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Countdown to 'Hulk': Josh Lucas: Slimy bad guy

In "Hulk" Josh Lucas plays Glen Talbot, an ambitious and ruthlessmilitary scientist working for the U.S. military who torments Dr. Bruce Bannerover his scientific discovery of a new process that could generate supersoldiers. 

Lucas recently sat down with the press to talk about his work playingTalbot in the movie. At the roundtable interview, members of the press took turns asking questionsabout the development of the film. Comics2Film/CBR News is pleased to presentthis edited transcript of that interview.

WARNING: THIS TRANSCRIPT CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS

Q: Josh, we look at you in this movie and you are such a revolting, slimycharacter...

Josh Lucas (JL): ...a bad guy...

Q: ...and I wonder if this is a smart movie for a guy who just played theromantic lead opposite Reese Witherspoon in "Sweet Home Alabama." Willpeople ever be able to see you as a nice guy again?

JL: I had to dissipate that idea immediately; I guess is what it was.

Look. I mean the simple answer is this: I would have been an extra in thismovie. I would have been somebody running away from the Hulk in San Franciscoyou know, going, "AAAHHH," trying to get a glance at Ang.

To me, I would have done anything and I was so incredibly excited to workwith Ang, that's really what it came down to.

But at the same time, to then go do a movie which is literally the absoluteopposite of the performance I had just given, which is the thing that interestsme most. The thing that fascinates me most about great actors and particularlygreat directors, in working with someone like Ang, is that they are alwayscompletely trying to shift from what they've done, from the last thing they'vedone, into either a new genre, a new style, to push themselves.

For me it was something I've never done, never been a part of. And it was acomic book too and it was a sense of, I did want him from the moment yousee...Ang and I talked about this...from the moment you see him you want him tobe someone, the audience is like, "ew."

That's literally, I think, is the exact opposite of Jake.

Q: What did you like about Talbot? What did you not like about him?

JL: Not much I liked about him. 

I think that's OK. Actors always say you have to love your characters orwhatever. I think there are people I met in life that I don't like and that Idon't necessarily think like themselves.

What's interesting in this case about Talbot is that I think Talbot loveshimself. Here's a man who wakes up and spends forty-five minutes blow-drying hishair even though he's got a demolished body. That takes a very specific kind ofspirit. 

So what I like about him is the playing and the discovery of what kind ofhuman being that would be to literally believe at any given moment, to justifyhis horrific behavior for the fact that he's going to save humanity withenhanced G.I.s. He's ludicrous, the ego and the ambition that goes inside ofsomeone like that.

So I like the discovery of that, in terms of who he is. I don't have a singlemoment in relationship to him. He's a military science that he's somehowsubverted into this ugly, ugly sense of ego and ambition.

Q: Did you read the comics as a kid? Were you a comic book guy?

JL: I wasn't. I didn't know it. I didn't ever have a comic book growing up.We didn't have a TV growing up so I wasn't into the TV series. 

Q: Was it because you were too poor? Or did your parents feel it was a badinfluence?

JL: They were really anti-TV, is what it comes down to. They just genuinelybelieve that TV was destructive.

Q: You weren't allowed to read comic books?

JL: Not that I wasn't allowed. No. Comic books certainly would have beenallowed; it's just that I was never introduced to them. Probably if any of themI would have liked it probably would have been "The Hulk." 

I heard Stan Lee talking on National Public Radio about why, particularly,teenage boys relate so much to The Hulk. The mythology that you have thisincredible, repressed rage particularly as the hormones are streaming throughyour body at that age, and you wish, desperately, and I remember breaking myhand as a fourteen year old boy, and really wishing that I could change andtransform and I wouldn't have to worry about any of the destruction that I wasabout to wreak and I think that's why people relate to Hulk so much differentlythan a Spider-Man or a Batman.

Q: Why did you break your hand?

JL: It's just the thing of being a teenage boy and being filled with so muchhormones and rage. I don't even know what I was so upset with my parents about.I remember pounding downstairs, jumping into this silly water bed that I hadspent months buying myself, turning around. It had this huge headboard andgoing, "BAM" and just "CRACK."

And then having walked back upstairs with my tail between my legs and saying,"I think we have to go to the hospital."

Q: What did your mom say?

JL: They laughed.

But if I was The Hulk I could have destroyed the entire house and turned backinto myself and like, "I don't know what happened. I'm really sorry."

Q: Are your parents mortified that you've become an actor in this mediumwhere you could end up on TV?

JL: No. They loved film. When we grew up, my parents were fascinatedparticularly by Pauline Kale. So my whole film education is based on my parents'extraordinary, intellectual love of cinema, particularly world cinema.

So I haven't had a huge fascination with Hollywood and that's been theamazing thing about being part of something like this which is Hollywood,I think, at its most exalted, most art-oriented form, because of Ang, entirely.

So if anything, quite the opposite. You know, at the beginning of my career,I was actually doing television and that was very uncomfortable for me and notby any means something my parents felt particularly proud of.

Q: Where did you grow up and what did your folks do?

JL: Activists. My parents were political activists, particularlyanti-nuclear. We live all over the south.

Q: Could they support themselves as anti-nuclear activists?

JL: We were poor. We were totally poor. They're both doctors now, but we wereliving on welfare.

Q: How did they become doctors then?

JL: They stopped when they had my brothers and sisters they went to medicalschool.

Q: How many siblings do you have?

JL: Three younger.

Q: Are your parents still activists?

JL: How do I put this? I think they felt that they did a profound amount ofwork towards the causes they believed in for a long enough period of time, and Ithink they're, not jaded, but I think they're quite frustrated with the apathythat they don't feel they have much influence or say anymore.

They're not like someone like Tim Robbins or Susan Sarandon. Those guys arestill quite actively involved. They still are financially I would say.

And I think that's actually been a belief of mine as well that you can bemuch more profoundly influencing even silently with money.

Q: How did life change after "Sweet Home Alabama?"

JL: Once you're a part of a Hollywood movie and, particularly in a leadingrole in a Hollywood movie that has an extraordinary box office, everythingchanges because you become someone that, not just that studios, but filmmakerscan raise money based on your involvement in a movie.

So, for me it quickly became what kind of movies do I want to use this for.The first thing I did after "Hulk" was, I just finished this movie. Ifinished a segment of three very, very small, very low-budget movies withextraordinary directors.

The one was directed by this guy David Gordon Green with Terrence Malickproducing and writing. It's now called "Undertow" but they're gonnachange it.

The other one is a movie called "Wonderland" which was made for$2.6 million, which is...

Q: The Laurel Canyon murders?

JL: Yeah.

Q: Are you somebody scummy and terrible in that?

JL: Everyone is in that movie.

It's a dark, interesting film. It's an amazing story.

You've got like fifteen remarkable actors, basically doing a movie for freebecause they are so in love with the script and with the style of filmmakingthat was happening.

So he's Tim Blake Nelson, Val Kilmer, Eric Bogosian, Lisa Kudrow, it justgoes on and on and on. Janeane Garofalo, Christina Applegate, I mean just oneperson after another coming in and literally being extras on this movie.

Q: Who is your guy?

JL: I'm basically the lead, opposite Val, or one of them. There's a lot ofpeople in the movie.

Q: Are you the killer?

JL: Well, I'm one of the people who ends up being killed, who basically drovethe robberies that caused the murders because I had such an antagonisticrelationship with Val Kilmer's character. 

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the case?

JL: 1981, who really knows what happened? That's what the movie's about, butfour people were bludgeoned to death and one was left in a coma in the mostviolent and remarkable crime scene, other than the Manson murders. It's verymuch a story of cocaine and the time that the shift happened from the innocenceof cocaine.

It's an amazing story. An amazing story.

Q: "Wonderland" is coming out in August. What was the third smallmovie you did?

JL: "Wonderland's" in August. "Undertow" is actuallyprobably not going to be for quite a long time.

I actually did, not necessarily a small movie, but a very small part in avery beautiful movie with Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, Haley Joel Osment, Iplay Haley as a man, called "Secondhand Lions." It's gorgeous. It'sgorgeous.

So that's what "Sweet Home Alabama" does. It helps you go into aposition where you can start to help filmmakers that you're fascinated by getmovies off the ground.

Q: So it also helps to have "Hulk" in there too.

JL: Totally.

Q: What was your relationship with Eric Bana on this project?

JL: I think part of our thing was I really am in love with actors and actingand you come in and it's so interesting to work with someone like Eric becausehe comes from a comedic background, entirely. 

The incredible thing that Ang did was choose an actor who is a mimic and acomedian and is very vibrant and...

Q: ...and you would never know that...

JL: Yeah, and that's the thing, the kind of amazing thing that Ang does withsomeone like that is he chooses someone for that reason, to then be able tobasically squash him, in a way. To basically say I want you to be repressed anduncomfortable and all the different things that that Bruce Banner is, in termsof holding in this life and this emotion.

I think it was important that it was someone like Eric, because he has somuch going on that way. That's an amazing thing for a director to choose, asopposed to choosing a repressed person.

Again, it's a remarkable thing for an actor, playing.

So for me and Eric it was interesting because a lot of our stuff was almostabusive between each other. 

Q: How were the fights?

JL: They're tough.

I play hard. I've always played hard, physically. You've got to walk a reallyfine line when you're playing against someone who is the lead of a movie. I knowI got three weeks off. I can go away and sort of recuperate. 

Eric's got every single day, eighteen hours a day. So I was able to kind ofbash myself that way, in a way that I love to do, but at the same time I had tobe very aware that he's walking an incredible tightrope of keeping himselffocused in all the different pieces he has to do eighteen hours a day, andphysically keeping himself centered that way.

But the amazing thing is watching the way Ang comes in and individuallydirects each person, based on their own personality, based on their own style.And that's a fascinating thing to see.

Q: Off topic a bit, but for my magazine, what was your favorite book and why?

JL: Our father read us the Greek myths and I loved them fully.

Q: Which ones?

JL: All of them. Particularly, I was Zeus obsessed.

But yeah, we had this really beautifully illustrated, huge book of Greekmyths that he would read to us every night.

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