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The Wild Way in Which Director Louis Leterrier Earned William Hurt’s Respect on The Incredible Hulk

Sometimes, you just need to slam a bratty actor into the side of a helicopter.

By Josh Weiss
Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt) looks up at a man in The Incredible Hulk (2008).

Film sets can often become active war zones of conflicting egos, especially if one of your principal cast members is playing a headstrong general used to getting his own way. Director Louis Leterrier found himself treading this creative minefield during the production of 2008's The Incredible Hulk (now available to own from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment), which caused the French filmmaker to briefly butt heads with the late William Hurt, who famously portrayed the character of General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross.

"It was tough to convince [him] that we weren't just making a paint-by-the-numbers comic book [movie]," Leterrier told MTV's Josh Horowitz during a recent rewatch of the early Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster. "A lot of [the movie] is non-verbal and so, you can only do this with amazing actors. He also didn't want the mustache to out-act him, so the size of the mustache was a discussion."

How Louis Leterrier earned William Hurt's respect on set of The Incredible Hulk

According to Leterrier, Hurt's particular brand of acting involved antagonizing the director on a regular basis. "That's how he worked," the filmmaker explained, going on to recall how he finally earned the man's respect while shooting the big climax.

"One day, he was just screaming at me, 'You don't know anything about actors!' Too bad for him, he was on the giant helicopter at the end and I was in control. He was like, 'You have to find the button to the nuclear plant that is [inside me].' I took the joystick and basically shook him into the thing. He fell, looked at me, and was like, '...I like you!' And that was it. He just wanted to have a little bit of a fight."

While Leterrier never dreamed the MCU would become as extensive as it is today, he did hope to build out the world of Bruce Banner with a franchise molded in the vein of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. That never panned out, of course, but The Incredible Hulk still planted some important seeds in terms of world-building.

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"Our plan with [writer] Zak Penn and even Edward [Norton] was to cast these bit parts as well as we could, because we knew how they would evolve," he continued. "Red Hulk, The Leader, Emil Blonsky. We knew that they really could be arborescences created off of the main movie. We never dreamt of an MCU, but knew that we could do our own little extension of the movie."

Hurt portrayed General Ross (later promoted to Secretary of State Ross) in a total of five MCU projects before his death last year. The character will be portrayed by Harrison Ford in the upcoming Captain America: Brave New World, which sees the erstwhile military leader stepping into the Oval Office. Liv Tyler and Tim Blake Nelson are set to reprise their roles of Betty Ross and Samuel Sterns, respectively.

The Incredible Hulk is now available to purchase from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Leterrier's most recent blockbuster for Universal — Fast X (the fifth-highest grossing movie of the year) — can be found exclusively on Peacock.