Interview: Ang Lee on Hulk Source

...I took a lot of — King Kong, Beauty And The Beast, obviously. When he put her on the car top like King Kong when he has to fight those dogs. The way he sees her (soounds like: melt), that’s kind of King Kong. But I mix a lot of elements — Frankenstein
q. What would you think of comparisons to King Kong.

Oh, I took a lot of — King Kong, Beauty And The Beast, obviously. When he put her on the car top like King Kong when he has to fight those dogs. The way he sees her (soounds like: melt), that’s kind of King Kong. But I mix a lot of elements — Frankenstein probably more so than King Kong, Beauty And The Beast, Jekyll And Hyde, Faust, the father figure, a lot of Greek mythology. This is a modern-day myth.

q. How risky is it to do a tragedy and still have a fun superhero movie?

That’s how Hulk works. I don’t think he’s a superhero. I think he’s among the first Marvel characters that’s a tragic monster who serves as a hero. It’s really an anti-hero, and it obviously was a great success, so that tells me about American psychology — hidden pleasures, needs, aggression, everything. So that really attracted me — one of the reasons I was attracted to the project. It’s meant to be tested. We’ll see how people feel about it. I think that’s the attraction of Hulk. It ought to be that way.

q. You’re able to get to the emotional truth. Having this cg and all these other tools, was that enhanced finding that emotional contact or did that prove to be difficult, or how was that a new challenge for you?

Well, I take that as an opportunity, usually rely on actors or scenery (s) that reflect their moods. I can go greedy and ambitious and go further. To me, that’s an expensive art that through cg you can manipulate images like abstract painting. Like the fighting in the cloud, the father is a statue — how are you going to do that with realism? There’s no way you can create when they’re under the dark lake and have that mental conversation. It has to be CG. Now it’s available. I’ve kind of earned that right without being bound by the commercial side of it. The studio says you can do an Ang Lee film. We want an Ang Lee film. You’re special. Show us what it is. Marvel was okay with the creative instinct me and James had with the story and approaches. So it’s kind of a chance I earned through fortunate successes and people’s willingness to work with me without cynicism. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to make a big movie without a big movie star to open it. This is franchise material. It will open big because people come to see The Hulk. I think for a filmmaker it’s a rare chance. You can do a personal film on a big canvas.

q. Did you know at the very beginning that you were going to shoot it almost like a comic book with the multiple screens?

Yes. Over the years from student days, why do we have to cut and intercut? Why can’t we see both faces at the same time without [SOUNDS LIKE: a pull from] the camera. Why can’t we compare? How can we do space cuttings instead of just time cutting? There’s always in my head and knowing the fact I’m about to do comic material, I found it [UNINTELLIGIBLE] to exercise those curiosities. I think I’m forever a film student. I want to learn how to make a big movie, how to do things, experiment and be allowed to do so. What was it like to apply to a big audience? I have a lot of curiosity.

q. How much in the context of this movie, how much was an experiment in the way you did it, and how much do you feel you were able to integrate it artistically and narratively?

I worked together with Tim Squires, my editor. A lot of this is innovation. A lot of it is my idea. I wanted to do a lot more. Not even just display information. I wanted the performances to give them breathing room without interfering with cutting. That didn’t work as well as action sequences. Sometimes you found that distracting for today’s audience. I’m sure three years from now, that’s the best way to show a movie. But we were limited to mostly transitions or something you want to propel, like when Hulk comes out from the water tank, so much information, when we put it together, everybody else was doing that. One person at a time, an endless stretch what happened in three seconds. He just kept stretching it. So, I display them and it might look silly. It’s a comic book. So when you put it all together in the panels and moving around, you give every one of them more room, and it’s busier, it’s very exciting. If you can choreograph, it’s a new film language. It’s almost like when you open a comic book page, your eyes go to the most prominent part and then you have your own choice. You’re busy. I think that’s one way to really show respect for the viewers. They take what they want. It’s still being directed. It’s not like television, grasping one look. On the big screen, you have to move your head.

q. These characters — you’re dealing with a broken relationship and estranged daughter. How do you make sure these come across as emotional to the audience when there’s a risk they might be a little ridiculous?
That’s the hardest part. For me and for actors. Especially for actors.

q. How did you do it?

Call them, persuade them, guarantee them it would work. I don’t know. Ask them to trust me, trust in the material. Sometimes even alter lines that make them feel better, more grounded. The thing I want to do and the way they act is very realistic. That’s what they do at the best. Sometimes they are more insistent to do that, and ridicule themselves saying certain juicy comic lines, and that’s alright with me. I know I have more to gain than lose a couple of jokes. Because you have to go along with the vibe. If I have a different actor I do different things. This is the material I have. I have to be honest with them, and they have to give their best shot, and we take it from there. After shooting there is always editing time, so there’s still like a year to figure out what it is. I go along with what I do best at the end of the day.
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