It's not easy being The Hulk. Not only is he green, but he's angry -- all the time.
In "Hulk Vs. Wolverine" and "Hulk Vs. Thor," released this week as "Hulk Vs.," one DVD or Blu-Ray package from Marvel Studios and Lionsgate, Bruce Banner's furious alter ego tangles with two of Marvel's toughest heroes. Having already spoken to director Frank Paur about the ambitious project, CBR News caught up with Fred Tatasciore, the voice of the Hulk in both features, to discuss the role and some of the very real dangers that come along with it.
"I've always been doing voices and comedy and drawing ever since I was a kid, and always made little audio and video tapes and that kind of silly stuff," Tatasciore told CBR. This led the performer to turn to standup comedy, then improvisation at Second City and the Groundlings, and finally on to classical theatre. "All while I was doing that, I was an animator. I was doing animation for various people, and doing voices for people's films. So acting and animation were part of my field growing up, and they're both really related--animation is the slowest acting you'll ever do."
Tatasciore confessed that he enjoys comics from both Marvel and perennial rival DC, and said that even if he were not attending conventions as a professional, he would be there as a fan. This perspective gives the actor a lot of material to draw from for his portrayal of The Hulk. "The Hulk, you got to look at it in two different ways," he said. "The Hulk originally was a guy named Banner, who was a sort of nice guy, kind of a tragic figure. He really meant well. Depending on what storyline you follow, whether we're making super soldiers or making better cells for the body or whatever, he has some good intentions, he is a good person, so you've got to start from there.
"But The Hulk himself is the demon that comes out of him, and is really a child. The Hulk is like an angry child who wants really just to be left alone."
Tatasciore's take on the character is that The Hulk must ultimately be seen if not as a hero then as a "not-bad guy." He cites comic book portrayals in which the character "became more cannibalistic like Frankenstein," and noted that while there should be sense of intense danger surrounding The Hulk, there is a certain line in the sand. "He's supposed to be a good superhero, so we don't want him eating innocent people," explained Tatasciore. "Basically, if you're innocent or helpless and you're getting beat up, The Hulk will protect you. The Hulk hates bullies. But if you are a good guy or a bad guy and you hurt Hulk in any way, he has this weird OCD where he will never forget and he must defeat you no matter what. He can't help it. So my approach to it is very simplistic.
"I think of a child sort of mentality, and it's less about attacking you and wanting to kill you and more like swatting at gnats; you're trying to get everyone away from me. If I think you're going to be a problem later, I have to smash you and leave you alone. I don't know if he's even worried about killing anyone. He just wants everything to end. So he's a very frustrated and sad boy who wants to take his toys and go home.
"For me, it's about getting it rooted in the simplistic--it's almost like a raging punk thing. If someone's being a bully, they need to be done and out of the way, but not necessarily for revenge."
Given that much of the Hulk's dialogue involves roaring and rumbling growls, Tatasciore said that certain care is required to avoid injury. "If I'm not careful, I do hurt myself," he said, likening The Hulk's vocalizations to performing stunts. "You work up to it. A lot of it is you basically have to work techniques out for yourself. I have to act this stuff out, a lot of it. It is a good workout and I do perspire, and it is a big deal. You have to warm your voice up and warm your voice down, and I have certain herbal remedies--that are legal!--that are entertainers' secrets and Chinese honey loquat slippery elm stuff. Because I've done so many monsters, I've put together some mixtures of teas that work really well.
"The other important thing is voice rest," Tatasciore added. "Sometimes I'll do [The Hulk] and sometimes I'll need a day,or two, so I'll try to schedule those if I can on Fridays or Thursdays. You don't want to be doing a show where you're singing the next day or the next hour, or doing 'Subway-Eat Fresh!' You maybe say, at the end of this session, 'let's do all of our roars,' because they are loud. I've even passed out-- you can do it. It's all part of the gig. You enjoy it, and if you know how to work around it it's fine."
In addition to The Hulk, Tatasciore also plays The Beast on "Wolverine and the X-Men." Though both characters are somewhat monstrous in appearance, The Beast is, of course, somewhat more eloquent. The actor suggested the two heroes may represent different aspects of his own personality. "Chuck Jones always said, 'I want to Bugs, but really I'm Daffy," Tatasciore said of the animation legend. "I aspire to be Beast but really I'm just Hulk. I love who Beast is; to have a peaceful superhero who's such a badass is such a wonderful concept. A guy who would rather read 'War and Peace' and say 'let's be diplomatic,' especially in this day and age, where diplomacy is sort of a lost cause. It's great to see this character like Beast, it's good for kids and adults to see, hey, there is this other option.
"While Wolverine -- and I love playing off of Steve [Blum], he's so brilliant -- Wolverine has to deal with Hulk in this animalistic monster way, like this is a monster I have to keep down, Beast is really Wolverine's conscience in a way. It's like a buddy system: okay, we've tried it this way, but now it's my turn! Beast is always going to give you the better way out--including the villain."
Tatasciore continued, "I love what Kelsey Grammer did with [Beast] in the movie ['X-Men: The Last Stand']. I think it's strange that Kelsey and I have a similar vocal range. It's weird when I do The Beast, it's weird to have my own voice coming out of this character. Because usually it's something you don't recognize. This is the first time in a long time I play something that's really my own voice. The only challenge with Beast is that he has to come out with the technobabble. I adore playing Beast, he's just a wonderful character. For him, you have to think of the opposite of Hulk. He's a complete adult. Complete sanity. That's why I'm kind of enjoying playing the green and the blue, because they're complete opposite."
Fred Tatasciore is very proud of his work on "Hulk Vs. Wolverine" and "Hulk Vs. Thor," citing it as some of his best. "I am so happy with the animation, the design, the acting, everybody pulled through on this," he said. "And I love the fact that they are two very different films in one package. I think that's kind of fun, and I think people are going to have a lot of fun with it. I hope people will have as much fun with it as I did."
"Hulk Vs." is on now on DVD and Blu-Ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.