Giving The Hulk Direction with Louis Leterrier

Louis Leterrier is probably best known for his action movies such as "Unleashed" with Jet Li and "Transporter 2" with Jason Statham, but Marvel's "The Incredible Hulk" isn't actually his first foray into working on a comic book movie. In fact, his first work contains probably one of the most famous European comic book characters ever, Asterix. Letterier was not only the second Assistant Director on "Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatre," known in the US as as "Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra," but he also had a small role in the film as well. Now, on the tail of the box office hit known as "Iron Man," Letterier hopes to make his own Marvel Studios smash on June 13 with "The Incredible Hulk."

Letterier got involved on this project for one simple reason: he thought there was a great movie waiting to be made with the Hulk property. "There is exactly what people want to see in movies: true emotion, great scope, [and] amazing action," he told CBR News. "So when I met these guys I said "kay, here's what I want to do. I just don't think I can do the sequel to Ang [Lee's] movie." Luckily for Letterier, that was not the direction Marvel wanted to go either. "[They said], 'Yeah, perfect cause we don't want to do a sequel , we want to start a new franchise based on the comic book themes and we think you are the right guy for that' and I said, 'yeah, why not, where do I sign?'"

As this wasn't the first Hulk movie - or even the first Hulk movie five years -- Letterier looked back on what did and did not work in the previous film with the luxury of not being held to the continuity it created. Going into "The Incredible Hulk," the director set some goals for himself and the movie, one of which was "making a Hulk movie that I would love and possibly the fans would love and down the line audiences around the world would love. That actually was the goal, just the same [as] Sam Raimi did with Spider-Man. I mean Spider-Man is a guy with stupid pajamas yet it is one of the most amazing movies ever because it is so emotional and so beautiful in it's action. So I had big shoes to fill because Ang Lee, I think, had done a really amazing job but yet it was not the Hulk movie people wanted to see. It was a good 'Ang Lee's Hulk' and I think one day people will call it 'Ang Lee's Hulk,' his interpretation of a superhero movie like there has been many before but it was not really the Hulk people wanted to see, so hopefully I did it."

Trying to please the fans of the character is something that has weighed heavily on Letterier's mind. "I spend days and sleepless nights reading the feedback online, the boards and stuff, because they're the hardcore audience," Letterier confessed. "They're the guys who will watch it over and over and over again and you don't want to disappoint them because if they are disappointed then everyone will be disappointed be cause they know the character so well so it's high pressure, I don't know it went pretty good today. I was so scared, it was a make or break kind of day and it went very well in the panel."

Another challenge for Letterier was the technical challenge of working with CGI characters. "Technology has a tendency to chase itself and its own tail," he said. "So it was a technical challenge being able to make the great beautiful visual effects that ten years from now won't look cheap, won't look dated. The few final shots that I have seen are so amazing, better than anything I've seen before. Literally, better then anything I've seen before. Like real textures and real emotions, I mean we have mastered the anger. Now we know how to do anger, now we have to work and finalize the [other] emotions and that's a big challenge but we will make it."

Like Sam Raimi with Spider-Man, Letterier has a passion for the Hulk, though it doesn't necessarily come from the comic book. "Hulk, the comics character, was not huge in France," he explained. "We had the cartoons and we had, definitely, the TV show. The TV show absolutely enormous and I remember my first beautiful cinematic experience was watching 'The Incredible Hulk.'"

Like most fans, Letterier loved it when mild mannered Bruce Banner's eyes changed as he started to transform into the Hulk. "I was literally terrified by the Hulk and at the same time, like Frankenstein, you're terrified but you love him," the director said. "You know Frankenstein and King Kong, these are characters that are monsters but monsters with such a big heart you fall in love with them. At first you don't want to see them, as a kid I was six years old I was like, 'I don't want to see, I don't want to see!' But eventually you grow to love them, I grew up watching all these TV shows and loving the Hulk."

This influence will be found in the new movie. "You see the eyes, you see the transformation, you see the chair from the TV Show, you see everything," Letterier revealed.

But don't be under the assumption that the director is just a fan of the TV show -- he rediscovered the comic book while he a student at New York University. "I remember discovering, really going in depth and going to Forbidden Planet and discovering comic books in general, not only Hulk but many others, and then reading the Hulk and then loving it and thinking, 'wow this is so deep,'" Letterier said. "There were characters that were infected with AIDs and stuff like that, it was really getting deep. I didn't remember, because the last time I had seen a Hulk comic book it was like the cartoon, big monsters fighting and Hulk going 'Hulk smash' and that's it. But the themes are good, big themes and important themes but I tried to incorporate everything but still making it a big fun filled movie for the whole family. It's just like an adventure movie and that's what I really wanted to make and hopefully it's good."

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