Following The Incredible Hulk presentation (read new footage description) at the New York Comic-Con, ComingSoon.net/Superhero Hype! had a chance to talk to three of the primary creators of this comic book relaunch: director Louis Letterier, producer Gale Anne Hurd, and Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige to find out first-hand some of the challenges they faced while making another Hulk movie after the somewhat poorly-received Ang Lee movie. All of our interviews were fairly brief but hopefully informative to fans of the comic books dying to know whether the new movie will deliver.
We’ll start with French director Louis Letterier, who comes from the Luc Besson camp, having co-directed The Transporter and its sequel, as well as the Jet Li action-drama Unleashed in between.
ComingSoon.net/Superhero Hype!: How did it happen that you ended up directing this movie?
Louis Letterier: It’s crazy, right? It’s because of “Unleashed” which was the quality movie and “Transporter 2” which was the Hollywood blockbuster, but I knew Marvel and I’d been talking to them for a long time, so when they offered me “Hulk,”,I was like, “Really, you sure?” I was more surprised than anybody else.
CS/SHH!: Is it daunting to have to relaunch the character after Ang Lee’s movie which some people liked but didn’t really go over well with comic book fans?
Letterier: I liked Ang Lee’s movie.
CS/SHH!: But you were put in a similar position as Christopher Nolan with “Batman Begins” where you had to start again after a less-than-favorable movie.
Letterier: Yeah, exactly, but at the same time, you have this amazing basis of comic books that you can just go through and say, “This is a great scene, this is a great image!” It’s your net. It’s high flying but there’s a net, that’s what the comic book is.
CS/SHH!: Who are some of your favorite Hulk artists? I know the movie is influenced by the TV show but Kevin mentioned you had a lot of comic book panels as inspiration, too.
Letterier: Well, I mean starting with Kirby and Stan Lee, but when they offered me “Hulk” I went to a comic book store and was looking for back issues of the Hulk and I’d seen most of them, but something that really stuck out for me was “Hulk: Gray” by Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb, and I took it and I loved it. It was amazing, so when I looked at this, I thought this was beautifully graphic, truly poetic, a simple, beautiful story for the whole family so that’s what I wanted to do.
CS/SHH!: How did you work with the different writers and Marvel in terms of figuring out exactly what the story was going to be?
Letterier: They knew they wanted to revive Hulk and they wanted to use animation. The rest was for me to figure out, so starting with Zak Penn, we crafted a story, made it ours, finding different ideas from comic books and trying to compile them in one big story, and then Zak had to do his movie “The Grand” so he left and Edward who we were seeing as an actor said, “I write screenplays,” so I asked if he could do the last draft and he said, “No problem.”
CS/SHH!: You had Ed running around Brazil, so it seems to continue where the last movie left off, because that one left Bruce Banner in South America.
Letterier: No, not really. Not at all actually. We’re starting a new franchise. Yeah, (the first movie) ended up in South America but this one doesn’t start in South America. We’re going to show you where the movie starts very soon. We have a little sequence that we’re going to “let leak” on the internet, so you’ll see where the movie starts.
CS/SHH!: I loved the fact you brought Cyril from “District B13” in on this.
Letterier: I love Cyril and he’s one of the best stunt players and stunt choreographers around, so I had to bring him in, and he was actually doubling for Tim, it was pretty funny.
CS/SHH!: Where do you go from here? You can obviously go and make another “Hulk” movie if this one does well.
Letterier: I don’t think I’ll go right into a new “Hulk” movie, but if people like this one, I’d certainly like to do another “Hulk” movie. It was a great experience and I’d certainly like to do another one. I just don’t want to do it right away.
CS/SHH!: Are there any other superheros you’d like to tackle if you get a chance?
Letterier: Maybe. I have a few in mind, superhero movies or the big manga world mostly.
Next up is Kevin Feige, Marvel Studio’s President of Production, who has been heavily involved with every aspect of The Incredible Hulk and the other Marvel comic book movies currently in the works.
CS/SHH!: We know that for a long time the Marvel characters were at different studios. I’m sure you’re asked this a lot, but why did Marvel Studios decided to tackle another “Hulk” movie as one of their first productions?
Kevin Feige: It would have been the first one depending on when the rights came back to us, because the Hulk is Hulk, a huge character for us, and next to Spider-Men, he’s our most popular hero across the board, so it was a no-brainer to not wait more than five years to bring him back. In Louis Letterier and Edward Norton, we had a team that was assembled that could really bring it to life in a way that people are anticipating. The film definitely delivers and I’m very encouraged by the reaction we got to (the footage), it couldn’t be better and it was right there on par with how it felt last year at Comic-Con San Diego with “Iron Man.” It was exactly the idea for New York Comic-Con. The plan was always to unveil “Iron Man” in San Diego last year because we were finished filming. We wanted to bring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Louis, Gale in San Diego and introduce them to people, but we hadn’t started filming yet, so we left that saying, “We’re going to hit New York.” It’s about two months from release and the film’s not finished yet, but it’s close enough that we’d have the goods to show and I’m glad people responded to it.
CS/SHH!: You introduced the “Iron Man” and “Hulk” movies at Comic-Con a few years ago, but other than “Wolverine,” we really haven’t gotten any definite word about any upcoming Marvel comic book movies. Are you going to wait until the end of summer to see how these perform before figuring out what to do next?
Feige: No, no, we have any number of things in development right now. It’s a contest between a few of them to see which one will go first, but I do think that sometime between “Iron Man” and “Hulk,” we’ll be making announcements for the next one. We won’t make you wait too long.
CS/SHH!: Do you think there’s a chance of doing more “Iron Man” and “Hulk” movies as well or is it more important to try to introduce some of the other characters to build to a possible “Avengers” movie? I assume you have some sort of game plan.
Feige: We do, we do have a game plan, but the game plan is based on box office of course, so we’ll see how it is. We’re encouraged about the hype for “Iron Man,” encouraged about the buzz for “Hulk” so if the summer goes as planned, you’ll probably see the next two probably at the end of ’09 or definitely 2010.
CS/SHH!: One issue that arose when the first “X-Men” movie came out was that the comic books rarely reflect the characters as portrayed in the movies. Do you think that matters at this point?
Feige: I think they clearly inhabit their own world, but the truth is that Marvel now, we are working hand-in-hand with Joe Quesada and Dan Buckley and people within the publishing community in New York, and they’re all part of our discussions. We do want to keep a sense of at least a spirit of continuity between them. The comics will always be pioneering in terms of the stories. I’m not sure you’re going to see Secret Invasion or Skrulls popping up in our next film, but definitely you will see stories about Iron Man about Hulk about Cap. They definitely know what our upcoming slate is and we’ll adjust accordingly, just to give whatever characters are coming up more page time, if you will.
CS/SHH!: How has it been working with the different studios? Marvel Studios is obviously producing its own films but you are working with different studios like Paramount and Universal to get them out there.
Feige: It’s been great. With Universal and Paramount, they’re distributing films for us. We’re producing them wholly ourselves. With Fox, they produce the “X-Men” series, with Sony, they produce the “Spider-Man” series in partnership with us, but it’s been great relationships. We’ve been very lucky to work with the best studios around.
CS/SHH!: There couldn’t possibly be an issue with “The Avengers” because the characters are at different studios, could there?
Feige: The characters that we control ourselves now–Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Ant-Man–could one day assemble.
Producer Gale Anne Hurd probably needs little introduction to Superhero Hype! readers, having been heavily involved in the early career of James Cameron having produced The Terminator and Aliens, as well as spearheading the first “Hulk” and “Punisher” movies, both which will be getting relaunched this year.
CS/SHH!: You’re the one person who has remained consistent from the last movie to this one, and you brought on a whole new team for this. Still, one might think there is the most pressure on you to deliver a second “Hulk” movie that appeases those unhappy with the first one.
Gale Anne Hurd: I don’t even consider it pressure, because it’s a wonderful opportunity. How many people get the opportunity to start a franchise again and get to do a new take on it? I think it’s wonderful that the last time it happened was with “Aliens.” Going back, there was the first “Alien” and then James Cameron and I were able to do “Aliens” where there was a new slant on it as an action film as opposed to a horror film. I consider this to be in the tradition of that.
CS/SHH!: You now have Marvel Studios involved, so have you been the main tie between them and Universal?
Hurd: No, everyone works very collaboratively on this, so there’s not one thing that a particularly person handles. Obviously, Louis is the director and he’s the person whose vision it is that’s brought to the screen, but in everything else, it’s very much a collaboration.
CS/SHH!: Having produced so many big movies over the years, were you very influential in getting Edward Norton involved as Bruce Banner or Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky?
Hurd: We were all part of the meetings, but it was great actually to sit there and go, “Okay, Bruce Banner ” When you think of Bruce Banner from the TV series and the comic book, who would be perfect? Who would be great? And you look at Edward Norton, a guy who defines duality from “Primal Fear” to “Fight Club,” and he’s so smart. It was great being able to go after him and have him say, “Yes” and then Tim Roth in terms of villains, he’s Oscar-nominated for the villain he played in “Rob Roy,” and going back to “Reservoir Dogs.” This is a guy who is interesting regardless of the role that he plays, and to be able to use the MOVA performance capture so that he can inform the Abomination, how great is that? And same with Edward Norton for the Hulk.
CS/SHH!: Having worked on the first movie and now this one, what would you like to fans to get out of this one or to convince them to go see this one if they’re hesitant after seeing the first movie?
Hurd: Well, this time, it’s “incredible”! The film is a very character-driven film so the people who are concerned that this time somehow we’ve left the character out, I think they will have their fears allayed, and then there are people who felt there wasn’t enough “Hulk Smash!”, I think from the footage you saw today–and we didn’t even show two action sequences either in the trailer or in the footage you saw today–there’s a lot more “Hulk Smash!” And I do read the Superhero Hype! boards and there’s always the concern of “They’ve shown everything in the trailer.” You know what? I’m one of those people, too, when I look at a trailer and I think, “Oh my God, they’ve put everything in it!” Well, people do not have to worry. There’s a lot more. Even this new trailer. There’s a lot more on screen, far more than we can put in a two and a half minute trailer.
CS/SHH!: Where do you go from here? Do you have plans for more superhero movies in your future?
Hurd: Are you kidding? It’s like a kid with access to the greatest toy box in the world. As you can see (showing me the button), I’m doing the new “Punisher” film, it’s going really, really well and Ray Stevenson, he looks like he stepped out of a Tim Bradstreet cover. We’ll have a panel for that at Comic-Con in San Diego.
The Incredible Hulk opens on June 13.