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Countdown to 'Hulk': Ang Lee's new green destiny

Fans were bothsurprised and delighted to learn that director Ang Lee had been tapped by Marveland Universal Pictures to helm the big-screen adaptation of "TheHulk." Lee had been known for smaller, human movies like "The IceStorm" and "Sense and Sensibility," until 2000 when he turned thekung fu genre on it's ear with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

OnFriday, Lee explores the "hidden dragon" in all of us in the F/Xpowerhouse "The Hulk." Lee recently sat down with the press to talkabout the movie. At the roundtable interview, members of the press took turnsasking questions about the development of the film. Comics2Film/CBR News isplease to present this edited transcript of that interview.

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WARNING: THIS TRANSCRIPT CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS

Q: I was quite impressed by your performance as the Hulk this morning at theILM presentation. (An ILM video presentation showed footage of the directoracting out the transformation scene for animator reference).

Ang Lee (AL): You found it amusing?

Q: Well it was just a shock because we don't think directors can really actbut there you were giving quite a convincing performance and you're not fifteenfeet tall.

AL: And I didn't do the three miles jump either. I probably do everythingelse. When you're desperate you can do anything.

Q: I've heard the comic fans will be upset by the changes to the story.Can you talk about your concept for the Hulk and why you decided to make itdifferent?

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AL: I don't think I changed the story. His father was always...one issue theybring the father back. One issue they had the Hulk dogs. The father always seethe baby as a monster because he's a genetic experiment. That's all from thebook. Especially visually I honestly take it from the book.

Q: Did the father kill the mother in the comics?

AL: Yeah. Later issue. Back-story.

Q: I'm not familiar with the comics either. What were some of thedifferences?

AL: Well there are hundreds of issues that are all over the places. I tookwhatever I need. That fan probably see one issue, this see the other, maybe.

Q: What do you feel when you make a movie like this, knowing you've got thishuge fan base that are watching you? Do you worry about it or do you just makeyour movie?

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AL: I just make your movies. I work a little with Marvel. Anything jump outand they'll let me know of it. They're very flexible.

The father is always very important, whether you take one form or another,the father is always a big shadow. That's part of the reason he is the Hulk.

Avi was there. The staff is there.

Q: You said when you are desperate you can do anything. Why were you sodesperate?

AL: I'm not desperate. I just like to do it. After the fortunate success of"Crouching Tiger"...

Q: ...you could do anything.

AL: Yeah, and that's what I chose. It's wild, this hidden psychologyof...it's a comic book like pulp fiction with martial arts in China, the hiddenpleasure. It shows a lot of psychology. It's good material forpsychodrama.

They were good to do all those wonderful, visual things. If it can hold it toa dramatic content, that's the biggest challenge I can think of for the moment.Some of the story elements broke my heart.

"Hulk" to me is the new "Hidden Dragon" for me. AnAmerican version of "Hidden Dragon."

Q: In what way?

AL: It's the subconsciousness. It's not guarded by our consciousness orbehavior or rationale or social code or morality. It's there. It's four-fifth ofour being and we cover it up with the scheme of brain activities...when it hasa physical manifestation due to the catalyst of anger...you see theaggression, the true self, the "hidden dragon," I kept callingit.

That's great material. That's a big movie without using a movie star todraw in the first group of audience.

To me, at that time, it was a dream project.

Q: Can you talk about what it's like jumping in to the new technology andbeing very hands-on with ILM and working with something you're not really notedfor?

AL: No, I wasn't familiar with that at all. I just had that desire to castthe big, green guy as a member of the cast.

Q: But on a personal level, what is it like for you?

AL: I had to learn how to do it. Before I jump in I had to check the ways andmeans of doing it. So two summers ago Larry Franco, the line producer, who justcome off of "Jurassic Park," went through "Jurassic ParkIII" with me. "How we do this. How we do that. This is CG. That'sanimatronic. That's real something. That's a model. That's composite. This is areal shoot."

I think anyone can pick that up in two hours.

Then I had a tour of ILM. "What they can do these days. If we're doingthis, what can we offer you. The next two or three generations we can do thisand that and add complexity, all the promises, although there's not really atest yet."

So, those ways and means. I think it's a will to try to make it work. Then,of course, at one point you all find out that it's not that easy. Actually skincolor's easier. Once you pour the color green, it's not real. What do you do?You take side-by-side with the actors he has more detail than the actor. You putthe green on he's not real. How do you deal with that? How do you break it out?

And then moist and the hair. Everything he touches. So there we got scaredand work around it and work to overcome it. One or two years to make that moviegradually, gradually the way you light it. Shot-by-shot...it's a fashion of handcraft. It's not like push-button, "There's a way to do it. I see it, I knowI can do it." It's a learning process for both me and them.

Q: Can you talk about why you cast Eric Bana in the lead?

AL: He was brought to my attention through casting director. I saw the movie"Chopper." I was looking for someone not only look like Bruce Banner,but who could play the Hulk, himself too.

Q: Bruce Banner of the comics.

AL: The comic he was a wimp. Nobody care. [laughs]

You can not do that in motion picture because it is photography, not drawing.

So I was looking for a combination, a person carries both demeanors and canplay both the hidden...naturally he doesn't have to play...he has to look likehe has the potential. So looking at "Chopper" I had no doubt for him.

Then I met him. He's a very nice gentleman. We hit it off and then we workedtogether.

Q: Sam Elliott said you made a change just two days ago. What was the scene?

AL: That's timing. No, the picture was locked for quite a while. Justtweaking sight and sound.

Q: After watching the ILM presentation this morning, all this incrediblydetailed and expensive work to create the Hulk. Why couldn't you do it with abig actor?

AL: The bone structure, the shape is different. Acting is different, ofcourse and the way he can do things is different.

Believe me, a body builder is a lot cheaper than a green guy. They know that.

He does better.

Q: Is it almost compulsory for a director to work with big CGI effects on asummer movie?

AL: No. It's not like CG work...it's not like in music you have to putelectronic beat to hip it up. It's nothing like that.

It's: CGI gives the best result. You get a big body builder; he's clumsy. Hecan not do what [Hulk] does. The facial structure is different. Theproportion...if you put in some suit it's "Godzilla", the Japanese"Godzilla."

That's really the easy answer. If you want to do it you have to go CG.

Q: I noticed in your technique you have almost comic book-like panels. Wasthan an homage to the comics medium?

AL: Yeah. Of course. Also doing comic book give me a good excuse to trysomething I always wanted to try without distracting, without being distracting.I think time is right, especially for kids, growing up with today's television,cartoons and internet video games. It'll be easier for the younger generation.

Ithink on big screen it's different because your eyes don't have the simple graspof the picture. You have to really direct them. That principal is very similarto when you open up a page of comic book, your eyes go somewhere and you choosewhat you see, not necessarily like regular movie viewing experience which thefilmmaker edited, mandating you to watch in a certain way. You get a choice. Youcan go back and forth.

So it's very much by the comic book, particularly theAmerican comic book, not so much Japanese. They don't do that.

Q: It remindedme of "Thomas Crown."

AL: Yeah, the seventies. It was fashionable.They do it as a display. I like to go further and choreograph them as part ofthe film language, not just as transitional or display, which I did sometimes.Sometimes I used them to precede a scene, make it tighter, more exciting.

Q: Iread somewhere that you wanted to do more of that, but actually cut back a bit.

AL:Yes, I think it's probably the first time in a movie I don't have references. Iwould do this and that, and then some of them would be distracting. This movie'snot tested because we're always in the process of filling the picture.

SoI would guess some resistance from the editor or people work around me. If theyfound it distracting I'd have to think twice about it. If they got excited Iknow it's a good idea.

So it was a trial and error kind of thing. So you endup there are moments more dramatic if you decide not to do it. I think threeyears from now it could be a different story, because people will have differentviewing habits.

What might be a problem today won't be a problem threeyears from now. I think it's an ongoing experiment of film language. For nowthis is probably the best way where we start.

Q: You've traveled all over theworld and I wonder if you've ever taken a trip where you've finished, went backhome and said to yourself, "I'm looking at the world in a different waybecause of what I've just experienced in my trip.'

AL: Yeah. There's somewhereyou get to know them by the real texture and to be away from somewhere andcoming home makes you look at it as a whole, with accuracy.

Q: Can youthink of a specific place you've gone where you felt it had a dramatic impact onyou?

AL: Yeah, like Jerusalem, if I go there, I'd never imagined a world likethat. I'd always known about Jerusalem, there is a city there, this and that.But to actually see it is just totally bizarre to me. All kinds of differenttemples and religions. One holy site will be carved up by different religions orbranches of religions. It just fascinates me. It tells me so much about theworld and who we are as human beings.

Q: Are you contracted to do a sequel to"The Hulk"?

AL: I don't know. Right now I cannot think of anything.It's like going into the Trojan war.

Q: Would you want to do another one?

AL:I don't know. It has to be something that excites me. Right now I don't haveanything in my head. I'm kind of drained.

Q: Were you familiar with the comic books growing up?

AL: No. Not this one. I'm not familiar with American comic books.

Q: But you read Chinese comics?

AL: Chinese. Translated Japanese.

Q: And you wanted Lou Ferrigno in "The Hulk" as an homage to theold TV show?

AL: Yeah, sure. Why not? It should be. That's how I know the character. Fromhim. Not from the comic books.

Q: Did you watch the TV show?

AL: Yeah. Not all of them but a lot of them.

Q: As a kid or recently, as research?

AL: No. Growing up.

Q: Why do you think the Hulk has become such an icon?

AL: Aggression. You wish you could do what he does. He smashes things. He dothings for you. You wish you could be him and smash anything that gets in yourway. We all feel frustration and rage in life and we have to repress that. Wehave to come to terms with people.

But I think that type of layer, which is the deepest layer in your head hasno such moral sense. Sometimes you just want to Hulk out and, what the hell.

I think he does that to you.

Q: The actors have talked about how you articulated this sense of the Hulkinside all of us. Were they interested in all about the CG technology andrepresentation of Hulk?

AL: That's the last result. I think as you look at him, one of the mostdifficult parts for me, other than keeping balance is, you follow this guy,you're now thinking one CG shot after another CG shot. You have to follow himlike an actor, so that's the hardest part for me.

So that's the physical rendering of the Hulk. But when I work with actorsthey have nothing to look at, even when they're looking at him, they're notlooking at him, so they're doing their own performances. So on that level, whenI deal with him I would tell them, they're like me. They're all part of theHulk. The whole movie is the Hulk, the whole Hulk experience.

When they look at the Hulk they're dealing with their inner demon.

Sam [Elliott], for example, the man has a lot of complex feelings. He has tohunt this guy. He has jealousy. He hates Bruce Banner and has guilt to this kid.He hates his father and he has to hunt down this big green guy who smashed hisdaughter. So all of that thing has to play. That's his Hulk.

So everybody I would try to find a darker side, when they're confronting theHulk.

Jennifer [Connelly] for example: this guy doesn't open up. Sometimes she'drather...she's like the father, rather him Hulk out then be a battle ofboyfriend.

So all of them they have to deal with that Hulk level. That's how I invitedthem to be part of the movie. The whole movie is the Hulk.

Q: When is the last time you had to Hulk out? You seem so calm and centered.

AL: Oh, you have no idea.

I don't do that. I don't Hulk out that way. I think the Hulk and rage is justpart of the ingredient. It's the catalyst.

The idea of the Hulk is the thing of hiding the negative zones. I did have ataste of that. My Hulk out is making this movie. The big I-don't-know-what. NowI have to talk my way out of it. I'm de-Hulking into Bruce Banner again.

But the whole experience adds a lot. But I did lose it a couple times. Not infront of anybody. A lot of pressure.

Q: Did you worry about the ratings?

AL: A little bit. We modified the climax scene. Make the shots longer anddefuse it a little bit. The dog fight: they gave a PG before it's finished andwanted to see it after it was done. That was OK. We got a PG-13.

We don't know. We were more concerned about the dramatic scenes. The dogfight...Larry went through "Jurassic Park," [it all] depends on howthey [the MPAA] feel.

We do have thoughts about it but there's no telling with that system. Youjust have to send in and see what they do.

Q: Do you see the Hulk as a superhero?

AL: No.

Q: He's kind of a green King Kong, right?

AL: He's more monster. More monster of a horror picture than superhero,although he does save a bridge and all that, but I never see him as a superhero.

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William Goldman, Author of The Princess Bride, Passes Away
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