When it was announced that Mark Ruffalo was taking over the role of Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk) in Marvel’s The Avengers, I was very skeptical that he could pull it off. Unlike Edward Norton and Eric Bana, who portrayed the character in the previous films, Ruffalo doesn’t fit the superhero world. He’s a great actor and excels at dramatic roles, but to play a major comic book character? No way! But this Hulk is unlike any Hulk we’ve seen before. This is the Hulk us fans have been longing to see in a film ever since Lou Ferrigno hung up his torn purple pants back in the ‘80s. Banner is older and more aware of what he is, and when he transforms into the Hulk it gave me chills and made me giddy. And no one could have played the part better than Ruffalo. He’s believable as Banner and I was left wanting to see more of him as the character. He’s also the first actor to be able to portray Banner and the Hulk, thanks to technology.
Criticize This! chatted with Ruffalo about the film while he was in Toronto for the Canadian premiere. Read our Q&A below.
How did you decide to put your mark on the Hulk?
Mark Ruffalo: Joss [Whedon] and I talked a lot about it before I even took the part. We both saw it as a continuation. We leave the last [Hulk film] and he’s been on the run now for six or seven years, and we were like, ‘So what happens to him after that? Where does he go after that?’ We feel he might have some control over the Hulk, or not turning into him, at the end of that movie, and we just picked up from there. He’s older, he’s in his 40’s now, and there comes a time when you’re at that age where you start to accept your shortcomings, your gifts, and you tend to turn to face those things.
Do you relate to the Hulk or Bruce Banner more in your own life?
MR: Probably Bruce Banner [laughs]. There was a time in my 20’s where I was the definition of the angry young man and had plenty of fist holes in the drywall, but that’s not a good place to live. I’m glad I’ve been able to Bannerize my existence a little bit.
Was there more pressure on you given the previous incarnations of the character and the fanbase surrounding him?
MR: It was a weird call to get and it wasn’t an easy call to make. There’s been such great actors as Banner over the years, and because there’s so much intense interest from the fans directed at the Hulk, I was definitely a little nervous. I really wanted to know how we could add to this. The one thing that was exciting to me, that no one else had done, was play the Hulk too. The technology now is such that I can play the Hulk. The actor can impress his performance upon a CG character. I always felt that in the past movies when you get to the Hulk there’s a real disconnect and you don’t feel the human continuation. Hulk never looked like the guys playing him either and that was a fight we had with Marvel early on, to make the Hulk look like Banner. They made it a rule to never have the Hulk look like Banner. I wanted to infuse the Hulk with something that is human and Joss did too.
Were you into comics prior to being cast in The Avengers?
MR: It was so part of our culture when I was a kid. Me and my cousins were always trading them. And then there was the Bill Bixby TV show [The Incredible Hulk], which I was a huge fan of. It was the only thing that could bring me in the house. That and dinner. And then I got into Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight, which was a total reinvention of the genre. I became a huge fan of the X-Men and have a signed copy of a standalone Frank Miller Wolverine. I guess I was a geek, but I was also a surfer and a jock. But I was into comics, yes.
How is it working on a film your children can see?
MR: It was really nice. My children, as you probably well know, won’t be able to see any of my movies until they’re in their 20’s. They haven’t been able to see what I do and I had been thinking it would be nice to do a movie my kids could see that isn’t a romantic comedy. Then this came along and it was a character I really loved growing up and it was with Joss Whedon, who is really smart and I knew could do this well. And they love it, they love the Hulk. They’re three little Hulk’s. My 4-year-old daughter was helping someone pick up their groceries and they turned around and told her how strong she was and she was like, ‘I’m the baby Hulk!’
Are you overwhelmed by the fans surrounding the film?
The fans in Europe were insane. When we went to Moscow there was like 3000 kids just screaming. I had a woman jump into my car! You go to Moscow as an American and they assign a security detail to you that’s all ex-KGB guys. At some point you realize they are with you everywhere you go and then you realize they’re not there to protect you, but to protect their people against you. They’re everywhere! So I’m walking to my car after the premiere and this girl busts out of the crowd, checks my publicist out of the way, and she jumps into the car with me. And the security guards don’t see it. They totally miss it. I’m trying to coax this woman out of the car and she’s holding onto this envelope in her hand. She was sweating and a little intense. I was like, ‘Hi. How are you?’ And she was like, ‘I’m fine! I must talk to you! I must give you something!’ I’m thinking this is sweet and asked what it was. She whips open this thing and it’s a drawing of Tom Hiddleston that she made. I thought it was my big fan moment and she busts out a drawing of Tom Hiddleston.
The Avengers smashes into theatres May 4. To see photos of Mark Ruffalo and actress Cobie Smulders at the Canadian premiere of the film, click here.
Top photo: Mark Ruffalo at the Canadian premiere of The Avengers. Photo credit Arash Moallemi. 2011 MVLFFLLC. TM & 2011 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.