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Countdown to ‘Hulk’: Screenwriter Michael France talks ‘Hulk’, ‘Punisher’ and Beyond

by  in Movie News, TV News Comment
Countdown to ‘Hulk’: Screenwriter Michael France talks ‘Hulk’, ‘Punisher’ and Beyond

In part one part
one
of our exclusive interview with “Hulk” screenwriter
Michael France, France talked about how his interest in comic books led to his
work on the new movie, and what elements from the comic he tried to work into
his version of the script. In part two, France comments on the WGA ruling and
also tells us a bit about his take on “The Punisher” and some other
upcoming projects.















CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE

While many writers have worked on the script for “Hulk”, it was
only recently that the Writers Guild of America reviewed all the various
iterations of the script and determined that France, John Turman and James Schamus all
deserved screen credit for writing it.

Naturally France is pleased with the ruling.

“John Turman and I contributed a great deal to the final film, and that
fact has been lost in a lot of the coverage of this movie. There’s been some
pretty inaccurate talk about the development of the screenplay — intimations in
some media that Schamus and Lee didn’t use any scripts written prior to their
arrival on the film. It’s not true. 

“It’s gotten so bad,” France joked, “that my wife won’t come
to the premiere because she’s afraid James Schamus will be given credit for our
twins.”

France continued, “Seriously, James Schamus did a significant amount of
work on the screenplay — for example, he brought in the Hulk dogs from the
comics and he made the decision to use Banner’s father as a real character in
the present. But he used quite a lot of elements from John Turman’s scripts and
quite a lot from mine, and that’s why we were credited. The Hulk is a
challenging property to adapt, and a great deal of that hard work was done
before James Schamus came on the project. It’s gratifying that this was
recognized, and that we will have our screenplay credits on the film. We earned
them.”

THE OTHER HULK

While the human underpinnings
of fantastic characters are a hallmark of Marvel comics, France also found those
themes present in “The Incredible Hulk” TV series, some episodes of
which are now available on DVD.

However, France admits that as a youngster
watching the show on TV he didn’t have a proper appreciation for it. “What I wanted to see was
‘Tales to Astonish:’ the Hulk
throwing tanks in the desert, which was not possible on a TV
budget and is really just barely possible now on a feature budget.

“Now that I look back on it, it’s really an amazing show,” France
said. ” It would have been really easy for them to just
camp it up and almost turn it into a sitcom. The fact that they handled it so
realistically is amazing.”

France also says he has admiration for Kenneth
Johnson, who shepherded the Hulk through his TV career.

“He wrote that line: ‘Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.’ That’s the
one that’s in every commercial. The fact that Kenneth Johnson, Bill Bixby and
Lou Ferrigno all did such a great job on that show is one of the main reasons
the Hulk still exists in the public mind. There are many people who remember the
show but who’ve never read a comic in their lives.”

CRIME AND “PUNISHER”

Of course the next big comic character that France has worked on that will be
coming to movie theaters is “The Punisher.” Almost as if history was
repeating itself, Jonathan Hensleigh is set to make his directing debut
following France’s work on the movie. However, this time France actually
completed a script, which served as Hensleigh’s starting point.

As with “Hulk,” France made some changes in order to find the human
character beneath the fantastic.

“There have been so many B movies that
have been done with a with a simple ‘you-killed-my-family, prepare-to-die’ vigilante plot line. I had to find a way to get around
that by going a little deeper into the character,” France said. “When I did mine I changed the origin a little bit by making Frank an FBI
agent who went undercover in the mob and he had a psychological problem
in that when he went undercover and had to be a bad guy, he was liking that a
little too much. In a sense it was like the Hulk/Banner problem. On the one
hand, Frank Castle was a very ordinary family man. On the other, he found he was
a little too comfortable acting like a psycho. So the most interesting struggle
in the movie is how those two sides of him play off of each other.

“For the sake of saving his soul, basically, and preserving
his family, he decided to quit and get out of it. That’s when his family gets
wiped out and finally he emerges full-blown as that bad guy trying to do good
things.”

One change that has fans scratching their heads, is the choice to move The
Punisher from New York City to Florida. France, a resident of St. Pete’s Beach
in Florida, admits that his script was set in Miami. However, after France’s
work on the project, the filming location and the setting became Tampa.

 

MORE COMICS TO FILM?

France remains a fan of comic books and hopes to continue to work with them
on the big screen.

“They’re terrific source material. They’re visuals and you can do things as
you try to adapt them that aren’t done in conventional action movies or science
fiction movies,” France said.

During the WGA arbitration for “Hulk” France and Turman read each
others drafts and became mutual fans. Subsequently the pair have started talking
about trying to find a project to work on together. Both are intrigued by
another Jack Kirby creation: “Challengers of the Unknown.”

“It’s one of those things that would be very conducive to movies. One of the
problems with the comic thing, which thankfully wasn’t a problem on ‘Hulk,’ is
justifying the costume. That’s something that we could dispense with pretty
easily in ‘Challengers.'”

However, another Marvel mainstay and Kirby
creation that would present the costume problem remains another wish list
property for France: “Captain America.”

“I’d love to do a World War II
‘Captain America,'” France said. “I’m also getting involved with a
terrific CrossGen comics series, and I hope to get that set up soon.”

 

THE ORIGINAL SUPERHEROES

With
“Punisher” and “Fantastic Four” closing in on production, we
asked France what’s next. 

It seems he and “Daredevil” producer
Gary Foster are developing a new movie that would based on Greek Mythology.
Although we learned that the name of the project is “Titans,” France
would not divulge much else.

“It’s a new take on a very old Greek myth,” France promised.
“We’re
taking some angles on this that nobody has ever done, which is remarkable
considering how many movies have been made about this.”

The project grew, in part, out of France’s love of the old Ray Harryhausen
films. 

“I want to really excite young fans of
this material with the movie the same way comics just lit me up when I was
a kid, that sense of fun and imagination
and excitement that were in the Ray Harryhausen pictures,” France said.
“It’s a lot of fun
working on it and it also gives me an excuse to watch Ray Harryhausen movies
about fifty times with my son.”

“The Hulk” opens in theaters everywhere this Friday.