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

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 ofdirectors, we knew that to do the Hulk, we couldn't use a shooter. It needed tobe a character-based director. 

At the very, very top [of the list] was Ang, especially after "CrouchingTiger" because "Crouching Tiger" showed us, more than "TheIce Storm," showed us that he can do a great character piece andoutlandish, out of this world action. The action in "Crouching Tiger"didn't make any sense: walking on twigs. Flying on water and all this biblicalstuff. We knew that this movie would have to be a really complicated mix of highdrama and out of this world action.

Ang, as you know, was not a reader of thecomics. His kids were. He had to get inside it, because the world offered himevery movie, obviously after "Crouching Tiger," and he had to get hisarms around the base story about who is Bruce Banner and how do you qualify toeventually 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 kidsto pre-school so they socialize and they learn to control their anger. And yougo to the shrink to control your own, and so on, and so forth.

So that's areally, really interesting metaphor for our world. We needed a genius  tocome in and embrace that, and really get into it and understand the kind ofpeople he had to bring with him.

James is his partner, collaborator. James isalmost too intelligent for his own good. In this case it was very, veryimportant to bring the movie to now, because it's a forty-year-old property. Wehad 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 youneed a team that is really intelligent and committed and wants to tell adifficult story. Above all you need to find a director who just stood up to thechallenge of directing CGI. Until now we saw CGI as augmenting the figure ormorphing someone. This had to come to life. We had to get close-ups because thestory of Bruce and the Hulk starts [with the eyes].

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

AA: Well, it's a controversial question solet me count to ten...

It's all source material. I think it's an issue thatwill 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 youare sort of a Marvel geek, you may not even know that we have a great issue inwhich we show baby Hulk, baby Banner with a green halo around him.

After a lotof soul searching, the differences that James and Ang and us chose a differentstory than just Rick Jones on a motor-cycle and Hulk cut his finger and becomesthe 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. Eventhe television show had great drama. That's why it was so successful. Primetime, a guy that turns green: that's not easy to do. So the show paid homage toour brains and the movie had to even supercede that.

I don't understand thewhole credit business. All that I know is that James and Ang came in with afresh 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, maybeslightly different, but enough to understand and to create this incredibledrama.

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 thereis, is he a scientist, was he put away? There are things we added here...

GaleAnne Hurd (GH): There's a whole Greek tragedy element to this that I think isreally important. There is inherent in the books stuff that obviously we wereable to expand upon. But this really is Greek tragedy. 

Things are putinto motion long before our character reaches adulthood that are going to allcollide. I think that's what makes it psychologically really interesting. Itmakes the drama compelling. This is an origin story so it's really about howdoes Bruce Banner become the Hulk and why.

Q: The early Hulk created by ILMwasn't good enough for the film. Can you talk about how the early models fellshort? Did it not have good enough hair?

GH: We didn't even...hair is the lastthing that you put on.

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

GH: There was nothing wrong with it actually. It was simply a factof: it takes a lot of time. There are 125 digital artists who worked on everyshot 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 theeyes.

AA: The marketing starts a year in advance, so it's a nightmare. Howmuch do you show?

GH: You don't the refined vision of the Hulk until the verylast moment.

AA: Also it's out of context. You just see something standingthere. 

I'll give you another example. I believe that the reason for oursuccess is that we take the medium as it is. When you make a movie, make thingsthat 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.

Soyou have to look at it [like] this is a movie and you have to make it the bestmovie 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 thiscreature from the books.

Q: But what's more important: the legend or thereality? If people think that Lou Ferrigno in the TV series is the bible for theHulk aren't you then going into...

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

If you look atmovies 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 gonnasay. 

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 ifyou've seen the ILM material, you realize, "oh, the frames from the classiccomics were there all along."

You are embracing something that hasexisted for forty years, not only as books, but as an animated series as well asthe 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 becausewhen you look at Peter Parker, it's Tobey and Tobey is Peter Parker andthankfully 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 intomoney. It was about worrying about someone's health.

Q: Was JakeGyllenhaal cast at one point?

AA: He was talked to in case Tobey couldn't do it, so itwas a true concern. It's an action movie. It's not a walk-and-talk and he's ayoung man who has a life in front of him and, God forbid, he would have gottenfurther 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'tdo 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 ofcomics that is sort of adult stuff. Some of it, personally, I don't even like. Idon't think that gratuitous violence makes good movies. We have differentcharacters. 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 wherewe were begging for Bruce Banner to erupt. You have to let go, man. No one isgoing to cut you slack. You have to let go. It's coming. Just deal with it. It'scoming. 

That's what we have to do, develop the character story. Thecreature: we knew, enough money, enough talent, we'd get it, but we had to getBanner.

Q: What about another Daredevil or Elektra movie?

AA: Elektra willstart to shoot in April.

Q: I read the Garth Ennis "Punisher" comicsand it has a lot of dark humor in it. Jonathan Hensleigh puts that kind of stuffin 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. Idon'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 youdoing "Ghost Rider?"

AA: Starting end of the year.

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