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

In part one partone of our exclusive interview with "Hulk" screenwriterMichael France, France talked about how his interest in comic books led to hiswork on the new movie, and what elements from the comic he tried to work intohis version of the script. In part two, France comments on the WGA ruling andalso tells us a bit about his take on "The Punisher" and some otherupcoming projects.


While many writers have worked on the script for "Hulk", it wasonly recently that the Writers Guild of America reviewed all the variousiterations of the script and determined that France, John Turman and James Schamus alldeserved 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 thatfact has been lost in a lot of the coverage of this movie. There's been somepretty inaccurate talk about the development of the screenplay -- intimations insome media that Schamus and Lee didn't use any scripts written prior to theirarrival on the film. It's not true. 

"It's gotten so bad," France joked, "that my wife won't cometo the premiere because she's afraid James Schamus will be given credit for ourtwins."

France continued, "Seriously, James Schamus did a significant amount ofwork on the screenplay -- for example, he brought in the Hulk dogs from thecomics and he made the decision to use Banner's father as a real character inthe present. But he used quite a lot of elements from John Turman's scripts andquite a lot from mine, and that's why we were credited. The Hulk is achallenging property to adapt, and a great deal of that hard work was donebefore James Schamus came on the project. It's gratifying that this wasrecognized, and that we will have our screenplay credits on the film. We earnedthem."


While the human underpinningsof fantastic characters are a hallmark of Marvel comics, France also found thosethemes present in "The Incredible Hulk" TV series, some episodes ofwhich are now available on DVD.

However, France admits that as a youngsterwatching the show on TV he didn't have a proper appreciation for it. "What I wanted to see was'Tales to Astonish:' the Hulkthrowing tanks in the desert, which was not possible on a TVbudget and is really just barely possible now on a feature budget.

"Now that I look back on it, it's really an amazing show," Francesaid. " It would have been really easy for them to justcamp it up and almost turn it into a sitcom. The fact that they handled it sorealistically is amazing."

France also says he has admiration for KennethJohnson, 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 theone that's in every commercial. The fact that Kenneth Johnson, Bill Bixby andLou Ferrigno all did such a great job on that show is one of the main reasonsthe Hulk still exists in the public mind. There are many people who remember theshow but who've never read a comic in their lives."


Of course the next big comic character that France has worked on that will becoming to movie theaters is "The Punisher." Almost as if history wasrepeating itself, Jonathan Hensleigh is set to make his directing debutfollowing France's work on the movie. However, this time France actuallycompleted a script, which served as Hensleigh's starting point.

As with "Hulk," France made some changes in order to find the humancharacter beneath the fantastic.

"There have been so many B movies thathave 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 aroundthat 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 FBIagent who went undercover in the mob and he had a psychological problemin that when he went undercover and had to be a bad guy, he was liking that alittle too much. In a sense it was like the Hulk/Banner problem. On the onehand, Frank Castle was a very ordinary family man. On the other, he found he wasa little too comfortable acting like a psycho. So the most interesting strugglein the movie is how those two sides of him play off of each other.

"For the sake of saving his soul, basically, and preservinghis family, he decided to quit and get out of it. That's when his family getswiped out and finally he emerges full-blown as that bad guy trying to do goodthings."

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



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

"They're terrific source material. They're visuals and you can do things asyou try to adapt them that aren't done in conventional action movies or sciencefiction movies," France said.

During the WGA arbitration for "Hulk" France and Turman read eachothers drafts and became mutual fans. Subsequently the pair have started talkingabout trying to find a project to work on together. Both are intrigued byanother Jack Kirby creation: "Challengers of the Unknown."

"It's one of those things that would be very conducive to movies. One of theproblems with the comic thing, which thankfully wasn't a problem on 'Hulk,' isjustifying the costume. That's something that we could dispense with prettyeasily in 'Challengers.'"

However, another Marvel mainstay and Kirbycreation that would present the costume problem remains another wish listproperty for France: "Captain America."

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



With"Punisher" and "Fantastic Four" closing in on production, weasked France what's next. 

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

"It's a new take on a very old Greek myth," France promised."We'retaking some angles on this that nobody has ever done, which is remarkableconsidering how many movies have been made about this."

The project grew, in part, out of France's love of the old Ray Harryhausenfilms. 

"I want to really excite young fans ofthis material with the movie the same way comics just lit me up when I wasa kid, that sense of fun and imaginationand excitement that were in the Ray Harryhausen pictures," France said."It's a lot of funworking on it and it also gives me an excuse to watch Ray Harryhausen moviesabout fifty times with my son."

"The Hulk" opens in theaters everywhere this Friday.

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