She Hulk (lost unreleased live-action Marvel film; 1995)

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She-Hulk poster.jpeg

The film's poster.

Status: Lost

She-Hulk is an unreleased 1990s live-action film based on the Marvel superheroine of the same name, starring Brigitte Nielsen with Larry Cohen as director. One of many attempts to bring the character to film, it ultimately managed only to illustrate the obstacles Marvel's cinematic efforts faced prior to the emergence of the MCU.

Background[edit | edit source]

The character of Jennifer Walters, aka the She-Hulk, was first introduced in Savage She-Hulk #1 (1980). Walters is a rising young criminal lawyer and cousin of Dr Bruce Banner, the original Incredible Hulk. When Banner is forced to give her a blood transfusion she becomes the likewise super-strong, super-durable She-Hulk - albeit unlike her cousin she is able to control her transformations, during which she retains not only self-awareness but her formidable wit and intelligence. Eventually she fully embraces her alter-ego, and also becomes the premier legal resource of the Marvel superhero community.

On TV[edit | edit source]

The character made her television debut in the eleventh episode of the very short-lived animated series The Incredible Hulk (1982-83).[1][2] She did not appear during the original run of the iconic live-action Incredible Hulk TV series, but was slated to appear in the late-80's TV-movies that picked up where the series left off after its cancellation in 1982. Bill Bixby had teamed up with independent production company New World Pictures to produce three of these sequels, which strove to freshen up the concept for a potential new series order by leaning into the larger Marvel Comics universe the original had ignored. The third and final installment, The Death of the Incredible Hulk, was originally planned to heavily involve She-Hulk, though it's unknown who was to play the part.[3] Ultimately she was cut out of the final draft for unknown reasons.

Despite the generally poor reception of DotIH, New World Productions still owned the rights to Marvel characters and was eager to continue developing them. Eventually Marvel Comics bought New World's "Family Filmworks" division outright. [4]

In 1991, work began on a potential standalone She-Hulk TV series, with Jill Sherman Donner, writer of several episodes from the original Hulk series, as producer. She completed a draft pilot, titled "Metamorphosis." In the script, assistant district attorney Jennifer Walters is haunted by the murder of her parents and vows to prove that a respected businessman is actually a criminal mastermind. She takes a forced vacation to the Caribbean where she runs into Bruce Banner - unrelated in this version, the better to encourage romantic tension - who is revealed to have faked his death and is now living as a pool boy. When Jennifer is shot by a hitman, the stage is set for Banner to both save and change her life. In a sharp departure from the comics, this version of the She-Hulk would've acted much like Lou Ferrigno's near-mindless original, more familiar to TV viewers.

Filming began in the Virgin Islands in 1991. Bradford May (a cinematographer on such projects as the Darkman sequels and The Monster Squad) was chosen as director, with Bixby and Ferrigno reprising their roles as the scientist and his huge green alter-ego. Unfortunately, casting the She-Hulk herself proved far more problematic. Prospective parent network ABC did not believe initial hire (and ex-Baywatch regular) Mitzi Kapture had the chops to carry a full TV series, and persisted in trying to recast the role even as Kapture was playing it. They offered it first to Melissa Gilbert (star of Little House on the Prairie) then, when she turned it down due to lack of interest in the genre, to volleyball star Gabrielle Reece.[5] Like Ferrigno, Reece was appropriately physically imposing; but according to Sherman Donner, her portrayal of She-Hulk would've had golden skin, as Reece considered the canonical dull green "not pretty". The revised look also included bright red hair and green eyes.[6] Eventually, so much production money was spent on the search that New World lost patience and cancelled filming. None of the footage or any other production material has ever resurfaced.

The film[edit | edit source]

With Bill Bixby's death in 1993 came the definitive demise of the She-Hulk TV pilot. New World decided to take one last stab at the green superheroine, this time for the big screen. B-movie staple Larry Cohen was chosen to direct a script commissoned from Carl Gottlieb (screenwriter of the first three Jaws movies). The exact plot of the film - and whether it took cues from the existing "Metamorphosis" pilot script - is unknown.

The lead role this time went to Danish actress Brigitte Nielsen, best known as the similarly Amazonian Red Sonja. Photos were released of Neilsen dressed as Jennifer Walters in a red coat, while her superheroine persona sported an all-green leather jumpsuit and pale-green makeup with darker hilights. The photo shoot was evidently done in hopes of attracting more investors to the project.

Cancellation[edit | edit source]

Those investors never materialized, and - while its production got farther than most scrapped Marvel films - She-Hulk, the big-screen version, was never finished either. Though no official reason has been given, it was likely due to Marvel's generally less-than-stellar cinematic reputation at the time, especially after the disastrous Howard the Duck.[7] It is also claimed that the studio could not afford the budget for the flying car that She-Hulk drove in the comics.[8] It's unlikely that any footage or a trailer was ever filmed. The only released production materials were the publicity stills, along with a mockup poster that popped up on eBay.[9]

Since then, of course, Marvel's onscreen stock has gone up considerably, making the She-Hulk's eventual appearance all-but-inevitable. On December 10, 2020, Marvel Studios announced the character's MCU debut will be in a comedy series for Disney+, with Tatiana Maslany in the lead alongside Mark Ruffalo and Tim Roth reprising their roles as Hulk and the Abomination respectively.[10] The series is set to be released sometime in 2022 and studio chairman Kevin Feige has stated that she will then go on to appear in future MCU movies.

On November 12, 2020, the green leather costume that Brigitte Nielsen wore in the photo shoots resurfaced in the Icons & Legends of Hollywood auction held by Profiles in History.[11] It was bid in between $800-$1,200, though it's unknown if anyone actually bought it. Given that most of the items in the catalog were identified as coming from Planet Hollywood’s collection - and that one of the celebrity founders of Planet Hollywood was Sylvester Stallone, who was once married to Brigitte Nielsen[12][13] - the costume's provenance seems legitimate.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]