James Schamus honored at the Nantucket Film Festival

Monday, June 24 2002

This past weekend the 7th annual Nantucket Film Festival took place on Nantucket Island. The Nantucket Film Festival has established itself as a premiere U.S. film festival that provides an intimate forum for screenwriters, producers, agents and development executives to interact with and enjoy the notable films presented on the island.

This year's guest of honor was James Schamus, who received NBC's Screenwriter Tribute Award. For those that don't know, he is the writer of The Hulk shooting script. Having heard him speak, I can in all honesty say that his involvement with the film will only make the film better.

Although he did not reveal anything new about The Hulk, some of the things that he did say were encouraging. He mentioned that The Hulk would definitely be green and there would be NO gray Hulk. He also told me that filming would continue through July and mentioned shooting locations in Arizona, so I can only imagine that the Hulk will spend some well deserved time in the dessert.

When James came onboard, The Hulk had already been in development for quite a few years and there had been quite a few scripts floating around. By his estimation, there were 40 or so Hulk scripts lying on his desk. He only read the latest one, the famous Hayter draft. He mentioned that he had a great respect for the source material and acknowledged that the Hulk had over 500 issues of continuity behind him.

The get a clearer picture of the character he went back and read the original Lee/Kirby run and said that he based the tone of the script on that run. Note that he did not say he was going to follow those issues word for word, but that he was trying to capture the tone Stan and Jack had set in those early issues.

Most encouraging was hearing what Rick Moody, author of the Ice Storm, had to say. The Ice Storm was a critically acclaimed movie, directed by Ang Lee, written by James Schamus and based on the Novel of the same name by Rick Moody. Rick recounted a story of how when James first called him to tell him that the novel had been optioned, he let him know that "we are going to have to leave some things out". Rick did not find those words too encouraging.

But James insisted on keeping Rick involved throughout the production and welcomed his feedback throughout the process. The end result was an incredible film, one which Rick acknowledged "in some ways, improved on the novel".

I see a similar parallel between The Ice Storm and The Hulk. Yes, the Hulk film will not be a carbon copy of the comic, but that does not mean that it will not be a good film. Avi Arad, one of the heads of Marvel, is an executive producer of the film. Marvel is actively involved in the production of the film, making sure that their characters are not drastically altered. And if a novelist can acknowledge that the film in many ways improved on the novel, than the fans can accept that the Hulk movie can do the same.

Ted Hope, James' partner at Good Machine, said that he always new that James would do The Hulk. Early on in his career, James had wanted to make a silent Hunchback of Notre Dame Film, focusing on the tragic Quasimodo. The film was never made, and it Ted referred to the film as the ugly brother of The Hulk. Ted called The Hulk a character piece, focusing on this really interesting guy, Bruce Banner.

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