THE AVENGERS MARK RUFFALO – With Eric Bana and Ed Norton playing The Hulk in previous incarnations of the franchise, the filmmakers of The Avengers set off on their own journey to find an actor to tackle the complex character. For director Joss Whedon, the search began and ended with Mark Ruffalo (Shutter Island, The Kids Are All Right).
“Mark was my dream choice and I had my heart set on him,” says Whedon. “I wanted a completely fresh take on the character so I went to Marvel very early on and said, ‘I know the guy who would be a great Bruce Banner’ and they said, ‘Unless it’s Mark Ruffalo, we really don’t know.’ and I was like ‘What?!’ I just froze and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. You did not just say that,’ and I showed them my list that I had in my wallet with his name at the top and they were completely on board.”
For Ruffalo, his friend and colleague Robert Downey Jr. was the inspiration he needed to take on the role. “The Avengers isn’t the type film that I’ve done in the past or that I am usually invited to do,” laughs Ruffalo. “I was a little nervous about it because when Joss and I first met about the role there wasn’t a script. I thought a lot about Ironman. I thought about what Robert Downey Jr. did with that part—he is one of my hero actors. I really loved what Robert did; he reinvented the genre. It made me feel like I could fit into that world with whatever it is I do. I had one meeting with Joss, who I liked instantly, so between him and Robert I was in.”
“Mark Ruffalo is very funny and when he first got cast he said, ‘Bruce Banner is like his generation’s Hamlet. Everyone has to take a shot at it; it’s just required reading now for actors,” recalls executive producer Jeremy Latcham. “I thought it was a funny way of looking at it because it really is a tough character and there have been a lot of great actors who have had a go at it. Mark really brings a lot of humanity to Bruce Banner and I think that his way into it is really to explore the human side of the character, who is a nice guy but very troubled.”
“Besides Robert, Mark is probably the person I spent the most time with in pre-production,” says Joss Whedon. “We talked about anger and how it manifests so we could get The Hulk away from being this roaring creature. Bruce Banner has given up on the idea that he can cure his anger problems and is just trying to manage it and focus all his energy on helping other people. He doesn’t want to be the center of attention and of course, he becomes the center of attention when he joins the team.”
“What appealed to both Joss and I about the character is that he would have a common man sort of feel to him and possess this world-weary charm,” says Ruffalo. “We also agreed he should have a sense of humor about his situation. Based on the last incarnation of The Incredible Hulk, there was the promise that Banner may actually have a little control over the Behemoth. We wanted him to be fun and interesting as Banner and awesome as Hulk.”
“Joss and I thought it would be cool if we found Banner at a leprosy colony in India where there’s so much suffering that it would be almost impossible to get angry at anything in life that would bring on the transformation into The Hulk,” concludes Ruffalo.
“Joss wrote the character so that audiences feel for Bruce Banner much in the way they felt for Bill Bixby,” says producer Kevin Feige. “In The Avengers, Bruce Banner has a good sense of humor and he is not in a constant state of melancholy and moroseness. A lot of the laughs in the film come from the character and early on when we saw what Mark was doing with the role, we felt we finally had an opportunity to present Bruce Banner the way we always wanted to.”