Gale Anne Hurd Interview – THE INCREDIBLE HULK

     June 16, 2008

Written by Cal Kemp

I caught up with Gale Anne Hurd late last week, just prior to “The Incredible Hulk”‘s blockbuster opening to the tune of $55.4 million. Coupled with strong word-of-mouth, there’s every reason to suspect that we’ll be hearing a lot more “Hulk Smash!” in the near future.

Gale herself is no stranger to box office success having been a driving force behind “Aliens”, “The Abyss” and three “Terminator” films, among many others, including Ang Lee’s 2003 “Hulk”.

A self-professed comic book fan, Gale talked about her involvement with the Marvel Universe and what has been a 16 year journey bringing Dr. Banner’s big green alter ego to the big screen twice (and still counting).

Collider: This the second time that you’re producing a Hulk film. What did you look at to make this one different from that last?

Gale: Well, you know, we took a lot of the feedback that we received from the first one to heart. The things that people liked and the things that they felt we didn’t quite deliver. To take nothing away from Ang Lee’s film which I am still incredibly proud of, it seemed like audiences were hoping for more “Hulk smash!”, more of a heroic Hulk and there was a lot of feedback that many fans came to enjoy the incredible Hulk and Bruce Banner from the television series so we wanted to give an nod to that.

Collider: It’s set up so that it could be a sequel or a remake, depending on how you look at it. Was that something you were very conscious of?

Gale: To be honest, that was was one of those things where we said, “Look, we don’t want to tell another origin story.” One thing we absolutely knew for certain was that we didn’t want to start with Bruce Banner and how he becomes the Hulk. From that point on, we couldn’t quite figure out how to term this. I think at one point we asked if anyone could come up with the appropriate term and someone one line had a “re-quel” which I think was actually perfect. It’s kind of a reboot and it’s kind of sequel.

Collider: How much thought has been given to setting this up as a franchise? Are you already eyeing “Incredible Hulk 2”?

Gale: You know, we’re gonna wait for that to be. First, we just want to get the movie out and then, hopefully, the fans will know if that’s in the cards.

Collider: What’s it like getting to play in this brand-new Marvel Universe movie sandbox?

Gale: If you’re a comic book fan like I am and grew up reading the books, you just feel like a kid in a candy store. Louis would say, “Is it possible, when we do this search and the office is tracking Bruce Banner, can we use SHIELD?” Then the answer comes back, “Absolutely.” “Can we have all the weaponry in the film be Stark Industries? All the innovative stuff, from the sound cannons to some of the weapons?” Again the answer comes back, “Absolutely.” Then, to go one more, “What about Tony Stark actually appearing in the film?” The answer comes back, “Yes. Go ahead and schedule it.” Then one day Robert Downey Jr. comes to visit as Tony Stark and he’s in your movie, you go right back to childhood.

Collider: It’s amazing just how much applause there is at that moment.

Gale: It’s unbelievable. It’s so fun and I think it’s so fitting. That’s the thing. It doesn’t feel like it’s just an afterthought because you’ve got General Ross feeling defeated. He tried his way to get the Hulk and now Tony Stark is going to have a different perspective on it and has something to offer.

Collider: Louis has been teasing that if you look closely, you can see Captain America.

Gale: Yeah… Maybe he can? (laughs) There are Captain America nods. They’re Easter eggs.

Collider: Like the name on the serum.

Gale: Exactly. That’s where it is.

Collider: You’re also working on “Punisher: War Zone”. What’s the difference in terms of ratings, working with something that’s a hard R and something built more towards families?

Gale: Well, if you look at this film, you never anyone that’s died. I know this sounds strange, but part of the fun of a hard R film is giving the fans what they love from the comic books which is innovative ways for Frank Castle to punish the guilty.

Collider: What’s the difference there between working with Marvel Studios and working with something that’s still the Marvel Universe, but not really the same Marvel Universe?

Gale: Well, you know when you’re in the Marvel Universe, you really can give the fans a whole panoply of Easter eggs. When you’re outside the universe, you can take everything from the comic book but you can’t have an appearance by Daredevil or an appearance by another one of the Marvel characters. That’s not part of your toolbox.

Collider: You mentioned growing up on comics. Was the Hulk in particular always one of your favorites?

Gale: Hulk was a favorite. I loved Fantastic Four. I loved Spider-Man. I was definitely a Marvel girl growing up.

Collider: Do you have a dream project that you’ve always wanted to do?

Gale: Well, Hulk really is. I think someone told me the other day, I’ve been involved in trying to get Hulk movies made for 16 years. So to have been able to do two is really a dream come true.

Collider: Now that 3-D is already becoming such a big thing, would you think about doing that for a feature film?

Gale: Absolutely. I’m especially looking forward to Jim Cameron’s “Avatar”. I remember when we worked on “Terminator 2” and the 3-D ride for Universal. Jim knew he was going to be making a 3-D film way back then. That was in the 90’s.

Collider: Looking ahead, how involved do you plan to be in the future of the filmic Marvel Universe?

Gale: As involved as one can be. It’s been a great working experience. They’re terrific. They very much feel that they’re the keepers of their characters. That it’s important to treat them as if they were important actors. They are alive in the Marvel Studio world. You want to keep them happy and the fans happy.

Collider: Louis mentioned that are about 70 minutes of deleted scenes. Are you already looking a giant director’s cut for the DVD?

Gale: No, I think it’s going to be the same cut. You’ll just be able to access all of the deleted footage. It won’t be a 70 minute longer movie.

Collider: By the same stroke, were there scenes removed from Ang Lee’s film that will ever be pulled together for a DVD re-release?

Gale: No, I don’t think so. He was very happy with his cut just as Louis is very happy with his. It’s not as if there’s a sense that the filmmaker didn’t get to release his version of the movie. But, especially in Ang’s film, some scenes were cut that never had finished visuals so that would be a costly endeavor to finish them.

Collider: Can you talk a little about what you’re working on next?

Gale: Hopefully, I’ll be working on a vacation. That would be great. At this point, we’re still working on post-production on “Punisher: War Zone” so it doesn’t feel to me like I’m ready to embark on anything new yet. I have a number of projects that I think are likely to go in 2009.

Collider: Outside of Marvel, are there any other comics you’d like to work with?

Gale: There are! I’m doing a comic that Platinum is about to release called “Final Orbit”. We are going to be starting up a screenplay on that in the next couple of weeks. Russell Gewirtz who wrote [Inside Man] is writing.

Collider: All of a sudden, it seems like the entire world understands comics as an art form that has opened up into the world of cinema. Do you think there’s something special about the timing in all this?

Gale: You know, it’s funny. Someone once said to me, “How come it took so long to get the Hulk going?” well, there was a time when comic books were poison to the studios. They thought, okay, we made a few of them and then they didn’t work. To me, that’s like saying, “No one wants to go and see fiction or non-fiction driven stories anymore.” The stories and the characters in comic books are just as vital as any of the other myths and legends that we’ve come to love and make and remake. I don’t think there’s going to be any end. The pendulum may swing but I think they’re here to stay.

Collider: What are some of your favorite Hulk stories from the comics?

Gale: I am a big fan of “Hulk: Grey”. In fact, it was really great when Loeb and Sale saw the film and loved it. It was really gratifying to hear Stan Lee say that this time he felt that the character he created was captured on film… I don’t know if Louis talked with you about the decision to go anamorphic. Most comic book movies are not anamorphic. That was a very conscious decision to make it a big screen movie and to integrate the special effects even better in the film than in the first film.

Collider: Did you ever consider going an IMAX route?

Gale: No, because we really wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of things given the timeframe we had. We started shooting last year and it’s a much more complicated post-production process. Anamorphic is also a lot more complicated than shooting with spherical lenses. The great thing is that the lenses we used were 40 year old lenses. I think it’s a great look and the cinematography is tremendous. I also want to say that Craig Armstrong did a tremendous score that I can’t wait to hear again tonight.

Collider: It really harkened back to the TV series. And let me ask you that, were you a big fan of the Bill Bixby show?

Gale: A huge fan. I loved the show. That’s why we had so much fun on the set. Especially when we created the huge machine in the title sequence. That was a real nod to the machine from the TV series. It was a lot of fun.

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