×

Aussie has bulk for ‘Hulk’

Bana inks deal with option to star in two sequels

NEW YORK — Eric Bana will play the title role in Ang Lee’s “The Incredible Hulk,” Universal’s big-budget adaptation of the Marvel Comics franchise. Bana’s emergence as the favorite for a much-coveted job was first revealed by Daily Variety (Sept. 18). The film is on track for a March start.

Like all actors who sign up for superhero duty in Marvel fare, Bana has inked to star in the film, with option deals on two sequels. U will start him out with a seven-figure salary and dish out rapidly escalating amounts of green if Bana makes multiple appearances as the scientist who morphs into the green-skinned muscle-bound hero.

David Hayter did the latest draft of the script, which is now being rewritten by Lee’s collaborator James Schamus, who will also produce with Gale Anne Hurd and Marvel Studios president Avi Arad. ILM has just come aboard to handle special effects.

Many young actors in Hollywood chased the Hulk role after Lee decided to make the pic his followup to the celebrated “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Bana’s emergence as the front-runner was a surprise, given the relative brevity of his film career. The Australian-born thesp began as a comedian and television host. While burly, he was not the go-to guy for macho roles until the killer Mark “Chopper” Reid personally endorsed Bana to play him in a feature film that was being prepped in Australia. Bana auditioned and got the role; the film became a critical sensation Down Under.

Bana popped up on Hollywood’s radar when “Chopper” debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, and every agent in Hollywood tried to sign him. WMA’s John Fogelman got the nod, and the agency quickly got Jerry Bruckheimer and Ridley Scott aboard the Bana bandwagon, as he was cast as a co-lead in the Scott-directed ensemble drama “Black Hawk Down,” which also stars Josh Hartnett and Ewan McGregor.

Bana then flew himself to Gotham to meet Lee and Schamus when they signed on for “Hulk” duty. At the same time, he’d met with Marvel’s Arad for the lead role in “Ghost Rider,” which went to Nicolas Cage.

“He’d heard (Nicolas Cage) might get the job, but wanted to meet anyway because he’s a professional biker,” Arad said. “He was immensely appealing, and we are lucky to have him to be Bruce Banner. He’s a fresh face, but he’s a veteran performer who has a unique combination of great strength and the most soulful eyes. That is a difficult combination to find.”

Bana’s casting comes as Fox and New Regency near a deal with Ben Affleck to play the title character in “Daredevil,” the Mark Steven Johnson-directed drama also based on a signature Marvel Comics series.

Fox also is on course to start production next year on its “X-Men” sequel. Original scribe Hayter and director Bryan Singer are nearly done with a script, and the entire cast is poised to reprise.

Marvel is also eyeing a 2002 production start for the Artisan-based “Iron Fist,” directed by Kirk Wong and starring martial artist Ray Park.

And with Sony’s “Spider-Man” wrapped for a summer 2002 release, the studio and director Sam Raimi have begun making preparations to fast-track a sequel. Stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst have option deals for two sequels.

Bana is repped by WMA and the Australia-based Lauren Bergman Management.

More Film

  • Cuba Gooding Jr

    Cuba Gooding Jr. Sued for Allegedly Pinching Nightclub Server

    A Tao nightclub server who alleges that Cuba Gooding Jr., pinched her rear-end last year has sued the Oscar-winning actor for sexual battery. Natasha Ashworth had previously come forward to New York law enforcement, though her name had not been released publicly. Gooding was indicted last week on four misdemeanor counts, including two counts stemming [...]

  • Taika Waititi Natalie Portman SDCC 2019

    Natalie Portman Weighs in on 'Thor: Love and Thunder's' Possible Breast Cancer Storyline

    Natalie Portman doesn’t know if “Thor: Love and Thunder” will include a breast cancer storyline for her character Jane Foster, but she’s definitely intrigued by the possibility. “It’s just very rare that these kinds of big entertainment films look at more serious, real-life issues,” she told Variety at L.A. Dance Project’s 8th annual fundraising gala [...]

  • Luxbox Closes Sales on Venice Film

    Luxbox Closes Sales on Venice Film 'Sole' to U.S., France (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fiorella Moretti and Hedi Zardi’s Paris-based sales agency Luxbox has closed several territory deals on Carlos Sironi’s “Sole,” which screened in Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti section and Toronto Film Festival’s Discovery sidebar. The film just won the audience award at Pingyao Intl. Film Festival in China and a Special Jury Mention for the lead actors [...]

  • Puerto Rican singer Ozuna poses during

    Ozuna Joins Vin Diesel in 'Fast & Furious 9'

    Ozuna, one of Latin music’s fastest-rising stars, has signed with UTA for representation. And to kick off the relationship, the agency has landed him a role in “Fast & Furious 9.” He is also in talks to join the film’s soundtrack. Justin Lin, who directed “Fast & Furious 6,” returns to direct the ninth installment [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Writers Guild Boosting Efforts in Project Development Amid Agency Standoff

    The Writers Guild of America, locked in a six-month standoff with major talent agencies, has announced that it’s boosting efforts at gathering TV, streaming and film project development data to help members find new employment opportunities. The WGA made the disclosure in a message to members on Monday. The guild directed its 15,000 members to fire [...]

  • Fernando Meirelles The Two Popes

    AFI Fest Adds 'The Two Popes,' 'Aeronauts,' Alan Pakula Tribute

    The American Film Institute has added “The Two Popes” and “The Aeronauts” as galas during the upcoming AFI Fest along with a tribute to the late director Alan Pakula. AFI had previously announced that the romantic drama “Queen & Slim” would launch the 33rd annual festival on Nov. 14 and close with the world premiere [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content