Best known to international moviegoers as the director of “The Transporter” action thrillers, French director Louis Leterrier takes on the CGI-heavy reincarnation of “The Incredible Hulk”, a film he felt he wasn’t ready to take on, he confessed to Paul Fischer in this exclusive interview.
Question: First of all, I presume you got “The Incredible Hulk” on the strength of “The Transporter” films. Was it easy for you to get this particular movie to direct? It’s a huge movie for you to take on.
Leterrier: Yes. because I didn’t want to do it, as I didn’t think I was capable of doing such a huge, huge special effects film. And so I told them no at the time, but they were like, “Here’s what actually we want to achieve with the film.” And, “I don’t think I can.”
Question: Why did you think that?
Leterrier: Why – just because I’d never done it. I mean, I was an AD on a few movies, that I’d seen how you direct CG films, but I’d never been involved with a movie where you have a CG creature, so I didn’t know how to do that. But, you know, when they offer it to you on a silver platter, you start stuttering. You know, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I have to think about it,” because it’s really daunting. That’s kind of a career killer, if you don’t do it right, but now that I’ve done it – it’s great fun, I think it is great, because you have absolute power, creating a CG creature You don’t have to care about the cameras , so you’re so liberated.
Question: What finally changed your mind about taking it?
Leterrier: You know what changed my mind? I realized that there was a Hulk story to be told on a human level, just the same way I told, like, sort of like, a story on a human level with “The Transporter” films, or “The Hulk” TV show. I thought there was, like, a real sort of fugitive movie to be done, a chase movie to be done, a very human movie. I love movies like “The Fugitive”, the Bourne series, where there’s, like, a real man trying to get his life back together. I wanted to tell the story and surround myself with amazing technicians who could help me do it.
Question: What lessons did you learn, or did Marvel take from the Ang Lee experience?
Leterrier: I am a big defender of Ang Lee, because it’s the very first movie and the more you watch it, the more it grows on you. The Ang Lee movie is like a really good rock and roll album, in that the first time you listen to it you’re kind of like, “Eh, it’s kind of weird.” You are not used to it. But the more you listen to it, and the more you view it, you know, the finer it becomes, almost like a jewel in the raw. It was really perfect, but it was very personal, which was the idea. And that’s why sort of like, the Hulk character took a back seat to Ang Lee telling the story of that man’s struggle. So that’s what I thought. If you love the movie, you love it for the same reasons. So what Marvel and I took away from it was, like, you know, maybe – we don’t want to make that rock and roll album, so peculiar, that it alienates some people. We want to tell the story in a broader sense, but not dumber sense. You don’t have to check your brain at the door when you enter our theatre to see our movie. But still, you know, it’s not alienating.
Question: On the surface, it would seem that Ed Norton is not an obvious choice. I mean, he shuns mainstream Hollywood, to a large degree and is not doing much press for this movie, I know he must have been tough to convince. Why do you think he ultimately said yes after he originally said thanks but no thanks.
Leterrier: Why did he change his mind? From not wanting to do it? I don’t know. I don’t think he never wanted to do this movie, because he actually told me he would have loved to do “Spider-Man” and all that stuff. He was offered “Hulk”. I’d like to think I had something to do with it, that he saw that maybe he and I could work together. I can tell you, it’s definitely not for the money, and it’s definitely not for the star power.
Question: What did you find was the ultimate challenge? Did you think the CGI was as tough as you thought it was gonna be? Or did you have so many great people around you that they made it easier for you to achieve what –
Leterrier: Yeah, it’s always a challenge. It’s always struggle with, and continue to bring the integration that’s been toughest. And there’s some amazing shots in the movie, but there’s some ones that I’m like, “Eh, I still wish I had more time somehow.” It’s exactly like putting a rock and roll soundtrack into a movie.
Question: Let me ask you about the possibility of sequels. First of all, are you contracted to do another Hulk?
Leterrier: Am I contracted? I think so like, an open door on either side. I know Tim is contracted, but Edward is not contracted. But other people are contracted. 40 years of comic books, you cannot just reduce to a two-hour movie, and have people understand it. I think “Spider-Man” is great, but “Spider-Man 2” is so much better, because now you can tell their varying stories. Same thing with “X-Men”. You don’t have to go – now people know the surface of the character, so you can go a little deeper. So I’d love to go back and what was great on this one, now we can also work with other Marvel characters so maybe “Hulk 2” starring Tony Stark, or maybe “Iron Man 2” starring the Hulk. That’d be great.
Question: What about Transporter? Do you have any plans to return to that world at all?
Leterrier: No, no. Actually, they did “The Transporter 3”, I saw the trailer and it looks fun. It’s great. The screenwriter told me it was the best script out of the three.
Question: Do you have any idea what your plans are next, at all?
Leterrier: I’d like to say that I’m directing this Smurfs movie.
Question: That seems a little bit out of sync with you.
Leterrier: [LAUGHTER] I don’t know, yeah. That is — this live action. No, I don’t know what’s next. I’m kind of waiting. You know, I worked so hard. Literally, I was working – sometimes I was not sleeping at all, for, like, weeks. Like, a month ago, when we have to finalize the movie, I didn’t sleep for a week. I was on Diet Coke and bread. And it was like, minimum 18 to 20-hour days, seven days a week. So I haven’t had time to think about it. And the possible actors strike makes things uncertain. I’m actually going to really love the break, and deserve the break.