Countdown To Hulk: John Turman talks about 'Hulk' and other heroes

Sun, June 1st, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

TV/Film
Rob Worley, Columnist

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On Friday, Comics2Film/CBR News presented part

one of our interview with "Hulk" screenwriter John Turman. Turman

talked about the excitement of his first job with a major studio being work on a

comic character he'd always loved. In part two Turman gives additional insights

into bringing jade jaws to the silver screen, and which other projects are on

the horizon for him.

CGI LEADING MAN

In the mid 1990s, CGI effects were just starting to explode. Turman recalls

that early on they were talking about rendering the Hulk as a virtual actor.

"I started out as a storyboard artist and I remember in my early meetings with

Gale Hurd, I brought in a few sketches even though I was just the writer,"

Turman said. "I know that we had a

number of discussions about the look of the Hulk. I had always seen him as a

CGI wrapped around the actor. I just felt that it would be very difficult to

paint a body builder green in this day and age."

Turman may have been influenced by another movie, which was one of the first

to present compelling organic creations in CGI. "I remember in an early

outline I described the Hulk as looking more like a dinosaur from 'Jurassic

Park' than a body builder. I had always wanted that thick, big-limbed,

force-of-nature look to it."

So does the CGI leading man look as good as Turman envisioned eight years

ago?

"At this point, I've only seen the trailers and it looks great to me,"

Turman told C2F/CBR News. "I'm

trying to separate out how much of that is my rooting interest in it and how much of it is

just being a fan."

NOT EASY BEING A FAN

C2F asked Turman what impact being comics literate has on his screenwriting

career.

"It makes me a lot more frustrated. I grew up on that

stuff and its tough because you know there are things that you know would make

wonderful films and you don't have the clout to get them done," Turman

said. Being a comics guru also has its pluses.

"I think it helps now because comic

book films are hot this year," Turman said, but the increased interest

brings increased competition. "I've been working on these types of

projects and trying to move them forward through production through most of my

career on and off. Lately the market is tougher because there's a lot more

people who want to get on the bandwagon."

However, understanding the

language of both comics and films may give writers like Turman an edge in

translating them.

"There's one big difference in how

comics are consumed and how films are. With a comic you sit there with a page

and you can look at a panel or a page as long as you want. The pacing of that story

is largely up to the reader. With film, they unfold in a set period of time. The

weight to give a scene and an image is the filmmaker's choice. It starts with

the writer but real quickly it's the director."

Another fundamental

difference is the episodic nature of comics versus the self-contained nature of

film. However, Turman sees a blending of those ideas that benefits both mediums.

"You've got a lot more comics which are graphic novels with self-contained

stories that unfold like films. Conversely, films are recognizing the power and the

audience's interest in investing in a character or a group of characters and

watching their continuing adventures, like the old serials did," Turman

said.

This blending leads to blockbuster fare like "The Matrix."

NON-COMICS

COMIC FILMS

As "The Matrix" demonstrated, not all the best superhero

movies are based on comic books.

"I believe that the best comic book

films aren't always based on comic books,"

Turman said. "To

me a great comic book film is 'Matrix' or 'Indiana Jones' or 'Terminator' or 'Robocop.'

I love these films.

"I've tended to feel in the past that those films are

better comic book films because they take the characters really seriously."

The old belief on the part of Hollywood that comic books were a second-rate genre

had the contradictory effect of allowing for well-made genre fare that was

comic-like, but often soured projects that were actually based on comics.

"In the past I've

found it's often hard to get the studio executives to take the desires of the

characters as seriously as they do films that aren't based on a comic book

source," Turman said. 

That trend appears to be changing, with the advent of movies like

"X-Men" which took Marvel's mutants dead seriously.

"From

what I can tell of the final film of 'The Hulk,' they're taking the character

seriously, which is why I'm thrilled to be a part of it and am so encouraged by

the final product."

NEW COMIC-LIKE HEROES

To that end, Turman has

turned his attention to a new big-screen action hero.

"'Casca' is based on a series of novels by Barry Sadler," Turman

said of his new project, which blends military and religious themes. "They're based on a character who was a roman soldiers who, legend

has it, pierced the side of Christ on the cross. As a result of that he was

blessed or cursed to never die and to walk the earth, from battle to battle for

over 2000 years."

The movie is set in the present day. Scott Kroopf and Tom Engelman ("Pitch Black")

are producing under their Radar Pictures banner.

"It's sort of an existential action film. A character who's been alive for so

long, his purpose and meaning have gotten lost through time," Turman said.

Turman

also revealed that he's writing an original spec script that, while comic-like

in certain aspects,

is not based on pre-existing comics.

OTHER COMIC MOVIES

As a comic fan,

Turman continues to pursue comic-based movie projects. While he's pitched

several, he told C2F that a few still hold his interest.

"I'm not currently involved with the Silver Surfer but I sure would love to be

again. I like the character and I was very proud of that script,"

Turman said, having taken a crack at the character a few years ago.

He'd also love to take a pass at "Doc Savage" or Will Eisner's

"The Spirit." Of course, he'd also like to continue to delve into the

mind that created "The Hulk."

"The guy who really created modern comics is Jack Kirby. So

in many ways his stuff is first and oldest, yet in many ways his creations seem

to have the most complexity and translate the best to film," Turman said,

citing "The Hulk" and "X-Men" as examples. 

"There's a reason that Jack Kirby is such a seminal

figure. His stuff endures. I would consider it an honor and a treat to work on

any of his concepts."

In talking with Mike France after the final determination of credits on

"The Hulk," Turman realized they were both big fans of another Kirby

concept called "Challengers of the Unknown."

"That's not a super-hero comic, but it's sort of a cross

between 'Fantastic Four' and 'Doc Savage' and 'Indiana Jones.' That would be a dream

project. If anybody out there is reading this and

working at Warners, give me and Mike a crack at 'Challengers.'"

Until he gets the "Challengers" gig, Turman will have to be content

with seeing his first and favorite work on the screen next month. "The

Hulk" smashes into theaters June 20.

 
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