Sam Elliott of Hulk Movie Interviewed by C2F

Q: Where did you go for inspi
The Hulk's had many nemeses, but the one character who persisted in being the bane of his big green existence for so many years is General Thaddius "Thunderbolt" Ross. When the character hits the big screen Sam Elliott will fill the shoes of Bruce Banner's military adversary and would-be father-in-law.

Elliott recently sat down with the press to talk about his work in the movie. At the roundtable interview, members of the press took turns asking questions about the development of the film. Comics2Film/CBR News is please to present this edited transcript of that interview.

Q: Were you familiar with the Hulk before you took on this role?

Sam Elliott (SE): I don't think there is any being unfamiliar with The Hulk, whether you're in this business or any other business. After it's been around for forty-three years in one form or another, you'd probably have to have your head in the sand to not know about it.

Q: Were you a comic book readers?

SE: I never was a comic book reader.

Q: Not even as a kid?

SE: I had, oddly enough, a couple of real close friends that were college roommates, that were avid "Hulk" readers. Southern California boys. This was up in Oregon. So that was kind of my first awareness of the character.

I looked at a couple of them, but never got hooked by it.

I spent time on the set of the TV show ["The Incredible Hulk"] a couple of different times. I was up here at Universal doing some long-form television, back in those days and got to know [Bill Bixby] and went by and visited him a couple of times, but, as with the comic books, I never got hooked into the show.

Q: Where did you go for inspiration for your character?

SE: I actually went to to the comics. When you get a job, it changes a lot of things. You do things that you might normally not do in your normal life, real life. It was like the only resource, beyond Ang, and beyond the material in the beginning.

When I first got got connected with this thing there was no material for me to look at. I had my initial meeting with Ang and left there without a script. I hadn't had read the script before I had the meeting. He said, "There's a script that I can give you, but I'd rather you wait because one of the things that we're working on that needs more work than anything else happens to be your character, Ross' character."

So I said, "I'm gonna wait."

Q: But you said yes to the part.

SE: Yeah. The truth of it is that I would have come and done this without a script, to work with Ang.

Q: What about him is so appealing to actors?

SE: You know, I don't know anything about Ang that isn't appealing, on a lot of personal levels and a lot of other levels in terms of his filmmaking capabilities. I didn't see the work that he did before he came to the states and worked here. It's not like I was a great Ang Lee fan before he came into the States. It was when he came here and started making films that I became aware of him.

I should probably give you a little back story on how it came to me. I did a film called "The Contender" a few years ago with Joan Allen who worked with Ang and ["Hulk" producer/screenwriter James Schamus] in "The Ice Storm," and I was up for another film that was being cast out of New York by this gal Avy Kaufman, who is a casting woman.

That film fell apart but Avy Kaufman was also casting "The Hulk" and at that point in time all the principal characters had been cast with the exception of the Ross character. Avy took it upon herself to show Ang this footage of me with Joan from "The Contender." When it was done Ang says, "That's the guy. That's the guy I want."

I think it was by virtue of the fact that I have grey hair, like Ross does in the comic book form, and there was pretty explosive scenes, which Ross in the comic books he's always often got steam coming out of his ears and that kind of stuff. So it worked well. It was right place at the right time.

Then coming in and listening to Ang's take on the whole thing, about the Hulk kind of residing in all of us and this being kind of his continuation of his, as he referred to it, "the green destiny" which is something written on the sword in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

It was all really exciting for me to be a part of.

Q: How does Ang communicated the scope and vision of what he's working on?

SE: Ang has, and I think there's only one reason we're all sitting here as far as I'm concerned, I think it's the vision that Ang had and what he brought to this.

This movie probably would've gotten made but it wouldn't have come to be what it is in anyone else's hands, I don't think. I think that Ang had this entire film in his head. I certainly I don't mean every frame-by-frame, but it was a clear vision that he had.

The incredible part of it is, he amassed this incredible support group around him. People at the top of their game whether it's producers, writers, people at ILM. He got a good bunch of actors to work on it. He had the cream of the crop in every craft.

He also has, even though he's got this kind of...I'd find myself, I'd say, "what was that," a couple of times in this four month process. But he has such a clear vision and the ability to be so specific in what it is he's wanting to get out of you, whether it's these computer guys or a performance from an actor. It's ideal.

Q: What make's Ang Lee's vision of "Hulk" particularly interesting?

SE: I think this overriding view that this thing resides in all of us, this potential, for starters is one thing that makes this thing so provocative.

But in terms of looking at it, and I saw it the other night, with you guys, at the press screening. It was the first time I'd seen it, other than a couple snippets of it.

It's the melding of these two worlds. He has this one story of these humans, which is a pretty powerful, dramatic tale, I think. At the same time he's got this guy who is totally created out of thin air, that he melds with those. I think that the success of that connection that he made, with the two different worlds, elevates this to a whole other plane. This is not typically of any tentpole or any comic book that I've ever seen that made the transition from the comic book pages to film.

I think this thing is so far and away beyond that. It's not because I'm involved with it. I truly believe that Ang is a brilliant filmmaker and that he pulled it off. I've been in this business for thirty four years and I've never been in a situation...I've been around big films before. I've never been in one of these big, monstrous things, but I
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6/12/2003
Comics2Film

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