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SUNDAY, JULY 29, 2007

COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL: THE INCREDIBLE HULK

SAN DIEGO -- Filming on The Incredible Hulk just began two weeks ago, but, because there's not another Comic-Con International between now and the movie's release, Marvel Studios pulled out as many stops as it could for its presentation on Saturday.

After finishing shooting at 7 a.m. in Toronto on Saturday, director Louis Leterrier then hopped on a plane for San Diego. He was joined by actors Edward Norton and Liv Tyler and producers Gale Anne Hurd, Avi Arad and Kevin Feige.

Because it's so early in production, no footage was available, but Marvel did provide a quick glimpse at a character concept for the Hulk, which was quickly posted on youtube.com

Below is an edited transcription of the question-and-answer from the panel:

Question: How does this film fit in with first Hulk movie?

Feige: Well, I think today we'll just officially clarify that question and say this is a part one, this is the beginning of a whole new Hulk saga.

Question: Why another big-screen Hulk?

Feige: Because he's the Hulk!

Hurd: We have a Hulk who is not going to be three different sizes in this movie. I think everyone will be very happy about that.

Question: Louis, I understand growing up in France, you were a fan of the live-action Bill Bixby series. Could you comment on that?

Leterrier: In France, we didn't have Marvel comic books. We had French comic books and Tintin and stuff like that. So my first exposure to the Hulk was the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno TV show. I guess, like a lot of you guys, I loved it. And that's what really attracted me to this project. When I first met them, I told them, "If you want me to do the Hulk, I'd love to go back to the TV show origin, to have the TV show feel."

Question: Edward, I understand you're contributing more than acting in the film. Can you talk about what else you're bringing to the project?

Norton: You're making me be immodest. I came into this and wrote the screenplay.

I was a Marvel kid. I had subscriptions to a lot of the Marvel comics. You remember when they came in the plastic wrap with the little piece of scotch tape on them? So I loved Hulk, the early incarnation of the Hulk, and the television show when I was a kid. And then in later years, I really liked where they took it in the "Return of the Moster" seris and the Bruce Jones series. I thought those were, the writing and the graphics, really contemporary.

I always felt like it was one of those great contemporary myths. It comes right out of the tradition of almost like Greek mythology, this notion of this supression of your inner demon. So the whole idea when I started talking with Kevin and Louis of starting from scratch and reconceiving the story as a mythic saga was really appealing to me.

I think lots of stories get re-told. We made a film of The Painted Veil that came out last year and that was the fourth film that's been made out of that one novella. To me, something that has had as many incarnations as the Hulk has and is as rich a story as the Hulk has with limitless potential, to re-make it, to reconceive it...

A lot of people were giving me funny looks when I told them I was really interested in doing it, but I thought it was an amazing opportunity to put our hands on one of the really classic modern mythologies.

And take it seriously. When Kevin, Louis and I were first talking about the TV show, sometimes it gets relegated. People say, "Oh, Ferrigno and the green paint and the 70s kitsch..." But when you watch that show, it really doesn't talk down to the idea of the story. It takes it very seriously. And Bill Bixby, when you watch him acting in it, he's really amazing in it. He brings this incredible, lonely pathos to the character.

That was what drew me to it, this idea of a mortal person at war with this thing inside of me, sort of the lonely fugitive aspect to it.

Question: Liv, Betty Ross, what's your take on yoru character?

Tyler: I haven't actually started filming officially yet so I'm a little behind the group, but I was a huge fan of the TV show when I was a little girl. I used to watch it with my mother all the time. Like Edward was saying, there was so much humanity to it and something so great about what this man was growing through. I just feel really excited to be a part of this. And I am interested and draw to this love story these two people share, that she sees something in Bruce that no one else sees and believes in him in a way that no one else does.

And in this story, we're basically looking for a cure for him.

Question: For Gale and Avi, you've both done these big action films. And with Transformers, it kind started a new era of CG and visual effects. How will you push the envelop with Hulk now?

Hurd: First and foremost, as Edward and Louis and Liv have talked about, we have a great story to tell. In the tradtion of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and Frankenstein, we have a terrific misunderstood character at the heart of it. We have the technology now, as you very briefly saw, to have Hulk come to life. And we're very confident in Rhythm and Hues and the great team we have with Kurt Williams as our visual effect supervisor that we're going to bring the humanity as well as all the action in the film to life.

Arad: I agree with her completely.

Question: Edward, you've play roles with dual qualities before. What are the challenges and process with this one?

Norton: I don't mean to make this sound funny, but making an effects-driven movie is a different sort of a thing for me. I've made a lot of low-fi tough characters, but I haven't done something that involves the interface between acting and effects that this does.

I think one of the things that actually sold it on me kind of early... one of the first questions I asked Kevin and Dave Maisel and other people at Marvel was, once the Hulk pops out or once the other half of this characters emerge, does that take me out the picture as an actor?

And as Gale was implying, there's a whole new set of technologies that have really only come online in the last six months that change completely the degree to which an actor can interfece with the animation that goes into animation a character's face digitally. That was really interesting to me because the notion of not having these two characters be split by me and then a technologically created character, but getting to play both halves of it was really a big part of me deciding I had something to bring to it.

Question: How does it feel to be playing the Hulk?

Norton: It's kind of an honor and it's kind of hilarious and exciting. I will say, you make a choice to do something like that and you kind of have that feeling like, you know, you're going to have to run it by your friends eventually.

And I was really, really surprised. There were certain people in my life that I thought I would say, (in soft tone) "I'm going to do The Incredible Hulk" and I was shocked at how excited people in my life who I had know idea like the Hulk were. I have one friend, she's a really soft-spoken environmental lawyer, very cerebral, very intense. And when I told, she almost started crying, she was so excited. She was like, "Oh, my God! That was my favorite, favorite super-hero!"

It sounds like a lark in the beginning, but then you start realizing there's a big responsibility with it. People are invested in this character and in this story and the spirit of it. And it goes from being a whim to being something that you've got to start making sure you take it seriously and bring all the stuff you bring into every other film into it.

Question: How did you approach and prepare for this?

Tyler: I'm always growing and learning from every experience, but I definitely approach everything in a really new kind of way.

Question: Are you going with the TV show origin or more of a comic-book origin?

Norton: I think two things about that. I don't ever like the phrase even, "origin story," because I think that sometimes seems to imply that you begin at the beginning. I don't think in great literature or great films that explaining the roots or the history in the story necessarily comes at the beginning. Or in a multiple-part saga, that you get all of it the first time out.

I think the arc of telling a story well is answering those questions and explaining those histories but not necessarily just by front-loading all of it. And if there's something that I've tended to wish that was done better sometimes in these movies is that I always don't want them to race through that origin and get through it and then get on to the story. Because it just seems like obligatory, like you're hustling through it.

One thing Louis and I talked about when we were sitting down to re-approach this as a script was let's grapple with what our own version of the history in this story is, but spool it out in an artful way throughout the story. I don't think we really wanted to go into a lot of detail about certain things, but I certainly wouldn't say this film is rooted in the television show at all.

We've had a deep exploration of the Bruce Jones series and Hulk: Gray and a lot of different incarnations of Hulk that all have a lot to offer. The fun in this was not to remake anything, but to just spin our own sort of fantasy of the interface between all these things.

I will say there are many characters that have nothing to do with the television show but are deeply rooted in the comic, like Leonard Samson and other characters like that, are a part of this. So anyone who's familiar with the books will definitely find it rooted in those as well.

Question: Louis, you want to touch on the comic-book roots as well?

Leterrier: Edward and I, we really love the Bruce Jones series, "Return of the Monster." It was really, for me, a fix of the show and the comic books, the old and new. I just don't think that you guys, because you know the comic books so well and the TV show so well, that you want to see a film version of the comic book. Edward scratched his head very hard to come up with a very original story.

A regular movie has 150 scenes. Our movie has 350 scenes. So you really have a lot of understand of who this character is and what he's been through -- and where he's been because we're pretty much shooting all around the world.

Norton: Part of the fun of this for me was, if you read Marvel comics, there's all these great tropes that weaves through all the comics. There's the whole the Super Soldier serum history with Captain America, and part of the fun of this was reference other parts of the Marvel Universe in creative ways.

And the way I looked at this in terms of writing it was any time Marvel goes to a Bruce Jones or a new writer or a new editor, they come up with their own spin on all these things. They re-tweak the way that things are connected. That's the fun of it, coming up with our generation's spin on these things, making it relate to our experiences and our taking on things.

Question: I'm a huge fan of the TV series, and will there be a dedication to Bill Bixby in the credits?

Feige: There will definitely be respect to Bill Bixby, absolutely.

Norton: In one form or another.

Leterrier: And look for lots of Easter Eggs and homages. You know, homage is French for stealing from American films!



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