Conceptual illustrator, Benton Jew, had the privilege of working on not one, not two, but three live-action Hulk films: Jonathan Hensleigh's defunct Hulk film (1997), Ang Lee's 2003 film, and Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk (2008).
Let's start in chronological order, shall we? First up, Jonathan Hensleigh's Hulk film. Back in the early 90's producers Avi Arad ("Spider-Man") and Gale Anne Hurd ("The Walking Dead") began work on a live-action Hulk film. At that time Universal owned the rights, and wanted to make a film involving the Green Goliath fighting terrorists. Why bother using the source material when you can come up generic plots like that, right? Ugh, such dumbasses. So anyways, many writers come in and pitch their ideas and write scripts, but of course nothing is ever right so they go back and rewrite some more. During this period Joe Johnston even signs on to direct, but of course he drops out. Who replaces him? Gale Anne Hurd's husband, Jonathan Hensleigh. Genius move, since it would've been his directorial debut, and you always want to start your directing career with a big budget blockbuster, right? But Jonathan wasn't just gonna direct, he was also going to pitch in on the script.
"Hensleigh rewrote from scratch, coming up with a brand new storyline. In August 1997 Hensleigh completed his script, featuring Bruce Banner, who prior to the accident which will turn him into The Hulk, performs experiments with gamma-irradiated insect DNA on three convicts. This transforms the convicts into "insect men" that cause havoc"."
Insect DNA convicts!? Wait, is it too late to use those terrorists?
As luck would have it, the wonderful and very talented Benton Jew worked on this film and has some art and insight that he shared on his blog.
"The first version I did was a bid that ILM was doing to get work on a 1997 version of the Hulk. This one was to be directed by Jonathan Hensleigh and feature The Absorbing Man amongst other monster types as the bad guys. We did quite a few pencil sketches to get an idea of what he might look like." - Benton Jew
"I did an "expression chart" as well as a photoshop comp to give an idea of what the green guy might look like." - Benton Jew
Thankfully, that film was never made. After that episode Universal would turn to Ang Lee, who brought an unexpected art house look to the 2003 Hulk film. It explored a much deeper backstory to Bruce Banner with a heavy emphasis on an abusive father who killed Bruce's mother. The late great Roger Ebert would celebrate Lee's bold approach to a comic book movie, "Ang Lee is trying to actually deal with the issues in the story of the Hulk, instead of simply cutting to brainless visual effects."
Now comes the fun fact. Did you know that Billy Crudup ("Almost Famous") was actually Ang Lee's first choice to play Banner, not Eric Bana?
"I also did a photoshop version with Billy Crudup as the Hulk. Early on, Crudup was slated to play Banner before changing his mind and dropping out of the project." - Benton Jew