Edward Norton’s The Incredible Hulk does not occupy a proud spot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, if/when Marvel winds up doing a Mark Ruffalo solo Hulk movie, Norton’s turn at playing Bruce Banner will definitely be rendered non-canon. Furthermore, when Marvel was assembling its Avengers in 2010, there seemed to be bad blood between the studio and Norton’s camp, with shots fired on both sides. Then we got Mark Ruffalo, and all was wonderful (and always angry) with the world.
At the time, Norton gracefully withdrew from the conversation, saying that he had been blessed to have played one of the Hulk’s many incarnations. In a recent interview to promote his new film Birdman, he added some context that shows just how good he feels about his decision, four years later.
Speaking with NPR’s Terry Gross on Fresh Air, Norton said:
My feeling was that I experimented and experienced what I wanted to. I really, really enjoyed it. And yet, I looked at the balance of time in life that one spends not only making those sorts of films but then especially putting them out, and the obligations that rightly come with that. There were just a lot of things—I wanted more diversity. I sort of chose to continue on my path of having a diversity of experiences. Maybe on some unconscious level, I didn’t want to have an association with one thing in any way degrade my effectiveness as an actor, in characters. I think you can sort of do anything once, but if you do it too many times, it can become a suit that’s hard to take off, in other peoples’ eyes.
And if I had continued on with it, I wouldn’t have made Moonrise Kingdom, or Grand Budapest, or Birdman, because those all overlapped with [Avengers]. And those were more the priority for me, but I continue to be a fan and I’m really, really happy I got to do it once.
He’s got a point: Chris Evans has spoken out more than once about how reluctant he was to take on the multi-movie Captain America role. Norton also has the benefit of hindsight, seeing as he’s garnering Oscar buzz for his odious but excellent performance in Birdman. And like we said, Ruffalo has fit into the role better than the other two rebooted Hulks who came before him. Everyone wins!
Photo: Marvel Studios