Director Louis Leterrier Interview – THE INCREDIBLE HULK

     June 16, 2008

A few days ago I posted part of the roundtable interview I did with Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier. Since I know a ton of you read it, let’s keep this intro very short.

As I said when I posted part one, the reason I was able to interview Louis is…our partner website Omelete got invited to the international press day and they sent me to cover it since they’re based in Brazil. So while you can read it on Omelete here, since it’s in Portuguese, I figure posting it in English might be nice…

Anyway, during our twenty or so minutes talking, Louis spoke about everything Hulk. From making the film to the cameos, to what’s coming on the DVD and even the turmoil that went on trying to complete the film. I promise you’ll learn a lot about the behind the scenes by reading his answers.

As always, you can either read the transcript below or download the audio of the interview as an MP3 by clicking here. And just to be clear…this wasn’t a one on one interview…there were 3 other foreign journalists asking questions. But as you read the interview below…you can probably tell what I asked about…

As all of you know, “The Incredible Hulk” is playing in movie theaters right now.

Question: So can you talk about how different this movie is based on your visual idea and your…you know compared to the old…?

Louis Leterrier: Oh, Ang Lee’s version?

Q: Right. You wanted to go to a different way and…

Louis Leterrier: First of all I loved Ang’s movie. I really do love Ang’s movie because as a director, as all of you guys, you’ve seen the cinema in Ang’s movie. It’s beautiful. It’s a great movie. But if you’re 7 years old—8 years old, you’re totally lost in Ang’s movie so I wanted to give it like more of like an overall approach. You didn’t have to be a fan knowing the Hulk story to love this movie–hopefully, my movie, or to be 7 and 13 and a boy to like this movie. I wanted to make it like a broader and like a general—more general—kind of a movie. And that’s what I did. My way to do this and I don’t know where are from—I’m from France—and comic books…American comic books and Hulk superhero—Hulk comic books, were not distributed so widely in France. What was very wide was the TV show and when they called me and offered me the job, I was like, “hold on. No, I don’t know the Hulk that much—that well. Ang Lee I’m really afraid…and on the flight back to France I thought about it and I was like, you know what I really loved when I was young? The TV show. Why? Because he was very human. That’s it. Very simple. It was a simple story of a man who has a problem who goes from…you know he’s chased. You know it was a fugitive story. He’s chased from town to town trying to get his life back together. Tries to cure himself, you know get rid of his thing. And definitely throughout the seasons is discovering the hero within. That this thing inside is maybe not bad and maybe good. So that was the very simple emotional approach I took, you know. That’s why I did it. But I didn’t want to make it different per se. I really didn’t want to make it different. I wanted to make it complimentary, you know, the two movies being—Ang’s movie is Ang’s movie and some people—myself being part of them—really love it. I don’t want to serve them the same thing but in a different way—the same kind of dish but like reheated with different cameras and different actors. I wanted to…that’s why the movie doesn’t start at the beginning. It starts where he already has this. It’s not the sequel. It’s kind of a re-boot, but not really. It’s another director’s version of the Hulk, that’s it.

Q: I heard that the beginning sequence, which is incredibly well cut…

Louis Leterrier: Oh thanks. I didn’t do it. That’s why.

Q: I heard that that went through a lot of different versions to find that beginning. So could you talk a little bit about the challenge of that montage at the beginning?

Louis Leterrier: The way we were doing it was at first through flashbacks. So you were starting…I mean the movie was starting and you’ll get to see this when the articles come out, you’ll see this. There’s another scene prior to what you saw. There’s a scene where you see Bruce Banner walking into the Arctic and that scene is going to be shown on the Internet starting Thursday. You see Banner walking…you know you see a shadow…a guy getting dropped into the Arctic walking, walking, walking. Drops to his knees, looks up, pulls up his mask, it’s Edward Norton/Bruce Banner with a heavy beard. Looks tired, depressed, it’s a few months after the incident. Pulls out a gun and tries to commit suicide and the Hulk saves him, so the Hulk saves his life. So it’s Banner is Hulk and Hulk is Banner. The movie was starting like this and then afterwards we were flash forwarding to Brazil. He was in Brazil a few years later getting his life…you know trying to find a cure and everything. And then afterward you were getting flashbacks—that’s the way the script was structured—then you were getting flashbacks to tell you the story. I mean, everything you saw in the credit sequence you were getting all these flashbacks. We screened this movie. People hated it. I mean they like hated it. You know, what the hell is this? Is this a sequel? Is this a re-boot? We don’t understand anything. They loved the action and they liked all that stuff, but the beginning was very confusing. They didn’t know what was happening. So, I actually made the decision. I said I don’t want to truncate the Arctic sequence and make it like some kind of like nothing flashback dream within the credit sequence. Let’s take this sequence out. Let’s put it on the Internet so we can have it like a real life—like a viral life like on HD like a beautiful HD QuickTime so you can actually have the full movie experience. Let’s take all the flashbacks and let’s make it like a back-story that starts the movie. Really fast paced so you catch up really quickly. You get tons of information. Let’s have Easter Eggs. You know, the Easter Eggs that you saw the Nick Fury and all that stuff. You put it in there and then you stop and then it’s almost too much for the audience. It’s also too much for Bruce Banner and that’s why he stops the sequence as the movie begins. I loved this credit sequence. I didn’t do it…I was like I don’t know how to do that. I called Cal Cooper who was this amazing credit sequence guy. He did all the “Spider-Man” credit sequence. Just the Marvel logo. He did “Seven”, you know David Finch’s credit sequence. So I called him and I was like, “Cal. Help. Here’s all my shit. Do something good with it.” And he made something amazing with it.

Q: Why the Favelas?

Louis Leterrier: Because we needed somewhere where in the world where Bruce Banner could get lost, you know? The Favelas –I don’t know if you’ve been but it’s…

Q: Beuatiful…kind of.

Louis Leterrier: Well, no it actually is beautiful. It’s like quite clean and everything. I was surprised. I thought I would go and have like dirt and human feces up to my knees, but no it’s really clean. They have cable. I mean, it’s crazy but still. I wanted like a place where you could get lost. Where it’s a little bit on the fringe of the law, there’s lots of people piled up and everything. I was thinking about Asia. I was thinking about…I was actually thinking about Hong Kong at first then I heard that “Batman” was going to do it there, so I was like no let’s not do all stuff there. Let’s go to the Favelas and it took a lot of time to convince Marvel—an American studio—to go to Brazil, because for them Brazil is like, you know, nowhere man land—no man’s land. We’re going to get shot at. It’s like no, let me go first with my little crew and everything. And it was so nice and we brought back some video images and it’s like it’s nice, you know, you can bring actors. It will be fine there. So we had protection, but nothing happened. So I really wanted a sea of humanity. And you see that first shot—that’s not CG, that’s like the real deal. That’s not my helicopter flying over it for like 2 minutes. The thing is huge. We were sitting at Rocinha Favelas, where that first shot opens, that 300,000 people leaving this town.

Q: It’s amazing.

Louis Leterrier: Yeah, it’s amazing.

Q: So, this movie has an amazing budget—and it’s a huge movie—but how different were you or how challenged were you to direct this size of movie?

Louis Leterrier: For me, it’s really not different. It really is not different. Do you know why? Because most of the budget goes into visual effects, so the actual tools that I had to shoot the movie were pretty much the same. You know, the actors are a little bit more expensive and the visual effects are a little bit more expensive, but the actual money that I had to shoot my movie was pretty much the same. A little bit more but I mean, I could have techo-cranes and use stuff that I…I love my toys. I love to use them with cameras, so I’m going to put all that money into making it look very good. But it’s not like I took a huge salary–the DP had a huge salary. It was pretty much the same thing except you had a big chunk in the beginning with the actors and the big chunk at the end with the visual effects. That’s it. It’s pretty much the same. It doesn’t change at all. You still struggle. You have to finish the day because the producers are like “oh you better finish the day or you’re going to get fired” no, I mean it’s almost like the same thing. You still have the same problems. And you know what? It’s funny. Even $150 million doesn’t buy you anything in Hollywood. It’s horrible. You’re like, “I’m poor. I just have $150 million left over. Especially with these kinds of movies, you’re like oh my God, I’ve got just $150 million. “Batman” is like $300 million. “Indy” was like $300 or $250 or $300. Now, $150 million is not a lot these days, especially for the dollar being so low. It’s like we went to Canada. We were like, “yeah, Canada” and then the dollar went (sound effect of plane diving) every day we were loosing stuff. I was like, “yeah I don’t know”. For the first time in my life I was actually looking at Yahoo Finance to see what I could afford. It’s like, “okay, I just lost another 2 visual effects shots”.

Q: Whose decision was it to let out this trailer/spoilers with some of the scene…the fighting scene between “Hulk” and “Abomination”?

Louis Leterrier: It’s all Universal. I mean if it was up to me I would keep everything and let people discover the things. It’s just their way…I think they want…and I have to defend them because this movie is very complicated. This is a movie that everybody is going to compare. They’re going to compare it to Ang’s movie, and they’re going to compare it to “Iron Man” and to “Batman”—everything. This is the movie that everybody’s like…we’ve been everybody’s punching bowl for like 2 years. People have been like, “okay here it comes. Let’s see another “Hulk” failure” and then so they were like no actually its’…and we started showing Universal the cut and they were like that was actually good, you know, and they were really happy. So maybe they went a little bit too broad with the stuff but the fans, myself, you guys—we’re looking out for this kind of stuff, but like the general public… you really have to reach out to them and say…and throw them a lot of stuff for them to actually catch a little glimpse and then afterwards look for other stuff. So maybe there’s too much stuff on Internet—to my taste there’s too much—but there’s so much more in the movie so I’m okay with it. And that’s why I wanted to do that thing with the Arctic. That’s something that no one will have seen and like that’s like new stuff—I actually stole it from Chris Nolan. It’s like all this viral campaign on “Batman”. It’s great, so I was like that’s smart. Okay, I’m going to do that. Actually I took it from Wes Anderson from “The Darjeeling Limited,” he did something like this.

Q: You recently did an interview where you said that in “Iron Man” there is a Captain America shield, but in our movie we have Captain America.

Louis Leterrier: Wait, that’s crazy. Did I say that?

Q: You did say that. You did say that and so there’s been a lot of…I’ve looked online. Many people are talking about this.

Louis Leterrier: I knew…I threw one like this I was like let’s see how many pick it up.

Q: So is Captain America in the movie as an Easter Egg?

Louis Leterrier: Yes.

Q: Could you be a little more specific?

Louis Leterrier: No, I can’t. Otherwise it’s not fun. Are you crazy? It’s an Easter egg.

Q: But is it like a throwaway gag like a…or is a real kind of a thing?

Louis Leterrier: It’s an Easter egg. It’s not like oh, it’s Captain America and it changes everything. It’s still a Hulk movie, but it’s really Captain America and it’s there, you’ll see. It’s the real deal. You have to look for it.

Q: When did you shoot the “Iron Man” sequence…the Robert Downey, Jr. sequence?

Louis Leterrier: It was the last thing we shot. It was…

Q: Was it always going to be in the movie?

Louis Leterrier: No, I begged Kevin Fiege, the President of Marvel when I knew that Robert got cast, I was like we have to do crossovers. Crossovers—it’s the future of movie making. Now that you have this, I was the one to beg them to do crossovers and then they said Robert is going to be tough to convince, you know, and all that stuff and everything. So eventually I got to talk to Robert and we liked each other and he said, “okay I’ll come for a…I’ve got 5 hours that day.” Let’s shoot in L.A. We were on the way back from Brazil about to go to the North Pole to shoot the opening sequence, with one day in L.A. actually. Iron Man was doing lots of reshooting. They reshot like 2 weeks or something and they had like ½ a day where they could give us ½ a day, so I just directed Iron Man crew for one day. I brought William Hurt that day and that was it. It was great. It was fantastic.

Q: I have to ask you…there’s been a lot of talk about the 2 different cuts that exist on the movie. Obviously the DVD is going to have more footage.

Louis Leterrier: Yeah.

Q: So, could you talk about what was cut out of the film, like is there 15 minutes?

Louis Leterrier: No, the final way of me cutting this…maybe there’s like 10-15 minutes of stuff, but there’s a lot of stuff like on the Blue-ray I think we’ll have 70 minutes of stuff.

Q: Seventeen or…

Louis Leterrier: Seventy. 7-0.

Q: 70!

Louis Leterrier: Yeah, because you shoot a lot of stuff, yeah. What’s another picture? Yeah, but that’s what great. It’s like the back story. It’s more the sequel to the Ang Lee movie.

Q: I have to ask you…so the Blue-ray…the DVD just has a little bit…

Louis Leterrier: No the Blue-ray…it’s whatever we can put on the DVD. Like DVD’s you have like 3 hours of like yeah…you have a limit of 3 hours of footage and stuff. The Blue-ray you have something like 100 hours, so if they do a double DVD but like the Blue-ray is what’s going to be good. So on the Blue-ray I’m trying to put as much of the stuff…I want to put everything we shot, you know? I’m not the kind of guy that likes to keep the stuff for myself. I’m like, okay you student filmmakers, here’s what I did right and here’s what I did wrong and in some of the stuff, in the 70 minutes, there’s some great stuff and there’s some really horrible stuff, but you’ll see it all, you know?

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Q: What about the behind-the-scenes material?

Louis Leterrier: Oh there’s like tons of stuff like great stuff. That’s actually much longer. We’ve got like 3 hours of material—how we made the “Hulk” and everything. That’s great stuff.

Q: Getting into the 70, is it all character stuff? Is it certain…

Louis Leterrier: Oh, there’s action stuff. There’s everything. We cut everything. We give you the nice haircut like yours.

Q: Yeah, exactly. But I have to do the follow-up. Obviously Edward has been…well was vocal a little while ago about wanting to want a more character…there was a lot of debate online…

Louis Leterrier: No, I know what you…

Q: And so what was he looking for vs. what was put out?

Louis Leterrier: I think he was looking for…I think what happened….no. I’ll tell you what happened exactly because I knew the timing exactly. You know when you do your first movie, you do an assembly. Everything that you’ve shot you put it into an assembly. Then after the assembly, you screen it. And it’s called a suicide run because it’s absolutely horrible. You want to commit suicide after you see it. You’re like, “oh I wasted 2 years of my life, $150 million. This is the worst movie ever. I’m like a terrible director. You cannot act. You’re a terrible producer.” So after this we had a meeting—just like this—like a round table where I go okay we have to find solutions. And then we were screaming stuff and everything. Maybe somebody walked in, a PA or somebody walked in, somebody who’s not used to it and we’re having a conversation and Edward was like…no, Edward’s very vocal. He won’t say….he’s like “come on man” and he’s not arguing. That’s how Edward is. I’m sure you guys have met him, you know, he’ll be like (making sounds) and the guy walks in and he’s like okay, Edward Norton is arguing about the cut and everything. And he walks out and (sounds of typewriter) they’re arguing. The next day when the Nikki Finke…Nicky Fink or whatever her name is…article came out, Edward was right next to me. He’s like “you want to laugh?” I’m like, “Yeah, what’s up?” “Read this”. “Oh, shit, you know. But I thought it would blow over. I was like…yeah okay. It’s like the same thing you see Britney Spears and everything. I was okay, funny. It’s like I didn’t care. I was like okay, cool. And then we kept on cutting and cutting and it became bigger and bigger and people were calling me and then Universal were calling “everything’s okay and everything?” and I was like “Edward’s right here next to me. Talk to Edward.” “Hey man, we’re cool. It’s me it was just a little argument”. Then Edward…because he finished…he was an actor. He had written a couple of versions of the screenplay and then he moved on. He did his thing. It just blew over. Everybody was really surprised and Edward was like, “yeah it must have been a slow week in Hollywood if I’m like the you know if I become the Britney Spears of Hollywood.” So it’s just…

Q: So that was it?

Louis Leterrier: That was it. That was it. We had to kill babies. We killed some of my babies, some of his babies. Like in the 70 minutes in you’ll see a scene that was actually in the trailer where you see the Ty Burrell character having a nice introspective talk with Edward. But you saw the movie guys. You know, it’s the moment where he spends the night with Betty and then she has a boyfriend and then they talked together and then it’s everything you know. It’s like…it was a long scene to give us an excuse to get that cool punch line that was given in the trailer like you know, you’ve never seen something…you know maybe you should see a shrink and he says no, you’ve haven’t seen a patient like me or something like that. Just for one punch line—a long scene like that. I go, okay maybe we don’t need that. And it just started moving forward. The problem with that suicide run—that suicide cut—was that it was a lot of stops and go and stops and go and stops and go and just the way I describe it to you, you know. The Arctic scene—stop. The credit sequence—go. Brazil—stop. Transformation—go and stop. It didn’t feel like a good fugitive movie like the “Bourne Supremacy”, like “The Fugitive” with Harrison Ford. These movies keep on going. They never stop, you know and we had to find something that is and it takes time to do that, you know and next time I’ll know. When I do the first screening first of all, don’t do your meeting right after it because everybody’s like ahh, I fucking hate you, you know? Do it a couple of days after and then do it behind closed door because no one can understand that. It’s really tough. You become really emotional. It’s 2 years of your life. It’s your own thing. It’s like…keep it for yourself.

Q: Silly question. What do you think will take to kill the Hulk?

Louis Leterrier: Not a lot. He almost dies in our movie, right? He’s kind of a weak bastard, you know? I think his weak thing is that he’s got to big of a heart so I think his demise actually in the comic book that’s it’s his heart. He’s too kind. He’s too nice of a superhero, so that’s the downfall of all superheroes. Their feelings bring them down, that’s all.

Q: And what was Edward’s input on the actual shooting script? How much of his stuff is in there still?

Louis Leterrier: Oh the dialogue is definitely his. The changing of the boyfriend for example, the Ty Burrell character was like a…he was a bastard at first and now he’s like a nice guy that kind of makes a mistake. It was really good…Ed was really good with shades of gray. Not making things black and white which sometimes…most of the times superhero movies have, you know the really bad guys and the really good guys. Ed’s really good on the shades of gray and his input was tremendous on this.

Q: I know you just wrapped the film but I have to ask. What do you have coming up? Are you going to jump right back into another superhero? Are you…?

Louis Leterrier: I actually—for the first time in my life—and it’s not crap, I don’t know what I’m doing next. Just because, like you said, I’ve just wrapped. I was like in post forever and I was like so into it. I was virtually working 20 hour days and sometimes I was not…I don’t know if it’s in the press notes but sometimes I wasn’t sleeping for a week, like not sleeping for a week and I don’t know if you guys have ever done that. It makes you crazy. Like on Diet Coke and Red Bull, I was like ahhhh, just because there was so much work. So I haven’t had time to read anything that I liked and also with the strike, it’s kind of weird. There’s nothing happening. People are all sort of like stopped and going okay let’s see, you know? So, we’ll see. And also, you know, everybody still thinks….they don’t know if it’s going to be a good movie or not, so, yesterday it was good, because lots of movie execs came to see the movie and they were like, “this is actually a good movie”. I was like, “oh, thank you”.

Q: Roger Corman liked your movie.

Louis Leterrier: Oh did he? Oh really?

Q: I talked with him after we were walking after the movie and he said it’s just absolutely fantastic.

Louis Leterrier: Oh, that’s who I want to work with.

Q: I have to do one quick follow-up. Comic-Con’s coming up in July, obviously you might go down there for “Hulk”, do you think…

Louis Leterrier: I don’t know.

Q: …well, maybe. Do you think there’s any chance of you showing some of those deleted scenes you talked about the 70 minutes at Comic-Con for the fans?

Louis Leterrier: Guys, do not do this–and action.

Q: No, but I’m being serious. That might a really nice treat for the fans.

Louis Leterrier: That would be nice, yeah. We’ll see. It’s just I tell you; it’s not that interesting. I mean, it’s interesting….only the good stuff is in the movie. We just took out the bad stuff that’s why. We didn’t take out any of the good stuff otherwise it would be a shame. No, really I swear.

Q: Anything about a sequel yet?

Louis Leterrier: Sequel? Maybe. Maybe. We’ll know on Saturday.

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