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Countdown to ‘Hulk’: Ang Lee’s new green destiny

by  in Movie News, TV News Comment
Countdown to ‘Hulk’: Ang Lee’s new green destiny

Fans were both
surprised and delighted to learn that director Ang Lee had been tapped by Marvel
and Universal Pictures to helm the big-screen adaptation of “The
Hulk.” Lee had been known for smaller, human movies like “The Ice
Storm” and “Sense and Sensibility,” until 2000 when he turned the
kung fu genre on it’s ear with “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Friday, Lee explores the “hidden dragon” in all of us in the F/X
powerhouse “The Hulk.” Lee recently sat down with the press to talk
about the movie. At the roundtable interview, members of the press took turns
asking questions about the development of the film. Comics2Film/CBR News is
please to present this edited transcript of that interview.


Q: I was quite impressed by your performance as the Hulk this morning at the
ILM presentation. (An ILM video presentation showed footage of the director
acting 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 act
but there you were giving quite a convincing performance and you’re not fifteen
feet tall.

AL: And I didn’t do the three miles jump either. I probably do everything
else. 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 it

AL: I don’t think I changed the story. His father was always…one issue they
bring the father back. One issue they had the Hulk dogs. The father always see
the baby as a monster because he’s a genetic experiment. That’s all from the
book. 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 the

AL: Well there are hundreds of issues that are all over the places. I took
whatever 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 this
huge fan base that are watching you? Do you worry about it or do you just make
your movie?

AL: I just make your movies. I work a little with Marvel. Anything jump out
and 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 so

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 psychology
of…it’s a comic book like pulp fiction with martial arts in China, the hidden
pleasure. It shows a lot of psychology. It’s good material for

They were good to do all those wonderful, visual things. If it can hold it to
a 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. An
American version of “Hidden Dragon.”

Q: In what way?

AL: It’s the subconsciousness. It’s not guarded by our consciousness or
behavior or rationale or social code or morality. It’s there. It’s four-fifth of
our being and we cover it up with the scheme of brain activities…when it has
a physical manifestation due to the catalyst of anger…you see the
aggression, the true self, the “hidden dragon,” I kept calling

That’s great material. That’s a big movie without using a movie star to
draw 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 and
being very hands-on with ILM and working with something you’re not really noted

AL: No, I wasn’t familiar with that at all. I just had that desire to cast
the 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 and
means of doing it. So two summers ago Larry Franco, the line producer, who just
come off of “Jurassic Park,” went through “Jurassic Park
III” with me. “How we do this. How we do that. This is CG. That’s
animatronic. That’s real something. That’s a model. That’s composite. This is a
real 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 doing
this, what can we offer you. The next two or three generations we can do this
and that and add complexity, all the promises, although there’s not really a
test 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 skin
color’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 put
the 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 scared
and work around it and work to overcome it. One or two years to make that movie
gradually, gradually the way you light it. Shot-by-shot…it’s a fashion of hand
craft. It’s not like push-button, “There’s a way to do it. I see it, I know
I 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 can
play both the hidden…naturally he doesn’t have to play…he has to look like
he 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 worked

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. Just
tweaking sight and sound.

Q: After watching the ILM presentation this morning, all this incredibly
detailed and expensive work to create the Hulk. Why couldn’t you do it with a
big actor?

AL: The bone structure, the shape is different. Acting is different, of
course 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 a
summer movie?

AL: No. It’s not like CG work…it’s not like in music you have to put
electronic 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. He
can not do what [Hulk] does. The facial structure is different. The
proportion…if you put in some suit it’s “Godzilla”, the Japanese

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. Was
than an homage to the comics medium?

AL: Yeah. Of course. Also doing comic book give me a good excuse to try
something 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.

think on big screen it’s different because your eyes don’t have the simple grasp
of the picture. You have to really direct them. That principal is very similar
to when you open up a page of comic book, your eyes go somewhere and you choose
what you see, not necessarily like regular movie viewing experience which the
filmmaker edited, mandating you to watch in a certain way. You get a choice. You
can go back and forth.

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

Q: It reminded
me 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 of
the 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: I
read somewhere that you wanted to do more of that, but actually cut back a bit.

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

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

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

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

Q: You’ve traveled all over the
world and I wonder if you’ve ever taken a trip where you’ve finished, went back
home and said to yourself, “I’m looking at the world in a different way
because of what I’ve just experienced in my trip.’

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

Q: Can you
think of a specific place you’ve gone where you felt it had a dramatic impact on

AL: Yeah, like Jerusalem, if I go there, I’d never imagined a world like
that. 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 different
temples and religions. One holy site will be carved up by different religions or
branches of religions. It just fascinates me. It tells me so much about the
world 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?

I don’t know. It has to be something that excites me. Right now I don’t have
anything 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 the
old TV show?

AL: Yeah, sure. Why not? It should be. That’s how I know the character. From
him. 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 do
things for you. You wish you could be him and smash anything that gets in your
way. We all feel frustration and rage in life and we have to repress that. We
have to come to terms with people.

But I think that type of layer, which is the deepest layer in your head has
no 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 Hulk
inside all of us. Were they interested in all about the CG technology and
representation of Hulk?

AL: That’s the last result. I think as you look at him, one of the most
difficult 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 him
like an actor, so that’s the hardest part for me.

So that’s the physical rendering of the Hulk. But when I work with actors
they have nothing to look at, even when they’re looking at him, they’re not
looking at him, so they’re doing their own performances. So on that level, when
I deal with him I would tell them, they’re like me. They’re all part of the
Hulk. 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 to
hunt 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 his
daughter. 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 the

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

So all of them they have to deal with that Hulk level. That’s how I invited
them 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 just
part of the ingredient. It’s the catalyst.

The idea of the Hulk is the thing of hiding the negative zones. I did have a
taste of that. My Hulk out is making this movie. The big I-don’t-know-what. Now
I 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 in
front 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 and
defuse it a little bit. The dog fight: they gave a PG before it’s finished and
wanted 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 dog
fight…Larry went through “Jurassic Park,” [it all] depends on how
they [the MPAA] feel.

We do have thoughts about it but there’s no telling with that system. You
just 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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