20th Century Fox has hired Zak Penn to write and produce (along with John Davis) a big screen adaptation of the classic Greek tale of The Argonauts. In Greek mythology, the Argonauts were a band of sailing heroes ,who accompanied by Jason to Colchis in his quest for the Golden Fleece. The story has been previously adapted by Don Chaffey in 1963, and in 2000 for Hallmark television. Dreamworks is also developing a project with the same title, about a group of treasure hunters who discover the wreck of Jason’s mythological ship, and are somehow transported back in time to ancient Greece.
Zak Penn broke onto the scene with a huge spec Last Action Hero (this is before it was rewritten). He went on to pen PCU, Beyond Enemy Lines, and is credited with the story of X2. That credit lead to five years of comic/geek-related projects, some of which were extremely disappointing (X-Men: The Last Stand) or insulting (Electra), leading to the loss of geek fan support. He most recently won lone credit for The Incredible Hulk, and is currently linked to Marvel Studio’s upcoming adaptations of The Avengers and Captain America films.
Discuss: Do you think the story of the Argonauts will translate well into a big screen movie?
Okay, you’ve heard the rumors of the behind-the-scenes battle between Marvel and star Edward Norton over The Incredible Hulk. I’ve been getting a lot of emails asking me to explain what exactly happened. Here is what I know/have heard or gathered:
Edward Norton turned down the project when he was first approached but Marvel insisted that he meet with director Louis Leterrier, and Norton relented. At the meeting Norton offered his version of The Hulk story, and Marvel agreed to hire a screenwriter to work with him on a rewrite of Zak Penn‘s draft. But no screenwriter was ever hired and Norton did a substantial page-one rewrite by himself. Anne Thompson explains: “With about two months to go before the movie started filming, Norton did a page one rewrite–knowing that he couldn’t do anything radical, because sets were being built, locations found, etc. The entire Brazil sequence was already story-boarded.” Norton added a lot of dialogue and character motivation, and Marvel agreed to shoot Norton’s draft of the screenplay.
After production was completed, Leterrier put together “an assembly” of the film, which basically included everything that was shot. The director explained to Collider: “It’s called a suicide run because it’s absolutely horrible. You want to commit suicide after you see it.”
Marvel decided they wanted make a shorter, more action-packed cut of the film, discarding a lot of the character development pieces that Norton had brought to the screenplay.
“So after this we had a meeting—just like this—like a round table where I go okay we have to find solutions. And then we were screaming stuff and everything. Maybe somebody walked in, a PA or somebody walked in, somebody who’s not used to it and we’re having a conversation and Edward was like…no, Edward’s very vocal.”
Norton was understandably pissed. He was brought onto the project under the premise that he would have considerable creative control. But the final cut was, of course, not his. Norton and Leterrier lobbied for a more nuanced cut of the film that ran about two hours and 15-20 minutes, but Marvel stuck to their guns.
“Everyone was exhausted; it was like a little burst. ‘’I’m angry with you!’’ ‘’No, I’m angry with you!’’ And me in the center saying ‘’Boys, calm down.’’ It didn’t come to blows. It was just a remark here and there, then it became public,” Leterrier told EW.
Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood Daily ran the story on the Norton/Marvel blow up.
“The next day when the Nikki Finke…Nicky Fink or whatever her name is…article came out, Edward was right next to me. He’s like ‘you want to laugh?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, what’s up?’ ‘Read this’.”
A day later, Norton even showed up to do ADR work on the film. Leterrier told Collider that 70 minutes of deleted footage is set to be released on the inevitable Bluray release. (Leterrier describes the out-takes: “It’s like the back story. It’s more the sequel to the Ang Lee movie.”)
“I regret that [Marvel and Norton] didn’t come to an agreement where we could’ve all worked together,” Leterrier explained to Entertainment Weekly. “The press is what kept Edward and Marvel from talking to each other. [The argument] was nothing, but then it became something big.”
Norton’s script opened with a suicide scene in the Arctic. While the scene added a lot of depth to Norton’s character, giving you a greater understanding of just how much he wanted to get rid of his curse. I’ve heard that the scene is included in the video game adaptation. A couple reasons why Marvel may have exorcized the scene from the final cut:
1. It added an extra five minutes to the beginning of the film, and in effect pushed the first appearance of The Hulk to page 26/27 of the script (or about a half hour into the actual film). Hollywood’s reasoning is that with a movie titled “The Incredible Hulk”, mainstream audiences want to see Te Hulk as soon as possible. I tend to disagree. I think that one of the reasons Richard Donnor’s Superman is so great is for it’s extended origin story. It builds to the first climactic moment when you see Christopher Reeves in the Red and Blue suit. And lets not forget Jaws…
2. It undermines the moment that Penn wrote where Bruce Banner jumps out of the helicopter, not knowing if he would survive. The risk was removed from that scene.
3. Suicide is less accessible and not family friendly.
Norton’s flashback sequences were also cut from the film, including a sequence with Banner having a sit down conversation with a Doc Samson, which can be seen in the trailers. The storyline with Banner finding a serum in the Amazon and his computer conversations with Mr. Blue (Tim Blake Nelson) were some of Norton’s storyline additions that remained in the final cut.
Marvel submitted both Zak Penn’s and Edward Norton’s (under a pseudonym, Edward Harrison) drafts to the Writers’ Guild for arbitration. Penn also wrote a letter to the WGA insisting that Norton had not considerably changed his screenplay. Members of the Guild follow a formula for determining the credits. An original writer must contribute at least one-third of the final screenplay to receive credit. If subsequent writers labor on an original screenplay as script doctors, they must contribute more than half of the final screenplay to receive credit. The Guild compares the final cut of the film against both drafts, favoring story and characters over dialogue. And as I said before, most of Norton’s changes were dialogue driven. The conclusion was that Penn would get sole screenplay credit. Zak Penn’s original script was also said to include two pivotal scenes from his 16-year-old screenplay attempt: Bruce Banner jumping out of a helicopter, and the scene where Banner tries to get intimate with Betty, but his rising heart rate becomes an issue.
Edward Norton released the following statement to Entertainment Weekly:
“Like so many people I’ve loved the story of The Hulk since I was a kid, so it was thrilling when Marvel asked me to write and help produce an altogether new screen incarnation, as well as play Bruce Banner. I grew up reading Marvel Comics and always loved the mythic dimension and contemporary themes in the stories, and I’m proud of the script I wrote. In every phase of production, including the editing, working with Louis Leterrier has been wonderful…I’ve never had a better partner, and the collaboration with all the rest of the creative team has been terrific. Every good movie gets forged through collaboration, and different ideas among people who are all committed and respect the validity of each other’s opinions is the heart of filmmaking. Regrettably, our healthy process, which is and should be a private matter, was misrepresented publicly as a ‘dispute,’ seized on by people looking for a good story, and has been distorted to such a degree that it risks distracting from the film itself, which Marvel, Universal and I refuse to let happen. It has always been my firm conviction that films should speak for themselves and that knowing too much about how they are made diminishes the magic of watching them. All of us believe The Incredible Hulk will excite old fans and create new ones and be a huge hit…our focus has always been to deliver the Hulk that people have been waiting for and keep the worldwide love affair with the big green guy going strong.”
EW’s sources say Norton, worried about being unfairly branded “a pain in the ass” by the press, conceded to Marvel’s cut, which even though it wasn’t what he wanted, he understood would be more commercial.
Edward Norton is supporting the film, and doing select press. Liv Tyler, Tim Blake Nelson and Louis Leterrier have contract stipulations for two sequels, if Marvel wanted to bring them back. Norton’s contract doesn’t have any such stipulations. Even if a sequel isn’t greenlit, The Hulk will return in the upcoming Superhero team-up film The Avengers. However, I’d be shocked if Norton returned to reprise the role of Bruce Banner.
At one point, George Miller was in talks to take Justice League America down the all-CGI route a la Beowulf, and now Marvel’s dream-team flick, The Avengers, might be headed in that direction as well according to screenwriter Zak Penn (X-Men 2 and 3, The Incredible Hulk). Of course, this whole uber-caped enchilada depends on the success of this summer’s Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, as both Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are key players. Director Jon Favreau has previously stated his interest in directing a live-action version that would team up Robert Downey Jr. and Ed Norton. Penn says that all-CGI talks have definitely happened…
“Absolutely. It’s not only something I’ve considered doing, but there’s been the discussion about The Avengers doing some sort of next level,” Penn told Collider. Whatever the next iteration of computer animation is after this, the next step after Beowulf, is something we would definitely conisder for that.”
“And I actually think it’s worth considering for a lot of movies, I think it’s amazing. It has a tremendous amount of potential. And I love animated movies, and I’ve produced animated movies, and I wrote the original story for Antz. It would definitely interest me.”
This comment wouldn’t necessarily put the kibosh on Downey Jr. and Norton reprising their roles, as motion capture would heavily play into the film it seems. Also, Beowulf was spectacular in 3D, so it’s only a matter of time before a massive comic book film heads in that direction, and if Avatar does well next year, the gates are open. Penn also told Collider that a Young X-Men film is still a definite possibility and will depend on the performance of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Interesting. Back to the The Avengers: no surprise, it’s still a ways away Penn tells IESB…
“The Avengers is a project in the future,” says Penn, “That’s the best way to put it until Iron Man and The Hulk come out. I haven’t talked to Marvel about it in awhile because I think that the best way to do it is to put together a movie that uses all the characters and so they probably want to see how the movies do and figure that out first.”
Personally, I want to see Matthew Vaughn’s take on Thor, which we haven’t heard much about in quite a while, more than an Avengers film. But teaming The Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Antman and a slew of others together for a royal rumble is not exactly boring, you know?
Discuss: Should The Avengers be live-action or more like Beowulf on crack?
via First Showing
News broke at Comic-Con 2007 that actor Edward Norton wrote the script for The Incredible Hulk. It was an announcement that virtually shocked everyone. The production had announced that X3 screenwriter Zak Penn had written a script long ago. Thankfully now the Los Angeles Times has connected the dots. The newspaper explains that Penn had been working on the script for a year before Norton even became involved. He wrote three drafts over that period, but left the project unfinished when he left to promote his movie The Grand.
When Norton came in to meet about starring as Banner in April, the film had already been greenlighted and there were just three months before shooting was scheduled to begin, just after Independence Day. But Norton had well-established (if underground) writing experience and strong ideas about how to separate the film from any confusion over its connection to the 2003 Ang Lee version by casting it in a more distinct, starting-over vein like “Batman Begins” or “Casino Royale.”
So Norton’s initial deal included payment not just for his acting services but for his writing talents too, with his draft contractually stipulated to be turned around in less than a month. As it turned out, Norton delayed work on another screenplay job to do “Hulk,” and he continues to tweak the script as principal photography hits its halfway point outside Toronto.
Norton has done a lot of uncredited writing work over the last few years, for movies including Frida and Red Dragon. The Times claims that Norton actually showed up on set “with new script pages not only for his character but for Dr. Hannibal Lecter as well.” Rumor has it that director Brett Ratner fought with Norton over the issue.
I have heard that many directors (especially writer/directors) are reluctant to work with the Academy Award nominated actor. But who really knows the extent of Norton’s writing abilities? He did seem to have a good enough grasp over the Hulk comic book and the resulting tv and movie adaptations. Norton showed an incredible certainty which could infused confidence in the crowd of Hall-H. But last minute rewrites never usually turn out well.
Fight Club star Edward Norton has been cast as nuclear physicist Dr. Robert Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk remake/do-over.
Rumblings of Norton’s casting first appeared on the IMDb message baords five days ago, but no one believed it. And why should they have? It didn’t seem legit at all. The concept of Edward Norton playing The Hulk is crazy. But if you think about it, Norton is perfect for the role of Bruce Banner. And five days later AICN and Variety have confirmed the story as fact.
Banner, an emotionally-suppressed genius, rates amongst Reed Richards and Tony Stark as one of the greatest minds in the Marvel Universe. As you probably know, Banner was caught in the blast of a gamma bomb he created, which transformed into the Hulk, a raging monster who has tremendous power and strength.
Transporter director Louis Leterrier is at the helm. The movie will be “re-interpreted to be closer to the comic book” than Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk. Leterrier has said that in the film, he planned to show Bruce Banner’s struggle with the monster within him, describing it as Marvel’s horror movie, “Frankenstein meets Jekyll and Hyde with a little bit of Edward Scissorhands.” Zak Penn (X2, Elektra, X-Men: The Last Stand, Last Action Hero) wrote the script.
Marvel has announced a June 13th 2008 release.