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The Incredible Hulk: Liv Tyler

comicscontinuum.com, June 2008

Liv Tyler was obsessed with the Hulk. Really.

As a child in Portland, Maine, Tyler -- who plays Betty Ross in the upcoming The Incredible Hulk -- and her mother would be fixed in front of their small TV on Friday nights for the live-action CBS series.

"I just remember really loving the TV show a lot. And really loving Bill Bixby," Tyler said. "And just the idea of this man who is so kind and so desperately looking for a connection and friendship, and every time he gets to a new place and he connects with someone and starts a life for himself, some situation arises where he becomes the Hulk. It's always to rescue someone and be the hero, but it's often villainized in some way and seen as the bad guy, so he has to choose to leave.
That shot of him walking down the road with his backpack. The ultimate loner. I really, really like that."

So, considering her affection for the character, her acting chops and a resume that includes The Lord of the Rings movies, it wasn't a big surprise on May 4, 2007 when Marvel Studios announced that Tyler would be playing Betty Ross in its Hulk feature-film reboot.

"Liv is not only a classic beauty, but an undeniable talent," said Marvel's Kevin Feige. "Her roles in such blockbusters as The Lord of the Rings and indie favorites like Stealing Beauty have helped her develop a unique blend of dramatic and action-adventure experience that is perfectly suited for taking on the role of Betty Ross."

Incredible Hulk producer Gale Anne Hurd previously worked with Tyler on Armageddon.

"We really needed someone who could step up to the role -- someone who could bring the right combination of intelligence and strength to the character," Hurd said. "She had to be fearless but, at the same time, have a vulnerable side. Liv is perfect; she1s smart, accessible and beautiful -- the embodiment of the character."

In this version of the Hulk, Bruce Banner (played by screenwriter Edward Norton) and Betty Ross have been apart for three years after the incident that caused Banner's condition. She has been trying to move on, hooking up with Leonard Samson, when Banner, a government fugitive, returns into her life.

"These two people are real star-crossed lovers. They are two peas in a pod," Tyler said of Bruce and Betty. "They share so much in their hearts together, but also in their work together. She is a cellular biologist and he's a radiation biologist and they're working together. And they just are the best of friends and share so much together, so the loss of that, along with an accident of some kind, was just very traumatic."

Bruce doesn't mean for Betty to find her, but once reunited, they become a team to find a cure.

"She's very calm and sort of matter of fact -- 'C'mon, There's a way around this. Let's try and do that,'" Tyler said. "And they go off on this sort of great adventure together."

Tyler said she was grateful to Norton for writing such a strong role for Betty -- unlike a lot of comics films with their damsels in distress and also her more passive role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

"You see how much they affect and help each other," she said. "So it's good."

After The Lord of the Rings, Tyler is used to big-budget, effects-driven movies. But she said The Incredible Hulk presented even new challenges.

"Even on The Lord of the Rings, I didn1t really do this. I was reacting to things that weren't there, but I wasn't necessarily interacting with things that weren1t there," she said. "I was never physically carried off by something."

At times during the production, Tyler was often reacting to Norton as The Hulk, as he stood on a box for her.

"We would talk out the scenes in advance, and I would try to give her a sense of what was happening," says Norton. "It's all very collaborative, me and Louis (Leterrier, the director) and Terry, the guy holding the dummy head. You had to work together to make sure Liv knew exactly what we were imagining was happening on the other side of the scene. We tried to be as specific as possible about what she was interacting with. I think it went off really well, and she did beautifully."

"Over the course of the shoot, we've come up with all these different ways of my interacting with The Hulk," Tyler said. "Originally, I was going to be being carried by an actual mechanical arm. Then, at one point, it was going to be a huge man, and then the team came up with this brilliant idea of having two guys -- because The Hulk's width is rather large."

Betty is the only character in the film who can connect through to Bruce when he's The Hulk, which is important in the formation of the character as a hero and not just a monster.

Norton and Leterrier both praised the sensitivty Tyler brought to the role. "I love her instinct," Leterrier said.

"I just feel really excited to be a part of this," Tyler said. "And I am interested and drawn to this love story these two people share, that she sees something in Bruce that no one else sees and believes in him in a way that no one else does."