|Hulk (2003) storyboards by Peter Ramsey|
In 2003 director Ang Lee returned to America to make his second Hollywood film and his first CGI heavy action film. It was moderately successful, making over $245 million at the box office, but mixed reviews left the studio disappoiinted. After the disappointment, Lee considered retiring from making movies. At 58-years-old, he felt it was too much for him telling NPR, "I was exhausted. After that movie and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it was five years of my life. I thought of retiring. And Hulk was related to violence and anger. You know, I didn't treat it like an entertaining blockbuster comic-book movie; I treated it like a psycho-drama. So it really took a lot out of me." His father convinced him to continue making films and he received numerous Best Director and Best Picture awards worldwide for his very next film. So, what did he go through? What drove him to thinking movies were too hard to make? One person that was there during the making of the film was Peter Ramsey and he shares some of the challenges and successes in making the film.
Peter Ramsey is a professional director, illustrator and storyboard artist who's worked on big budget films like Independence Day (1996), Minority Report (2002) and Men in Black (1997). His directorial debut was Rise of the Guardians in 2012 which got a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Animated Film."
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Maurice Mitchell: It's an honor to speak to you Peter. How did you get the job working on Hulk?
Peter Ramsey: Hmmmm….I can't quite remember but most likely I was brought on by David Womark, a producer on the film who I'd worked with before. But, I'd known Michael Anthony Jackson, Rodolfo Damaggio and Mauro Borrelli, three other storyboard artists who were already on the show, so one of them may have recommended me as well.
M.M.: What did you spend most of your time doing?
P.R.: We spent a lot of time brainstorming sequences for the film and finding ways to visualize the pretty abstract ideas that were present in the scenes.
There was a draft of the script we were working from, but Ang was really interested in finding ways to embrace the 'comic book' of it all while also incorporating his own philosophical and thematic concerns. He wasn't used to or entirely comfortable with previsualization stuff like storyboards and had a fear of being restricted by them or by other people co-opting the process. But, when he realized he could talk to us and direct us like any actor, writer or other collaborator, I think he began to enjoy what he could get out of us.
M.M.: He really embraced the comic book style in the film. What was the most surprising direction you received while working on the film?
P.R.: Probably his request that we NOT do traditional storyboard continuity, for the most part. He didn't necessarily want to see a bunch of little 2:35 panels with arrows and whatnot. He much preferred a looser method that related the action in a more general way but didn't indicate strict shots and camera moves, which is what we're all used to. I think he wanted to be able to find that stuff on set. Of course, with digital characters you could only be so 'on the fly', back in those days.
But it was interesting working in a different way, and at one point, he asked us all to do sequences in the form of comic book pages. I think he wanted to find an equivalent to the emotional bang for the buck that a good comic page gives you, they're very bold and specific because of the limitations of the medium, and he liked that energy.
M.M.: How did you like seeing your work on screen?
P.R.: I enjoyed seeing what I did that actually made it; I did a lot of work on the tank battle scene in the desert that was pretty much what was shot. I did some stuff on him falling into the bay and going into a dream sequence that was very cool. I loved when Ang (and Tim Squyres, the editor) played to his strengths and found the poetic moments, like the leaping through the desert stuff.
But, overall, the movie had some script woes that never got solved, and I remember Ang being REALLY frustrated about it. I did a TON of stuff on the final confrontation with the Father character in the third act, and a bunch of ideas for their final battle to make the 'Absorbing Man' idea clearer, but a lot of it seemed to get lost in the shuffle…I thought the final sequences suffered from a lack of clarity — I think it may have been kind of tough for Ang's vision to make it all the way through the VFX process. He had some great ideas, but he was still learning VFX and how to tell stories in that world. It would've be cool to see him tackle it now, post Life of Pi!
M.M.: After your success on Rise of the Guardians, what are you working on that's coming out next?
P.R.: I'm actually in development on my second animated feature as a director (after RISE OF THE GUARDIANS), so that should keep me busy for the next couple of years!
Learn more about Peter Ramsey's marvelous work at his IMDb page
Click on the links if you want to see more of Peter Ramsey's work or Hulk artwork on my blog.
What do you think of the storyboards? If you've seen Hulk what do you think of the movie?
Official Hulk Synopsis
"The larger-than-life Marvel Super Hero the Hulk explodes onto the big screen! After a freak lab accident unleashes a genetically enhanced, impossibly strong creature, a terrified world must marshal its forces to stop a being with abilities beyond imagination."
Directed by Ang Lee
Cinematography by Frederick Elmes
Production Design by Rick Carter
Starring: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, Nick Nolte
Release date(s): June 20, 2003
© Copyright 2003 Universal Pictures, Marvel Enterprises, Good Machine, Valhalla Motion Pictures. All rights reserved