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THE HULK

The Human Element
The most successful of formulas often arise out of the unexpected spark produced by an unlikely combination of elements—just ask Bruce Banner—and when it came to casting The Hulk, filmmakers were able to assemble an outstanding roster of actors which, when combined, would render the film a true ensemble event. 

The cinematic balancing act that characterizes Lee's approach to his work and to The Hulk began, quite naturally, with the film's divided main character. Although the wizards at ILM would ultimately give life to the "green Goliath,” the filmmakers knew it was crucial to cast an actor who could inhabit his human incarnation, conveying not only his inner conflict and repression but, ultimately, his compassion. Australian actor Eric Bana, a comparative newcomer, won the part, primarily on the basis of his first movie, a disturbing tale of a charming killer called Chopper. "Eric played a kind of human monster in Chopper, someone who was so monstrous because he was so human, too,” Ang Lee observes. "With just a simple look, he could communicate a kind of superhuman fury and intelligence. I thought it would be marvelous to see him as Bruce Banner, having to suppress that energy until he couldn't take it anymore.” 

Bana says that Banner's turmoil intrigued him, but there was a key reason for accepting the role. The actor offers, "The most obvious hook was the fact that Ang Lee was directing it. The thing that attracted me to the character of the Hulk in particular was the fact that he is a slightly reluctant hero. And the Hulk can't control being the Hulk, really—Batman goes into a cave, Superman goes into a phone booth—but it just comes over the Hulk, which attracted me as an actor.” 

Part of the challenge for Bana was to channel not just the character's emotional nuances but also Lee's prismatic and sometimes fragmented vision of Banner and his world.

"I knew that whatever Ang tried would be entirely unique and unpredictable. It also turned out to be very difficult to prepare for because the character undergoes so much soul-searching. It was hard to get a specific handle on what exactly I needed to do or research, but I tried to use that, because, in a way, that uncertainty is part of Bruce Banner's dilemma. Ultimately, it was about trusting Ang and his vision. I just went in with my eyes wide open. When I first read the script, I was blown away by it. It was very layered and complex but I also knew that there was a lot that was in Ang's head that wouldn't necessarily translate to the page. I knew that whatever he added would be incredible and probably way beyond my wildest imagination, and that turned out to be so,” adds Bana. 

Because the Hulk would be a completely computer generated being, Bana never had to endure the rigors of turning large and green; his performance, however, had to pave the way for the emerging CGI Hulk. The artists at ILM were occasionally consulted by the actor for help in fomenting postures or specific facial looks that would become the starting point for the human-to- Hulk transformation 

"It was a lot to store in my head, but it was fun at the same time. It required a specific level of concentration and it was helpful to know that I didn't have to take it the whole way. I wasn't inhibited by having to stop and get into make-up or some green suit. Also, it allowed me to absolutely go for it, based purely on the ideas that Ang had put into my head, and to just get really emotionally and physically ugly,” Bana muses. Jennifer Connelly earned the role of Betty Ross, Bruce's colleague, friend and former girlfriend who comes to be the only humane link between Banner and the Hulk. Like the original Marvel Hulk, Betty Ross changed over the course of the comic book, but her essential love and sympathy for Banner remained throughout the series and infused the character in Lee's film. 

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