Those lucky blokes at Empire got the chance to catch up with Mark Ruffalo on the set of May’s Avengers: Age of Ultron for an in-depth discussion about the character and what direction he’s headed in for the sequel (and beyond).
“I think he’s definitely matured a little bit since the last one,” said Ruffalo, who showed the first inklings of Banner mastering his alter-ego in 2012’s The Avengers. “He’s become more acclimated to this thing and to being part of the team. I think he feels more a part of them all. But in this particular take on it, it’s a much more character-driven version of The Avengers than the first one. It gets a little deeper into each character. S.H.I.E.L.D. is not happening anymore, so there’s not that much time spent with the S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff.”
We’ve all salivated over that footage of Tony Stark’s Hulkbuster in action, but you might be surprised to learn who designed the new suit… Bruce Banner himself!
“Hulk is the kind of wild card,” Ruffalo admits. “He’s the loose cannon of the group. He’s more like an atom bomb. You could guess where he’s going to go but he could go either way. I think that there is, obviously, the day when everyone expects it to go wrong and that day comes. And they’re ready. And Bruce designed the contingency plan. As much as you feel Bruce has some mastery over it – certainly, with ‘I’m always angry’ and he can turn into it at will – I still feel that there’s some part of him that doesn’t completely trust it and doesn’t completely trust himself.”
While the “Jekyl & Hyde” duality has always existed in the character, Ruffalo and writer/director Joss Whedon get to explore more of the nuances of that dynamic this time around.
“There’s a battle going on between these two opposing egos that live inside him,” says Ruffalo. “He’s definitely worried that the day is going to come when the Hulk gets the best of him, and maybe won’t release him, maybe won’t give him back. The Hulk knows this too. There’s a moment in here where he, begrudgingly, decides to go back to Banner. Who knows where these things will go, but as Bruce is able to impress his will on the Hulk, going into The Hulk and being inside the Hulk when he’s raging, The Hulk’s will is also growing and able to impress upon Bruce. That makes for some wild things. We’re laying the groundwork for that here. It’ll be interesting to see if that ends up being what would be the next Hulk movie.”
As for that idea of a new solo Hulk movie, Ruffalo is very conscious of why his version may work better as a supporting character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after the middling performance of 2003’s Hulk and 2008’s The Incredible Hulk.
“It’s a tough nut to crack,” he admits. “Traditionally you’re watching a guy who doesn’t want to do the very thing that you want him to do. It’s hard to take for two hours. I don’t know how many times you can use that same framing for it, but now he’s maturing and there’s a cool dynamic growing between Banner and The Hulk. And the CGI is so much better. The stuff we can do now, you can do a real performance. I’ve been working with Andy Serkis [at his Imaginarium studio] and he has it set up where you go in there and you just start working on a character. It is so exciting to me, because I can do whatever I can imagine, with a team of people of course.”
The idea of Banner becoming Hulk semi-permanently is something that has been explored in the comics before, starting in the January 1991 issue #377 of the original “Incredible Hulk” run, where all the intelligence of Banner (without the awkward nerdy baggage) merged into the body of the Hulk in an incarnation nicknamed The Professor.
This could be fertile ground to explore in the two-part Avengers: Infinity War, or even in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, which seems to have costumed heroes coming out of it like an overflowing piñata. Since there’s no solo movie on the horizon, and James Gunn was very firm that the green monster will NOT pop up in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which film on the MCU calendar would you like to see Banner Hulk-out in next?