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Sam Elliott: The Hulk's Nemesis

One of Marvel Comics' most enduring characters will lumber onto the big screen later this month in the much anticipated movie version of "The Hulk."

It has been four decades since the big green guy first lost his temper in the pages of comic books. Then for five seasons, starting in 1977, Bill Bixby starred in a television series based on the comic. Now, a bigger, more powerful Hulk will tear things up in the movie version of "The Hulk," which is set to open June 20.

Actor Sam Elliott portrays General "Thunderbolt" Ross, who along with researcher Glenn Talbot (Josh Lucas) is engaged in capturing the Hulk.

About his character, Elliott told The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler that Ross is "a four-star general, but at the same time he's like a conflicted frustrated father of a girl who's also in love with the Bruce Banner character, which is kind of the Hulk's alter ego."

In the movie, scientist Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) is exposed to a normally deadly dose of gamma radiation in an experiment gone awry.

Banner survives the blast, but soon he is not feeling like himself. Whenever he loses his temper, his inner demons are let loose to the world in the form of the rampaging, superhuman called the Hulk.

And Bana does an extraordinary job at portraying Banner, Elliott said, "He's an amazing kid. I didn't know him when we did this. I knew him from a picture called 'Black Hawk Down," which came out at the same time as when I did "When We Were Soldiers." That was all I knew about Eric. And Eric was mind boggling, in terms of his acting abilities. It's all coming his way. He's one of those guys that you like to see it happen to."

He also had words of praise for his on-screen daughter Jennifer Connelly, saying working with her was, "incredible." Connelly, as Betty Ross, believes Banner's father (Nick Nolte) has some connection to the unbelievable changes in the man who turns into a green monster of rage.

The green monster was created with advances in technology. Elliott said, "The CGI process is obviously what enabled us to achieve what I feel it's achieved, something totally above the norm for this genre. And there's a certain reality that comes out of it because of the Hulk's physicality.

"Maybe not when he's tossing the tank over the horizon. But when he's, like, tearing the office apart, the lab apart. The fact that this guy is 18 feet tall and has arms and legs big around as trees. Terms of physics and dynamics of it, it's totally believable.

"It's an amazing achievement. These guys hang out and asked them to do things they had never done. They developed new technology. Five years ago they couldn't have made this movie because they didn't have the capabilities," Elliott explained.

"The Hulk" first appeared in a series of six Marvel Comics in 1962 as the creation of writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby. The popularity of the comic character spawned the CBS television series "The Hulk," which starred Bixby as scientist Banner and bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk.

So what is it about the Hulk that has been so enduring?

Elliott said it has to do with what film director Ang Lee told him when they first met: "He talked about the Hulk residing in all of us - the potential for it, anyway. Kind of the dark side most of us successfully keep at bay for most of the time in our lives. It sneaks out occasionally, I suppose."

Syler doubted Elliott has any of the Hulk tendencies in him at all. To that Elliott said, "I got you fooled, Rene."

Some Facts About Sam Elliott

  • Born in Aug. 9, 1944 in Sacramento, Calif.
  • Elliott's breakthrough role was in the 1976 film, "Lifeguard"
  • In 1979, he performed in "Louis L'Amour's The Sacketts"
  • In 1982, he acted in the Tom Selleck movie, "Louis L'Amour's The Shadow Riders"
  • in 1985, he played Cher's biker-boyfriend in "Mask"
  • In 1993, Elliott played Virgil Earp in "Tombstone"
  • In 1994, Elliot was honored with an Emmy nomination for his role in "The Desperate Trail"
  • In 1995, the actor performed in the CBS miniseries "Buffalo Girls"