While Edward Norton’s The Incredible Hulk is in most fans’ bottom three movies in the MCU (it’s always some order of that, Thor: The Dark World, and Iron Man 3), Mark Ruffalo has made the character an indispensable part of the franchise ever since he took the torch from Norton for 2012’s The Avengers – despite still having no movies of his own.
Thanks to Ruffalo’s nuanced performance, the Hulk has come a long way from saying corny lines like, “Don’t make me angry. You won’t like me when I’m angry.” Instead, now, Bruce Banner and the Hulk have an actual relationship with one another. They don’t just have the generic Jekyll and Hyde dynamic they’ve had since the beginning – they actually talk to one another. And sometimes, the Hulk doesn’t want to come out. And other times, he stays out for like three years while Banner is trapped inside, losing years of his life and having no control over his own body.
But that doesn’t just happen. This is a result of a lot of hard work and deliberation by Ruffalo. As with any superhero casting, the announcement that Ruffalo would be joining the MCU was met with millions of unnecessarily angry responses from comic book fans across the world. Boy, has he proven those people wrong over the years. Anyway, here are 20 Things Only True Fans Know About Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk.
20 Ruffalo Sees Bruce Benner As Tony Stark's Opposite
The way Mark Ruffalo sees it, Bruce Banner is sort of like an alternate universe version of Tony Stark whose life went down a different route: “[Bruce Banner] is like the fallen angel version of Tony Stark. He was the renegade professor who was kind of a rebel, arrogant, kind of doing things that were unorthodox.
“There’s a real admiration between the two of them that’s interesting, and Tony Stark really enjoys the idea of watching this guy turn into the Hulk. So, he’s nudging him in an interesting sort of way. There’s a lot of nice, fun play between the two of them.” No wonder fans have made all those Science Bros. jokes about Tony and Bruce’s relationship.
19 Thor: Ragnarok Was Important For The Hulk's Character Arc
Since the Hulk’s vocabulary was developed for Thor: Ragnarok and he spent more of the movie as the Hulk than as Bruce Banner, Mark Ruffalo believed the movie opened him up to new opportunities with the character. This was the longest amount of time dedicated to the Hulk in a storyline yet.
Ruffalo felt that Ragnarok was important for developing the Hulk as a character of his own, making him “much more of a character than the green rage machine” he had been before. In previous Hulk stories, Bruce Banner had been the well-rounded character while the Hulk was just the big green guy who came out for the action sequences. This was the next step in his development.
18 He’ll Probably Never Have His Own Solo Movie
Due to rights being tangled up with Universal, The Incredible Hulk is likely the first and last solo Hulk movie we’ll see in the MCU – leaving Mark Ruffalo high and dry, eternally trapped in a cycle as a supporting player. That’s why Marvel had to find the loophole of getting him in someone else’s movie to adapt the “Planet Hulk” storyline for Thor: Ragnarok.
But Marvel did manage to negotiate a situation with Sony whereby they could both make Spider-Man movies, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. It’s weird how these rights issues work. The only way Sony even let Marvel do a solo Spidey movie was if they put another Avenger in it, which is how Tony Stark ended up being Peter Parker’s mentor.
17 Ruffalo Was On The Shortlist For The Incredible Hulk
When Edward Norton was cast to play Bruce Banner in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, Mark Ruffalo had been in the running for the role. He was still on the shortlist when it was so short that it was pretty much down to just Norton and Ruffalo. This is why he was cast almost immediately after Norton was removed from The Avengers. There was no far-and-wide search for the new Hulk, because Marvel already knew who they wanted.
Norton had rewritten The Incredible Hulk’s screenplay on the set and clashed a lot with Marvel during filming, so they decided to cut ties with him and go with their second favorite choice, the easier-to-work-with Ruffalo.
16 Mark Ruffalo And Edward Norton Are Friends
Despite the fact that Mark Ruffalo took the role of Bruce Banner from Edward Norton after Marvel removed the latter due to on-set difficulties, the two are friends. They were friends before and they remain friends now. When asked about replacing Norton, Ruffalo said, “I’m a friend of Ed’s, and yeah, that wasn’t a great way for all that to go down. But the way I see it is that Ed has bequeathed this part to me. I look at it as my generation’s Hamlet.”
The comparisons to Shakespeare are certainly apt in terms of Kenneth Branagh’s regal, theatrical handling of Thor, but countless theses comparing today’s superhero stories to ancient mythology would disagree.
15 The Hulk Is Deigned With Ruffalo’s Head Grafted Onto A Stripper's Body
While the Hulk’s body in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is entirely animated with computer-generated effects, the visual effects artists needed a reference point to start with. They couldn’t just design a green beefcake body out of thin air – they had to get all the proportions right.
So, the Hulk’s body was based on that of a Long Island bodybuilder and male stripper by the name of Steve Romm – but the face is still modeled after Mark Ruffalo’s, which helps to retain his humanity after he goes green. Romm couldn’t be happier that the MCU’s Hulk was designed after him, because the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, is one of his greatest inspirations – he even named his cat after him!
14 Ruffalo’s Hulk Is An Outcast
As much as the Hulk is a respected member of the Avengers, he is also the most volatile and most difficult to communicate with. Black Widow has empathized with him and taken her time to gain his trust, but even she has her limits. He’s the Avenger that all the other Avengers are scared of – at least he was when he first joined the team.
Mark Ruffalo plays the Hulk with this conflict in mind. The actor told Jimmy Kimmel, “He’s like the teammate none of them are sure they want on their team. He’s a loose cannon. It’s like, ‘Just throw a grenade in the middle of the group and let’s hope it turns out well!’”
13 The Hulk’s voice Is A Mix Of Mark Ruffalo And Lou Ferrigno
The voice of Lou Ferrigno is combined with that of Mark Ruffalo to give the Hulk his voice. Ferrigno played the Hulk on the small screen alongside Bill Bixby’s David Banner. He was named David Banner because the network execs didn’t think audiences would connect with a character named Bruce, which is absurd. But despite the name being wrong, the adaptation was pretty faithful to the comics in terms of his characterization.
Since this was decades ago, long before CGI was a thing, bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno was cast as the Hulk. He played the role with his skin painted green. The show would just cut from Bill Bixby’s body in full clothing to Lou Ferrigno’s shredded body covered in green paint with the clothes ripped. And as cheesy as that sounds, Ferrigno became a huge star because of it and brought a brand-new audience to the character.
12 Ruffalo Handles The Hulk Dialogue On His Own
While Lou Ferrigno helps with some of the Hulk’s grunts and growls, whenever the big green meanie has an actual line of dialogue, Mark Ruffalo delivers it all on his own. This began with the immortal “Puny god” line in The Avengers.
In the years since, with the Hulk’s expanded roles in later movies, Ruffalo has experimented even more with his dialect. In Thor: Ragnarok, he developed his vocabulary to the point of that of a five-year-old to have conversations with other characters, since he was the Hulk and not Bruce Banner for most of the movie. And in Avengers: Infinity War, he even engaged in conversations between Banner and the Hulk.
11 He Was Heavily Inspired By Bill Bixby
When it came to developing his portrayal of Bruce Banner, Mark Ruffalo was inspired by Bill Bixby’s small-screen portrayal of Banner as a relatable everyman: “I really love the first TV version of it, the Bill Bixby one. I’m gonna shoot for that a little bit. He was an everyman in it. He’s always on the run and trying to find love. It’s really a sympathetic character, before he turns into the Hulk and f**ks everything up.”
All in all, the Bixby series was probably the most successful screen adaptation of the Hulk before Mark Ruffalo came along and took the world by storm. The Eric Bana and Edward Norton movies both got lukewarm receptions from audiences and critics, and neither were big enough hits to warrant a sequel. Okay, Hulk got into the MCU, but not the Norton Hulk. But everyone who grew up in the ‘70s remembers that show – it was awesome!
10 Infinity War Was All About Pitting Banner And The Hulk Against Each Other
Avengers: Age of Ultron and Thor: Ragnarok set up the Hulk’s arc perfectly for Avengers: Infinity War, in which he had to contend with none other than himself. The Jekyll and Hyde relationship they had been developing for years paid off when Banner was faced with Thanos and his armies and he couldn’t turn into the Hulk. The Hulk stubbornly refused to emerge and fight.
The movie’s co-director Joe Russo explained the Hulk’s refusal to come out and play in Infinity War: “Banner only wants Hulk for fighting. I think he’s had enough of saving Banner’s ass.” This is not just one character – it’s two characters within one body and they have a love/hate relationship.
9 Ruffalo Spoiled Infinity War’s Ending In 2017
Mark Ruffalo is almost as notorious as Tom Holland for spoiling his Marvel movies for fans by letting plot details slip in interviews, but this one really takes the cake. Months before Avengers: Infinity War was released, he spoiled the shock ending that has since become known as “the Decimation.” But since it sounded so ridiculous, no one took any notice.
Talking about the bummer endings of a lot of Marvel films, Ruffalo joked, “Wait until you see this next one – everybody dies! Well, half.” That’s not even a subtle hint or a wink – that’s just straight-up giving away the ending. Of course, half the characters losing their lives didn’t sound like a plausible ending, which made the twist all the more surprising.
8 Ruffalo Approaches The MCU Like A TV Series
Mark Ruffalo doesn’t approach each movie in the MCU like it’s just another movie. Instead, he sees working on the MCU as similar to working on a TV series, just a big-budget, really slowly progressing one: “Oddly enough, I joke with people that this is like doing a TV show where you shoot one episode every three years.
“There’s a continuity to it, and when we talked about it with Marvel or Kevin [Feige, the producer], we really do talk about it as the character’s progression and where...I’ve been able to have a lot of say in where it goes, and you’re also dealing with a new script and a new world, but the characters feel like they’re making a journey, you know? And it does feel like one goes to the next and goes to the next. It feels like a long serial, which is nice, I think.”
7 His Thor: Ragnarok Arc Was Loosely Based On “Planet Hulk”
Fans have been clamoring for a movie adaptation of the “Planet Hulk” storyline from the comics for years – long before the MCU even began and Marvel movies were being made on a case-by-case basis – but due to Marvel’s rights issues with Universal, it’ll probably never happen.
So, as a sort of compromise, Kevin Feige added the Hulk to Thor: Ragnarok and loosely based his story arc as a star gladiator on Sakaar on that of “Planet Hulk.” In fact, since the movie had to revolve around Thor to be legal and the Norse god therefore found himself in the same situation as the Hulk in the movie, the filmmakers jokingly referred to the movie as “Planet Thor” during production.
6 Ruffalo’s Banner Has A Self-Deprecating Sense Of Humor For A Reason
Mark Ruffalo plays Bruce Banner with a self-deprecating sense of humor, but that’s not a coincidence. He saw that as part of the progression of the character, carrying on from where Edward Norton left off in The Incredible Hulk. Ruffalo wasn’t just playing Bruce Banner how he would play him – he was playing Banner’s story arc as a continuation of Norton’s.
He explained, “We’re just picking up where Ed left off. He’s an older Banner now, he’s been on the run longer. He’s got to the point where he’s tired of running, and he has a certain sense of humor about himself, and he’s turning to face the monster within him, which he’s been running away from.”
5 The Hulk/Black Widow Romance Is Far From Over
In an interview with Collider, Mark Ruffalo was asked about where Bruce Banner’s relationship with Natasha Romanoff will go now that he’s back on Earth following his three-year absence. It took a backseat in Avengers: Infinity War, since that movie had to bring together so many different characters and long-running storylines that there simply wasn’t time to rekindle the old romance.
But said romance is far from over in the MCU, as Ruffalo explained: “They’re star-crossed lovers, so it’ll be something they’re dealing with for the rest of their living days, I think. Whether it’s requited or unrequited, I don’t imagine that’s gonna go away any time soon in one iteration or another.”
4 Ruffalo Has Figured Out The Hulk's Central Conflict
While he was promoting Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mark Ruffalo perfectly summed up the central conflict of the Hulk character in one sentence: “There’s a very cool thing happening: Hulk is as afraid of Banner as Banner is afraid of Hulk...and they have got to come to peace somehow with each other.”
When Ruffalo was first cast, some fans criticized him, saying he wouldn’t be right for the role, but he clearly understands the character as well as anyone. He is a paradox – a two-sided identity where the two sides are constantly at war with one another. It’s not something that’s easy to live with, and that’s why Ruffalo’s Hulk is ultimately a tormented soul.
3 Joss Whedon Wrote The Hulk's Dialogue Mid-Filming
Mark Ruffalo had to wait the longest out of any actor to get his lines for Avengers: Age of Ultron, because Joss Whedon wrote them last. And he wasn’t just the last character to be written in the writing process – he was literally written during production, long after the shooting script had been approved.
This is because Whedon couldn’t consider what the Hulk was going to say too much. Instead, he had to write the Hulk’s dialogue on a whim in the middle of production. Whedon explained, “What makes the Hulk so hard to write is that you’re pretending he’s a werewolf when he’s a superhero. You want it vice versa...So, the question is, how has he progressed? How can we bring changes on what the Hulk does? And that’s not just in the screenplay – that’s moment to moment.”
2 Mark Ruffalo "Actually" Plays The Hulk
Whereas previous big-screen incarnations of Bruce Banner played by Eric Bana and Edward Norton had to step down and let the visual effects team render all of the Hulk’s body movements and behavioral ticks. They could only play Banner, they couldn’t play both sides of the character.
But thanks to technological advancements in the world of VFX, Mark Ruffalo is able to “actually” play the Hulk in the MCU. Before making his debut in The Avengers, Ruffalo expressed his excitement about it: “I’m really excited. No one’s ever played the Hulk exactly – they’ve always done CGI. They’re going to do the Avatar stop-action, stop-motion capture. So, I’ll actually play the Hulk. That’ll be fun.”
1 The Line Between Banner And Hulk Is Starting To Blur
The MCU’s long-form storytelling has allowed for longer character arcs than ever before in superhero cinema. It’s arguable that the most effective one in the whole franchise has been that of the Hulk. Mark Ruffalo has kept the personalities of Banner and the Hulk separate for so long, and now, those two personalities are starting to overlap.
According to Ruffalo, at this stage in the character’s development, “The division between Hulk and Banner is starting to blur a little bit, and so you have a Hulk that can actually express himself without being angry.” It’s a long way off, but with the Hulk exploring the wide spectrum of emotions, we could be on the path to Ruffalo’s Banner being the first ever to actually learn how to live with his affliction.