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Adam Holmes

The Incredible Hulk’s Louis Leterrier Recalls Fighting With William Hurt On The Marvel Movie: ‘You Don’t Know Anything About Actors’

William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross in The Incredible Hulk.

In June 2008, one month after Iron Man launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Incredible Hulk, the second of the Marvel movies in order, arrived, which marked the Green Goliath’s return to the big screen five years after Ann Lee’s Hulk. Just like in that 2003 movie and so many Hulk stories from the comics, Edward Norton’s Bruce Banner was on the run from William Hurt’s Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. In real life, though Hurt evidently clashed quite a bit with director Louis Leterrier. This included one point where the latter recalled the former once saying that he didn’t “know anything about actors.”

Leterrier reflected on his experience making The Incredible Hulk while doing a Watchalong video for Josh Horowitz’s Happy Sad Confused podcast. When they got to the sequence when Ross, Tim Roth’s Emil Blonsky and their special forces team were hunting Banner down in the bottling factory, Horowitz asked Letterier if Hurt, who passed away in 2022, was “tough” to get on Leterrier’s “side,” and the filmmaker started off by saying it was difficult to convince him that they weren’t just making a “paint by the numbers” comic book movie. He then stated about the late actor:

He also didn’t want the mustache to act him out. The size of the mustache was a discussion. But sometimes he and I clashed. You have two types of actors… three types, I guess. You got your partners, you got your best friends that you have to cajole all day, and you have the people that like to have these arguments. They feed off that. That’s how he worked.

William Hurt was the second actor to play Thunderbolt Ross in live-action (following Sam Elliot’s outing as the character in Hulk), and as Louis Leterrier explained, he fell into the category of actors who aren’t just going to take direction without voicing their opinions. Hurt didn’t shy away from doing that on The Incredible Hulk, including about that glorious mustache. He even went so far as to critique Leterrier about his dynamic with actors, albiet not quite to his face. The director continued:

One day he was screaming at me, ‘You don’t know anything about actors!’ Too bad for him, he was in the giant helicopter at the end and I was at the control. He was like, ‘You have to find the button to the nuclear plant…’ I took the joystick, I shook him and he fell and looked at me and was like, ‘I like you!’ That was it. He just wanted to have a little bit of a fight.

So even though Leterrier and Hurt clashed while working on The Incredible Hulk, following the helicopter incident, they were evidently on good terms with one another by the end of production. And clearly Hurt enjoyed the experience enough that he was willing to reprise Thunderbolt Ross eight years later for Captain America: Civil War, at which point the character had become the United States’ Secretary of State. Hurt then made minor appearances in Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame and Black Widow.

While William Hurt is no longer with us, Thunderbolt Ross is set to appear in several upcoming Marvel movies, with Harrison Ford taking over the role. His first outing as the character will be in Captain America: Brave New World, where Ross is now president of the United States, and then he’ll return in Thunderbolts. If you’re interested in rewatching The Incredible Hulk, like nearly all MCU content, it can be streamed with a Disney+ subscription.

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