Screenwriter Michael France Talks About His Original Hulk Draft
Friday, April 9 2004

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SV:     Now that you have Hulk under your belt, The Punisher next, and Fantastic Four... What are the more challenging aspects for you when dealing with the super-hero universe, as opposed to say the Bond franchise, or even a Cliffhanger?

FRANCE:     Even though those three projects - Hulk, Punisher, and Fantastic Four - are all Marvel comic book properties, each one of them is very different in terms of the tone and the world you have to set up. My drafts of those three projects have just about nothing in common. My Hulk drafts had a serious science fiction/horror tone - Fantastic Four was just straight fun - and my Punisher drafts presented the very dark world of a crime movie. In my drafts of Hulk, I wanted to build up a world that was almost more like a horror movie than a comic book. I love the original comics and there were some elements of that in what I wrote - for instance, I was convinced from day one that I had to have a scene of the Hulk fighting tanks in the desert. The Hulk did that in every third comic book when I was a kid. But to ground the story, I really wanted to focus on Banner and Betty's reaction to this Hulk problem that Banner develops. I thought it would be like getting a terminal disease. In my drafts, Banner is convinced that he's going to irreversibly change into the Hulk and cease to exist as a human. When you really think about it, it's an absurd situation - he gets mad and he turns into a monster - but if you have the characters treat it as a real situation, reacting with fear and anger and determination, you give the audience a way to believe the scientifically preposterous part of the story. Anyway, I wanted the character aspects of it to have the feel of The Wolfman or the Cronenberg remake of The Fly. The most important part of the whole thing is how this man confronts the loss of his identity, the loss of his body, and maybe even his death, as a result of what's happened.

The Hulk's world is very dark. I used the angle of Banner being haunted by his abusive father (and so did John Turman before me - he did terrific work on the movie), though not quite with the same miserable emphasis James Schamus put on it later. But The Fantastic Four is completely different. It's a sunny, bright, four-color adventure with characters who are mostly very funny, as they fight and squabble the way real families do. Again, even though the science and events are pretty far out there, I tried to treat them as real people. I kept the family dynamic from the original Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comics, which are very funny and wildly imaginative, down the to smallest detail - but I tried to keep the characters' problems resulting from their changes as accessible as possible. Ben Grimm is the best character - he's the funniest one because he enjoys being a monster and scaring the hell out of people. That's his public face - but when he's alone or in private, he's the most dramatically interesting character. He's miserable because he'll never be human again. I had a great time working with both sides of that character. It's very easy to get too silly with this stuff - it's kind of a delicate balance - and I hope they keep that balance when the movie is finally made.

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