Hulk Movie Interview: Nick Nolte

As Bruce Banner’s father, his own genetic alterations cause him to meld with the objects with which he comes into contact, which of course was the domain of Industrial Light and Magic.
Nick Nolte makes his first big studio movie in years with The Hulk after several years focusing on independent work. On top of the normal studio accoutrements, Nolte had to do special effects. As Bruce Banner’s father, his own genetic alterations cause him to meld with the objects with which he comes into contact, which of course was the domain of Industrial Light and Magic.

"I was quite comfortable," Nolte said. "Ang had asked Industrial Light and Magic if they would engage in the process of shooting their shots, their preliminary shots, at a special time right after the scene. Usually, they take it back up to their lab. So, we would shoot a scene. When I was gamma radiated and I fell onto the nano thing and the blood, that was imaginary. I imagined it. And then when my hand went down and turned to steel, it was just me prying my fingers off of this. Now, that was shot with a regular camera. Then the Industrial Light and Magic boys came in and they put dots all over my arm. And we went through it once that way. And when we thought we got that right, they had me fall down onto the beam and with no arm, watch this, in space, a point in space. They couldn’t put anything there, so interestingly enough, when you’re looking in space and it’s close, when your eyes are crossed, you’ve got it right, in the right focus. So, I don’t think any actor likes to look like that. But that was the right focus."

Nolte was attracted to the film because director Ang Lee wanted to approach it as a Greek tragedy, not a comic book. "He needed to steep the story in the deepest myth he could, and the deepest myth in the Greek tragedy, one of them, besides the Oedipal Complex, which has a funny twist to it because it’s actually true that could have happened, is the father-son. Because the father-son dates from 250 years ago with the monarchies. Many times the kings killed their sons, especially if they tended to the throne too early. And many sons killed fathers. It’s different nowadays. There is still this rites of passage and I think what it is is the father has to let the son win at some point. He usually does because we get feeble, but you have to let him win because he is more than an extension of yourself. He is individually unique."

Working with Lee was a unique experience too. "Ang never lets anybody see dailies. Neither does Scorsese and neither does Malick. But Ang has another theory. If an actor doesn’t quite know where he’s at, he doesn’t want him to know. So, he kept Eric [Bana] off balance for a while. We were able to sneak in and see some dailies and I whispered to Eric, ‘You’re brilliant.’ The first word he ever got, reaction back from his work, he got so desperate at lunch, he turned to one of the producers that had seen dailies and said, ‘How are dailies?’ Of course the producer said, ‘They were good.’ But he had an extremely difficult role. To be subtly frightened of something inside you and not know, and knowing that he could not really engage in a relationship because there was something dangerous inside, you know, we all get that feeling once in a while of what we think our demonic side, you know."

Nolte himself had a difficult scene with mutant dogs that his character has trained to attack. That was the easy part. "I work with dogs a lot. I just smeared myself in food. That’s what you eventually do. The trainers try to hide in bushes and the dogs would run into the bushes and find their trainers. So, I just took all that food they gave me and rubbed it all over me. You couldn’t see it. It was at night, and I had it in my hands. The scent was so strong, they’d stick to me like glue. But I learned that trick on Down and Out [in Beverly Hills]."

Finally, the film climaxes with a verbal father-son confrontation, unusual in your typical comic book superhero movies. "It’s part Shakesperian, part Paradise Lost. It is meant to be a dramatic stage piece. I mean, who puts at the end of an action piece a four page scene? Ang Lee does. And he wanted that because he wanted a strong identification with the characters. That, the whole thing, I’m trying to rile my son to change. And my debate with him, since we are so altered, we will never be allowed to survive, but we can be so powerful together that we could stop all the wars."
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