Universal has set June 20, 2003 for the release of The Hulk, the film based on the classic Marvel comic series.  Famed director Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger) will direct The Hulk from a screenplay by Lee's long time collaborator James Schamus.  Nikki Rocco, the President of Universal Pictures announced that 'The Hulk will be our big tent-pole movie for the summer of 2003,' and it 'will be supported with an unprecedented company-wide marketing effort.  The third weekend in June is the perfect release date for a major event title like this.'


Summer movie release 'real estate' is almost as valuable as that corner lot in Beverly Hills.  Eighteen months ahead of the summer box office battles of 2003 the studios are busy staking their claims to the 'prime' opening dates.  Fox grabbed the pole position for 2003 by taking May 2 for the release of its sequel to the popular X-Men film (see 'X-Men Movie Pushed Back to 2003').  Now another Marvel film will hit screens at mid-summer. 


Universal announced that production on the film would begin on March 18, 2002 at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.  Remember back in the 90s when Marvel couldn't get a decent film made featuring any of its major characters?  How times have changed!  Blade II is set for a spring release and the long awaited (and so far great-looking) Spider-Man film, tied-up in rights disputes for years will lead off the 2002 summer movie season, while at least two major Marvel-based productions, the X-Men sequel and The Hulk will hit the screen in the summer of 2003.   Many films that are announced never get made for a great variety of reasons, but when a studio announces both the film's opening date and the start of production you can be assured that, barring some major unforeseen developments, this film will get made.


In another major change from the 90s, not only are Marvel-based films getting made, but instead of direct-to-video duds lensed by low-budget schlockmeisters, top drawer talent is now working on these comic-based epics.  Ang Lee, who should have won 'best director' last year for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is perhaps the hottest director in cinema at this time.  His surprising interest in The Hulk (see 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Hero') makes perfect sense when one reads the prospectus for the new film which notes that Lee's 'concept for the film will combine the elements of a blockbuster visual effects-intensive superhero movie with the brooding romance and tragedy of Universal's classic horror films -- since The Hulk is at once a superhero and a monster, a wish fulfillment and a nightmare.  Lee and his team have gone back to the moving, early incarnations of the characters created in May 1962 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.'


The cast of The Hulk film is as intriguing as Lee's approach.  Eric Bana, who starred in the independent Australian film Chopper and in the soon-to-be-released Black Hawk Down, will play both scientist Bruce Banner -- and via the groundbreaking special effects of Industrial Light and Magic -- the superhuman Hulk as well.  Jennifer Connelly, who currently co-stars in Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind, will portray Betty Ross, whose scientific genius unwittingly helps unleash The Hulk.