Countdown to 'Hulk': Josh Lucas: Slimy bad guy

Fri, June 13th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

TV/Film
Rob Worley, Columnist

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In "Hulk" Josh Lucas plays Glen Talbot, an ambitious and ruthless

military scientist working for the U.S. military who torments Dr. Bruce Banner

over his scientific discovery of a new process that could generate super

soldiers.

Lucasrecently sat down with the press to talk about his work playing

Talbot in the movie. At the roundtable interview, members of the press took turns asking questions

about the development of the film. Comics2Film/CBR News is pleased to present

this edited transcript of that interview.

WARNING: THIS TRANSCRIPT CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS

Q: Josh, we look at you in this movie and you are such a revolting, slimy

character...

Josh Lucas (JL): ...a bad guy...

Q: ...and I wonder if this is a smart movie for a guy who just played the

romantic lead opposite Reese Witherspoon in "Sweet Home Alabama." Will

people ever be able to see you as a nice guy again?

JL: I had to dissipate that idea immediately; I guess is what it was.

Look. I mean the simple answer is this: I would have been an extra in this

movie. I would have been somebody running away from the Hulk in San Francisco

you know, going, "AAAHHH," trying to get a glance at Ang.

To me, I would have done anything and I was so incredibly excited to work

with Ang, that's really what it came down to.

But at the same time, to then go do a movie which is literally the absolute

opposite of the performance I had just given, which is the thing that interests

me most. The thing that fascinates me most about great actors and particularly

great directors, in working with someone like Ang, is that they are always

completely trying to shift from what they've done, from the last thing they've

done, into either a new genre, a new style, to push themselves.

For me it was something I've never done, never been a part of. And it was a

comic book too and it was a sense of, I did want him from the moment you

see...Ang and I talked about this...from the moment you see him you want him to

be someone, the audience is like, "ew."

That's literally, I think, is the exact opposite of Jake.

Q: What did you like about Talbot? What did you not like about him?

JL: Not much I liked about him.

I think that's OK. Actors always say you have to love your characters or

whatever. I think there are people I met in life that I don't like and that I

don't necessarily think like themselves.

What's interesting in this case about Talbot is that I think Talbot loves

himself. Here's a man who wakes up and spends forty-five minutes blow-drying his

hair even though he's got a demolished body. That takes a very specific kind of

spirit.

So what I like about him is the playing and the discovery of what kind of

human being that would be to literally believe at any given moment, to justify

his horrific behavior for the fact that he's going to save humanity with

enhanced G.I.s. He's ludicrous, the ego and the ambition that goes inside of

someone like that.

So I like the discovery of that, in terms of who he is. I don't have a single

moment in relationship to him. He's a military science that he's somehow

subverted into this ugly, ugly sense of ego and ambition.

Q: Did you read the comics as a kid? Were you a comic book guy?

JL: I wasn't. I didn't know it. I didn't ever have a comic book growing up.

We didn't have a TV growing up so I wasn't into the TV series.

Q: Was it because you were too poor? Or did your parents feel it was a bad

influence?

JL: They were really anti-TV, is what it comes down to. They just genuinely

believe that TV was destructive.

Q: You weren't allowed to read comic books?

JL: Not that I wasn't allowed. No. Comic books certainly would have been

allowed; it's just that I was never introduced to them. Probably if any of them

I would have liked it probably would have been "The Hulk."

I heard Stan Lee talking on National Public Radio about why, particularly,

teenage boys relate so much to The Hulk. The mythology that you have this

incredible, repressed rage particularly as the hormones are streaming through

your body at that age, and you wish, desperately, and I remember breaking my

hand as a fourteen year old boy, and really wishing that I could change and

transform and I wouldn't have to worry about any of the destruction that I was

about to wreak and I think that's why people relate to Hulk so much differently

than a Spider-Man or a Batman.

Q: Why did you break your hand?

JL: It's just the thing of being a teenage boy and being filled with so much

hormones and rage. I don't even know what I was so upset with my parents about.

I remember pounding downstairs, jumping into this silly water bed that I had

spent months buying myself, turning around. It had this huge headboard and

going, "BAM" and just "CRACK."

And then having walked back upstairs with my tail between my legs and saying,

"I think we have to go to the hospital."

Q: What did your mom say?

JL: They laughed.

But if I was The Hulk I could have destroyed the entire house and turned back

into myself and like, "I don't know what happened. I'm really sorry."

Q: Are your parents mortified that you've become an actor in this medium

where you could end up on TV?

JL: No. They loved film. When we grew up, my parents were fascinated

particularly by Pauline Kale. So my whole film education is based on my parents'

extraordinary, intellectual love of cinema, particularly world cinema.

So I haven't had a huge fascination with Hollywood and that's been the

amazing thing about beingpart of something like this which is Hollywood,

I think, at its most exalted, most art-oriented form, because of Ang, entirely.

So if anything, quite the opposite. You know, at the beginning of my career,

I was actually doing television and that was very uncomfortable for me and not

by any means something my parents felt particularly proud of.

Q: Where did you grow up and what did your folks do?

JL: Activists. My parents were political activists, particularly

anti-nuclear. We live all over the south.

Q: Could they support themselves as anti-nuclear activists?

JL: We were poor. We were totally poor. They're both doctors now, but we were

living on welfare.

Q: How did they become doctors then?

JL: They stopped when they had my brothers and sisters they went to medical

school.

Q: How many siblings do you have?

JL: Three younger.

Q: Are your parents still activists?

JL: How do I put this? I think they felt that they did a profound amount of

work towards the causes they believed in for a long enough period of time, and I

think they're, not jaded, but I think they're quite frustrated with the apathy

that they don't feel they have much influence or say anymore.

They're not like someone like Tim Robbins or Susan Sarandon. Those guys are

still quite actively involved. They still are financially I would say.

And I think that's actually been a belief of mine as well that you can be

much more profoundly influencing even silently with money.

Q: How did life change after "Sweet Home Alabama?"

JL: Once you're a part of a Hollywood movie and, particularly in a leading

role in a Hollywood movie that has an extraordinary box office, everything

changes because you become someone that, not just that studios, but filmmakers

can raise money based on your involvement in a movie.

So, for me it quickly became what kind of movies do I want to use this for.

The first thing I did after "Hulk" was, I just finished this movie. I

finished a segment of three very, very small, very low-budget movies with

extraordinary directors.

The one was directed by this guy David Gordon Green with Terrence Malick

producing and writing. It's now called "Undertow" but they're gonna

change it.

The other one is a movie called "Wonderland" which was made for

$2.6 million, which is...

Q: The Laurel Canyon murders?

JL: Yeah.

Q: Are you somebody scummy and terrible in that?

JL: Everyone is in that movie.

It's a dark, interesting film. It's an amazing story.

You've got like fifteen remarkable actors, basically doing a movie for free

because they are so in love with the script and with the style of filmmaking

that was happening.

So he's Tim Blake Nelson, Val Kilmer, Eric Bogosian, Lisa Kudrow, it just

goes on and on and on. Janeane Garofalo, Christina Applegate, I mean just one

person after another coming in and literally being extras on this movie.

Q: Who is your guy?

JL: I'm basically the lead, opposite Val, or one of them. There's a lot of

people in the movie.

Q: Are you the killer?

JL: Well, I'm one of the people who ends up being killed, who basically drove

the robberies that caused the murders because I had such an antagonistic

relationship with Val Kilmer's character.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the case?

JL: 1981, who really knows what happened? That's what the movie's about, but

four people were bludgeoned to death and one was left in a coma in the most

violent and remarkable crime scene, other than the Manson murders. It's very

much a story of cocaine and the time that the shift happened from the innocence

of cocaine.

It's an amazing story. An amazing story.

Q: "Wonderland" is coming out in August. What was the third small

movie you did?

JL: "Wonderland's" in August. "Undertow" is actually

probably not going to be for quite a long time.

I actually did, not necessarily a small movie, but a very small part in a

very beautiful movie with Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, Haley Joel Osment, I

play Haley as a man, called "Secondhand Lions." It's gorgeous. It's

gorgeous.

So that's what "Sweet Home Alabama" does. It helps you go into a

position where you can start to help filmmakers that you're fascinated by get

movies off the ground.

Q: So it also helps to have "Hulk" in there too.

JL: Totally.

Q: What was your relationship with Eric Bana on this project?

JL: I think part of our thing was I really am in love with actors and acting

and you come in and it's so interesting to work with someone like Eric because

he comes from a comedic background, entirely.

The incredible thing that Ang did was choose an actor who is a mimic and a

comedian and is very vibrant and...

Q: ...and you would never know that...

JL: Yeah, and that's the thing, the kind of amazing thing that Ang does with

someone like that is he chooses someone for that reason, to then be able to

basically squash him, in a way. To basically say I want you to be repressed and

uncomfortable and all the different things that that Bruce Banner is, in terms

of holding in this life and this emotion.

I think it was important that it was someone like Eric, because he has so

much going on that way. That's an amazing thing for a director to choose, as

opposed to choosing a repressed person.

Again, it's a remarkable thing for an actor, playing.

So for me and Eric it was interesting because a lot of our stuff was almost

abusive between each other.

Q: How were the fights?

JL: They're tough.

I play hard. I've always played hard, physically. You've got to walk a really

fine line when you're playing against someone who is the lead of a movie. I know

I got three weeks off. I can go away and sort of recuperate.

Eric's got every single day, eighteen hours a day. So I was able to kind of

bash myself that way, in a way that I love to do, but at the same time I had to

be very aware that he's walking an incredible tightrope of keeping himself

focused in all the different pieces he has to do eighteen hours a day, and

physically keeping himself centered that way.

But the amazing thing is watching the way Ang comes in and individually

directs each person, based on their own personality, based on their own style.

And that's a fascinating thing to see.

Q: Off topic a bit, but for my magazine, what was your favorite book and why?

JL: Our father read us the Greek myths and I loved them fully.

Q: Which ones?

JL: All of them. Particularly, I was Zeus obsessed.

But yeah, we had this really beautifully illustrated, huge book of Greek

myths that he would read to us every night.

 
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