Edward Norton Never Gave Any Feedback To Mark Ruffalo About His Hulk
Remember when Edward Norton was Bruce Banner/The Hulk? I don’t blame you if it’s a fuzzy memory, as The Incredible Hulk is definitely one of the most forgettable MCU movies and its events aren’t referenced very often. Despite the film not being that great, though, Norton’s Banner is one of the highlights, with the actor giving the role some genuine depth and pathos.
Considering the amount of research he did for the part, you might expect that he’d have a little feedback for Mark Ruffalo, who Marvel Studios recast as Banner. But, according to Ruffalo in an interview with The Marvelists, that wasn’t the case.
“We’ve never really talked about it. I was just kinda like, ‘Is this okay?’ and he was like, ‘Man, all’s fair in love and war.’ And planet Hulk and World War Hulk. He never gave me any feedback.”
It’s worth getting into exactly what happened backstage on The Incredible Hulk, as its production informs much of how Marvel Studios decided to operate in the following years. From what we understand, Edward Norton was offered the role of Banner, but at first turned it down. Marvel managed to convince him to meet with director Louis Leterrier though and during this meeting, Norton explained that he’d agree to do the movie if he were allowed to have a crack at rewriting Zak Penn’s draft. The studio agreed and Norton subsequently rewrote the entire script, adding lots of dialogue, character motivation and drama.
Norton’s draft of the script was what was shot, though Marvel got cold feet when they saw a rough cut and ordered the film be shorter and more action-packed, likely fearful of the mixed critical reception of the cerebral Ang Lee-directed Hulk. Norton, realizing they were ditching all his character development and dialogue, hit the roof. He was under the impression that he’d have creative control and only grudgingly supported and did press for the final cut. To add insult to injury, he didn’t even get a screenwriting credit on the movie, with sole writing credit eventually going to Penn.
Marvel Studios, fearful of conflicts like these ruining their plans for a coherent cinematic universe, ditched Norton and hired Ruffalo. It marked the beginning of them being a producer rather than director-driven studio, with the films created within a house style that’s consistent, but rarely pushes the envelope in terms of tone and complexity.
And with all that water under the bridge, is it any surprise that Edward Norton declined to comment on Ruffalo’s interpretation of the Hulk?