Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe dominated Hollywood, nearly every studio in town had its hand in the proverbial Marvel pie. The X-Men and Fantastic Four found themselves at Fox while the Spider-Man family resided with Sony. Beyond that, rights for other lesser-known characters were all over the place. Universal had its stake in the Incredible Hulk and the green giant's stable of supporting characters, New Line had Blade and a few others; even Lionsgate had Man-Thing.
Ang Lee's Hulk and Man-Thing (2005) started being developed around the same time, and the less-than-stellar reception to the former heavily changed the plans for the macabre Marvel character. As Man-Thing helmer Brett Leonard tells us, Universal's troubled production process on the Ang Lee flick restricted his work severely.
"Hulk was a troubled production, it was troubled from a budgetary standpoint," tells ComicBook.com during our exclusive director's commentary. "It also was troubled from its critical and commercial response and that upset the powers that be at Marvel quite a bit. There was a bit of a father-son backstory that we had worked into the Man-Thing origin story but that kind of, in Marvel's view, mirrored too much what they had, what they thought was not successful as a father-son backstory in the Hulk."
As the filmmaker recalls, James Coyne and Hans Rodionoff both worked on various scripts for Man-Thing, hoping to make it a heartfelt origin story despite being based on one of the House of Ideas' most popular horror characters. Then came a fax with a studio-mandated script rewrite.
"Then there was a draft that came through to us on the fax machine suddenly one day, after the Hulk had opened and shifted a things because they were responding to concerns they had regarding some of the things that didn't work in the Hulk. And they were worried that those similar themes wouldn't work in this," Leonard adds.
The previous scripts and the "faxed script" were a night and day difference than the film Leonard was hoping to direct.
"It was totally different in all honesty. It was just, I think, a reaction to the surprise of the Hulk not really working commercially and critically as much as they wanted it to. And they had Ang Lee, who is an Academy Award-winning director, who some thought was a strange match for that material."
Man-Thing is now streaming on Tubi.
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