Why Did It Take So Long for Mark Ruffalo to Become Hulk?

If things had gone his way, Mark Ruffalo would have played the Incredible Hulk in Louis Leterrier’s 2008 film by the same name. Unfortunately, Marvel Studios had other plans. Four years later, Ruffalo was finally cast as the Hulk, but why did it take so long to happen?

‘The Incredible Hulk’ (2008)

Mark Ruffalo attends the premiere of 'Dark Waters'
Mark Ruffalo | Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Although Ruffalo wanted the role of Bruce Banner in 2008, Marvel Studios thought he wasn’t right for the part. It was true that he had a lot of acting credits under his belt, but Marvel felt that because he had done mostly smart, intellectual types of movies, he wouldn’t suit the image they were going for with this particular role. Edward Norton, who was more famous at that time, was cast instead.

The movie introduced the Hulk to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it just didn’t make a memorable impression. By the time the character was reintroduced into the MCU, it was obviously time for a new actor to take the reins.

Earlier Mark Ruffalo roles

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Before 2008, Mark Ruffalo had starred in at least 33 films. Getting his acting career started with the television series, CBS Summer Playhouse, he continued to take small roles in TV, cinema, and short films until he got his big break in the 2000 film, You Can Count on Me.  His more notable roles before 2008 include Detective Giovanni Malloy in the 2003 movie, Into the Cut also starring Meg Ryan and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Additionally, he starred opposite Reese Witherspoon in Just Like Heaven.

He also starred in ZodiacRumor Has It, Just Like Heaven, All the King’s Men, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – all serious, intellectual films. He played Zane Marinelli in the television series, The Beat, about two New York City police officers coping with day-to-day life, and he was the voice of Jerry Rubin in the documentary, Chicago 10.

Finally cast in 2012

Had Ruffalo won the role he wanted in 2008, it may have ultimately hurt his future opportunity with The Avengers in 2012. Because the 2008 movie was considered “puny” by many, when the Hulk showed up again, it was time for a new Bruce Banner. Since Leterrier had already wanted Ruffalo the first time, this time around, he got his way. The role established Ruffalo as the Hulk that fans had been waiting for. It saved the character and secured his future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ruffalo went on to play Bruce Banner in Iron Man 3 in 2013, Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015, Thor: Ragnarok in 2017, Avengers: Infinity War in 2018, and Avengers: End Game in 2019.

Mark Ruffalo’s salary for The Avengers in 2012 was roughly $2 million. He earned $2.8 million for Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015. Avengers: Infinity War brought him an estimated salary of $6 million in 2018. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he is currently worth about $30 million. 

‘What If…?’

Currently in production is the first episode of a Disney+ television series called What If…? Set for release in 2021, it claims to explore pivotal moments from the MCU, leading the audience into uncharted territory. Ruffalo stars as Bruce Banner/the Incredible Hulk, and it includes heroes and characters from the previous movies including those played by Josh Brolin, Paul Rudd, Chadwick Boseman, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and Taika Waititi among others.

Had Ruffalo had his way in 2008, he may never have attained the level of success he ultimately claimed. Fans of the Hulk and the entire MCU is better for the wait.