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Tuesday, June 17, 2003

HULK INTERVIEW: PRODUCERS GALE ANNE HURD AND AVI ARAD

QUESTION: Why did the Hulk get set up at Universal?

ARAD: As you know, we have a lot of characters. And we try to share the wealth with the various studios. Hulk has been in sort of development for 12 years, and it's been through the nightmare of development trying to balance the books, the television show and a new vision.

With our characters, you have to be really careful because you if you get too popcorn with it, you walk into a landmine. You minimize the literature. You run into the thing we try not to do.

Gale has been with this forever, through a lot of scripts and filmmakers and managements, actually. A lot of the issues that this management has had the appetite and the foresight that it was time to go ahead and do it.

Once we knew that we had Ang Lee and James (Schamus), we knew we could make a big, intelligent movie with an homage to the origin.

HURD: The Hulk, unlike a lot of the other super-hero comics, isn't really a super-hero. He doesn't find he has super-hero powers that allow him to save the world or save the kids on the school bus. Instead, certainly the approach that Ang and James had was much more of a Shakespearean tragedy.

Things had been set in motion long ago and he is a pawn in a tragedy over which he has no control, and it allowed a lot more psychological input, considerably more psychological examination. Because part of the movie we made is a mystery, a mystery that works well with the origin story. How does Bruce Banner become the Hulk and why? That was what I think engaged Ang Lee and James Schamus into coming aboard the project.

QUESTION: With the Terminator, you have two very strong characters in upcoming movies. Is their a relationship?

HURD: Obviously, with the Terminator you have a franchise that has been able to survive two films, with expectations for the third film that are quite high. And yet going in I think people have a very good idea of what that film might be. Whereas with The Hulk, they're starting with a completely clean slate. There's lots of speculation about what the Hulk will be, what is Ang Lee's vision of the Hulk.

And I think they can coexist perfectly in the summer. I mean, look at the number of films already that will pass the $200 million mark this year, coming out within weeks of each other. Hopefully what one does will not impact the box office or the critical reception to the other.

QUESTION: How did you decided how much Hulk you wanted to show in the movie?

ARAD: How much Hulk is a function of story telling. Movies this size, it's not like you're saying, "We can have 8 minutes of CGI because then we've spent our 24 bucks" or something like that.

I think you want to set it up. I think we learned from Spider-Man. It took 40 minutes before you Spider-Man because you really wanted to get to know Peter Parker.

We want to see the Hulk, especially the Hulk. The Hulk was a 2D character and unlike many characters who are superhumans who were human and they end up mutated, this is your inside coming out So you have to earn the appearance of the Hulk. It cannot come out of nowhere, like Bruce cut his finger or stubbed his toe and all of a sudden this green thing comes in. Because that would make it frivolous.

So how much of it is in there is a function of the story-telling technique of this movie. And from that standpoint, once the Hulk appears, this is some roller coaster. As you look at it - and this is the kind of movie you have to see multiple times to capture all of the expressions - you're going to see human moods in our monster, our creature. And the best thing that happens here is that, as the movie goes along, you develop more empathy for the monster. More the monster than the man himself. And that was the greatest accomplishment ILM was able to do. And Ang directed it. And was directing an actor - or directing himself, for that matter.

QUESTION: You've had this film for 12 years, what made you think it would make a great movie?

ARAD: She's a visionary. It's true.

HURD: I think, first of all, asr a producer, when you're going to dedicate 12 years of your life to getting something made, it better be something that appeals to you, first and foremost. I was one of the fans of the comic book early on, growing up, reading it in the '60s.

And as someone who is never going to be 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, I think I was the perfect audience. Everyone has a Hulk inside of them. We are challenged everyday to deal with that, to deal with our anger, to deal with things that maybe we're not reacted to what someone is saying to us, but it's the built-up rage inside of us - from many years ago - and someone just pushes the wrong button, and there you go. That was incredibly exciting to examine. And once again, because of the psychological underpinnings of this character, which is much more Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde than Superman, it seemed like the type of project that could attract the people we ultimately attracted, a terrific cast and one of the finest directors in the world.

QUESTION: Could you clarify the situation with Spider-Man? From what was reported, it sounded like Marvel was going to shut down production because of licensing issues.

ARAD: I don't know who reported it. If you read it carefully, it says that it's licensing issues. There's no shutdown. The movie is actually shooting right here on the lot.

Tobey (Maguire) is the happiest actor I've ever seen. That was another article.

Big movies like that get a lot of attention, a lot of rumors. No, there's a lot with Sony; we're making three movies with Sony now.

The issue is with licensing. It will always be. Business, they call it in entertainment Chinese walls, right? Business affairs and creative are not supposed to cross. My job is to make movies, and my lawyer's job is to make money. And Sony's job is to make more money. And this is the age-old arm wrestling over who gets more of the pie.

QUESTION: When might there be a Captain America movie?

ARAD: I think that, as we say at Marvel, with great power comes great responsibility. We're in the middle of a little bit of a court situation with Captain America. Their estate looked at the success and decided, "What the hell, let's sue." It's a free country. You can sue for saying good morning.

So once this gets cleaned up, we'll deal with that.

QUESTION: It used to be that these franchises are being set up with sequels that didn't do as well. But now it seems they get stronger.

HURD: I think it's a combination of whether the studio looks at it as a way to make a quick buck. The formula used to be that the sequel would make 60 percent of the original at the box office. Now look at X2. It's making more than the original. There are a number of examples of that.

The studios creatively have gotten wise to the fact that, "Let's not underestimate the audience. Let's not just try to make a quick buck." Because, actually, there's a lot more money. And money right now is critical in corporate responsibility in maintaining a franchise and making it better with each movie. Lord of the Rings there are so many examples right now.

And I think it has to do with the fact that right now we have a number of people running the studios who love this genre. And at the same time, feel that there is an opportunity not just to rush out with a shoddy sequel, but to make it more profound, more compelling, more interesting than the original. And use the original as the bar you need to top.

ARAD: I agree with Gale, but to me, there's a more important component. It's controlling your franchise.

And it has to do with Bryan Singer coming back to movie two and feeling he did something pretty amazing the first time around and now he wanted to stay with it. Sam Raimi coming back after an $800 million movie. Usually directors try to walk on the moon after that. And he's back. And hopefully we can get Ang to come back. We have James working on the sequel.

A lot of the successes were in a vacuum in the old days. Today it's a lot more planned, to find a team that wants to tell these stories. Either they're geeks or they fell in love with the literature and so on. When they come in, they feel a responsibility to the character.


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