As Terminator, Aliens and Armageddon showed, Gale Anne Hurd knows a thing or two about taking risks that pay off. She has enjoyed enough success to endure as one of Hollywood's few powerhouse female producers and has inevitably seen the odd gamble turn sour, too, which is what made The Incredible Hulk such an interesting proposition.
By now everybody knows Louis Leterrier's latest take on the Marvel comic book favourite is on its way to becoming a hit following a storming $55.4m opening three days in North America. The debut went some way towards dispelling unpleasant memories of Ang Lee's ill-fated attempt five years ago to get the franchise off the ground with Hulk, which Hurd also produced.
"Every time you embark on a film, whether it's a one-off or a sequel, it's a roll of the dice," Hurd said shortly before the release of The Incredible Hulk. This time around, Hurd and the newly autonomous Marvel Studios, sick of licensing its properties to the studios and watching the profits slip away, felt they were telling the story they wanted to tackle the first time around.
"We wanted to make it fun right from beginning to end, with a terrific cast, tremendous action and a larger-than-life foe who could overpower Hulk so that he was the underdog," she said. "It really is a nod to both the comic books and the TV series."
Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner, the boffin with a propensity to erupt into a giant rampaging alter ego whenever his temper flares. "We proceeded on the basis that people understood Banner was a flawed character and we had fun with this notion of the monster within. Edward enjoys portraying characters with that inherent duality as we saw in Fight Club and Primal Fear."
Leterrier, a Frenchman who cut his teeth directing Transporter and Unleashed, impressed Hurd with his "terrific eye for action and... ability to get tremendous performances from his cast", along with his clear vision for the story and a steadfast refusal to be swayed by the geeks. "The fans are always vocal and it's very important to have someone with a strong singular vision who doesn't read the (message) boards and change things half-way through."
Next up for Hurd is the action sequel Punisher: War Zone, which Lionsgate is set to open in December, and a series of meetings with a writer to discuss the graphic novel adaptation, Final Orbit. "I like to keep busy. I started out working for Roger Corman and we handled genre films like Humanoids From The Deep and arthouse films like (Ingmar Bergman's) Cries And Whispers. It was the only place at the time where you had the opportunity to rise. I was lucky: Hollywood's a great place if you're a female producer but it's not a good time to be a female director right now."