The MCU has seen so much of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, it’s hard to remember that another actor played him. To build on this new cinematic umbrella, Incredible Hulk was marked as the second installment following Iron Man. It starred Edward Norton from such films as Fight Club, American History X, and Death To Smoochy. To further cement this universe, Robert Downey, Jr. reprised his role in the post-credit scene of Incredible Hulk. But when it was time to bring these heroes together in The Avengers, Norton was replaced with Ruffalo. The original actor recently spoke out, saying Marvel had plans for a sequel to his movie.
In a piece for The New York Times, Norton laid out what happened with the sequel that never came to be.
“I laid out a two-film thing: The origin and then the idea of Hulk as the conscious dreamer, the guy who can handle the trip. And they were like, ‘That’s what we want!’ As it turned out, that wasn’t what they wanted.”
In Peter David’s run of Incredible Hulk, Banner conversed with the different Hulks in his mind. Not only was there the dumb, “Hulk Smash” version, but there was also the Grey Hulk that David deemed Joe Fixit. And then there was the sinister, Devil Hulk. The animated series from the 90s explored this mind space as well. And so a movie on the like would have been great.
Norton further explained,
“It was brand defensiveness or something. Ultimately they weren’t going for long, dark and serious. But it doesn’t matter.”
Ultimately, Marvel Studios went with Mark Ruffalo. Though, they weren’t able to actually produce a Hulk movie starring the new Banner. This was due to the rights still with Universal. The company has a partnership with Disney, much like Sony has with Spider-Man. And even though they split for a minute, Sony and Disney were still able to come to terms. The MCU will spit out three Spider-Man movies. And they still haven’t followed up 2008’s Incredible Hulk. I guess that was the reason for Thor: Ragnarok, which was actually an adaptation to Planet Hulk.
Norton said it was “cheap” for Feige to replace him. And Feige said back in 2010 that they needed,
“an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented castmembers.”
I really enjoy Ruffalo’s Hulk. His arc from the gladiator in Thor: Ragnarok to Professor Hulk in Avengers: Endgame was rather interesting. But I often wonder what it would have been like if Norton stayed. When I read Hulk in the comics, that Banner really looks closer to Norton.
There are rumors that Marvel wants to adapt the current Immortal Hulk comic into a Hulk versus Wolverine movie. Al Ewing’s storyline has re-introduced Peter David’s take on Banner’s multiple personalities. Also, Ruffalo could make an appearance in the Disney Plus She-Hulk show. So there may be hope for this “conscious dreamer,” after all.
Stay tuned to Screen Geek for confirmation on where Ruffalo’s Hulk will end up next.