like that.
Not for our tastes.

We wanted to bring the audience up, not to go down. Even
the television show had great drama. That’s why it was so successful. Prime
time, a guy that turns green: that’s not easy to do. So the show paid homage to
our brains and the movie had to even supercede that.

I don’t understand the
whole credit business. All that I know is that James and Ang came in with a
fresh approach where to start our story. What is the most interesting element,
even though if it was one or two issues, as a jump-start to form a story, maybe
slightly different, but enough to understand and to create this incredible
drama.

Q: In the books the father kills his mother, right?

AA: Yes,
absolutely.

Q: And the father does this to him as baby, right?

AA: But there
is, is he a scientist, was he put away? There are things we added here…

Gale
Anne Hurd (GH):
There’s a whole Greek tragedy element to this that I think is
really important. There is inherent in the books stuff that obviously we were
able to expand upon. But this really is Greek tragedy. 

Things are put
into motion long before our character reaches adulthood that are going to all
collide. I think that’s what makes it psychologically really interesting. It
makes the drama compelling. This is an origin story so it’s really about how
does Bruce Banner become the Hulk and why.

Q: The early Hulk created by ILM
wasn’t good enough for the film. Can you talk about how the early models fell
short? Did it not have good enough hair?

GH: We didn’t even…hair is the last
thing that you put on.

Q: What did he look like in the beginning that you had
to change?

GH: There was nothing wrong with it actually. It was simply a fact
of: it takes a lot of time. There are 125 digital artists who worked on every
shot of the Hulk. Early on you just get an idea, you get a movement idea…

AA:
…the last thing that you finish is the…

GH: …is the emotion. Are the
eyes.

AA: The marketing starts a year in advance, so it’s a nightmare. How
much do you show?

GH: You don’t the refined vision of the Hulk until the very
last moment.

AA: Also it’s out of context. You just see something standing
there. 

I’ll give you another example. I believe that the reason for our
success is that we take the medium as it is. When you make a movie, make things
that will work right for a movie. 

I’ll never forget when I got e-mails,
life-threats that Hugh Jackman is six-foot three and Wolverine is five-five.

So
you have to look at it [like] this is a movie and you have to make it the best
movie you can. There is nothing in the movie that is not based on Kirby.
Nothing. Zero. The Hulk concept. The Hulk. People are remembering Lou Ferrigno.
They forgot about the books. We went right to the beginning to create this
creature from the books.

Q: But what’s more important: the legend or the
reality? If people think that Lou Ferrigno in the TV series is the bible for the
Hulk aren’t you then going into…

GH: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I think
the most important thing is to make a good movie. At the end of the day, it is
absolutely critical to not second-guess yourself. Once you bring on board
someone like Ang Lee and you bring on board James Schamus and they respond to
the story. They respond to the drama inherent in the character, the last thing
you want to do is second-guess every move along the way. 

If you look at
movies you don’t like, you’ll probably find that those are people who are second-guessing what the audience is gonna say, what the studio executives are gonna
say. 

I think you simply embrace the filmmaking team from the very beginning.
When they express the kind of passion for the material that they did, and if
you’ve seen the ILM material, you realize, “oh, the frames from the classic
comics were there all along.”

You are embracing something that has
existed for forty years, not only as books, but as an animated series as well as
the TV series. So it’s available in a lot of different mediums.

Q: How is
‘Spider-Man 2’ coming along? 

AA: Fantastic.

Q: Tobey’s back?

AA:
Tobey never left.

Q: What was that?

AA: Years ago he had a herniated disk.
There was some concern on his part. You know, you make accommodations because
when you look at Peter Parker, it’s Tobey and Tobey is Peter Parker and
thankfully every day when you look at him on the set, he’s the happiest guy.
You’ll see.

It wasn’t about money. It’s amazing how everybody turns it into
money. It was about worrying about someone’s health.

Q: Was Jake
Gyllenhaal cast at one point?

AA: He was talked to in case Tobey couldn’t do it, so it
was a true concern. It’s an action movie. It’s not a walk-and-talk and he’s a
young man who has a life in front of him and, God forbid, he would have gotten
further injuries. 

So it was really out of good will and it got blown up.

Q:
Are you planning on doing the Max, adult line of Marvel comics?

AA: We don’t
do Max or non-Max. We take our characters, Gale and I are about to start
“The Punisher,” and we do the best story we can.

Max is a line of
comics that is sort of adult stuff. Some of it, personally, I don’t even like. I
don’t think that gratuitous violence makes good movies. We have different
characters. It’s about: take the best there is there, and get inside the person.

What,
to me, with Ang, God bless him in his genius, did: he got us to the point where
we were begging for Bruce Banner to erupt. You have to let go, man. No one is
going to cut you slack. You have to let go. It’s coming. Just deal with it. It’s
coming. 

That’s what we have to do, develop the character story. The
creature: we knew, enough money, enough talent, we’d get it, but we had to get
Banner.

Q: What about another Daredevil or Elektra movie?

AA: Elektra will
start to shoot in April.

Q: I read the Garth Ennis “Punisher” comics
and it has a lot of dark humor in it. Jonathan Hensleigh puts that kind of stuff
in his movies. Will it reflect the Garth Ennis Story.

AA: It’s Garth’s story,
in a way.

Q: Why did you pick Thomas Jane for “The Punisher.”

GH:
Because, once again, he’s an actor. He’s an actor first who has a physicality. I
don’t know if you saw “61*” where he played Mickey Mantle.

AA:
That’s the formula. You’re saying, “Why Eric Bana?”

You see
“Chopper.” You see an amazing actor. You see someone with warm eyes,
someone you want to like, that you have sympathy, empathy for. And he’s fresh.
There’s no baggage coming with a guy like that. That’s the formula.

Q: Are you
doing “Ghost Rider?”

AA: Starting end of the year.