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Remember Edward Norton's Bruce Banner? Good times! The Incredible Hulk came out in 2008 as the second Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, but there were behind-the-scenes clashes and the MCU ultimately recast with Mark Ruffalo for the rest of the run so far. Ruffalo has played The Hulk in all four Avengers movies and was a main star of Thor: Ragnarok. Ruffalo just played "Smart Hulk," or Professor Hulk in Endgame, and a fan decided to show what Edward Norton could've looked like in that role. The result is ... interesting:
To quote the first Reddit commenter: "Thanks, I hate it!"
Here's the official taco shot with Mark Ruffalo's Hulk in Avengers: Endgame:
Marvel Studios used much fancier technology to create Mark Ruffalo's Hulk than this intrepid fan used to add Edward Norton's face to the taco scene. So this shot probably isn't exactly how Norton would've looked. Still, it does make you wonder what Norton's arc as Hulk would've looked like. It's a great MCU "What If...?" scenario. In this disquieting world of deepfakes, I wouldn't be shocked if someone fully replaced Ruffalo with Norton in a recut of Avengers: Endgame. But I'm not going to try to track that down to see if it has already happened.
Mark Ruffalo was The Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier's first choice but he said Marvel pushed for the more famous Edward Norton. There were reportedly clashes between Norton, Leterrier, and Marvel throughout production on the film.
In 2010, Kevin Feige told Hitflix Marvel Studios planned to recast The Hulk before The Avengers, saying the decision was "definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members." Edward Norton's agent told the site (via EW) that Feige's comments were "unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory." He said Norton and Avengers director Joss Whedon had a "very good meeting," and while the deal fell apart, it was only after very "civil" discussions.
Edward Norton posted a note to fans in July 2010 on Facebook to say he was sorry he wouldn't be able to continue playing Bruce Banner in The Avengers:
In 2014, Edward Norton suggested to NPR that leaving the role of The Hulk was an artistic decision:
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.
Edward Norton's new film Motherless Brooklyn just premiered at Telluride and is opening on November 1. Meanwhile, Mark Ruffalo's Hulk survived Avengers: Endgame, but he was left injured (permanently?) and may not be in peak condition if we see him again in the MCU. As to the future of the MCU, Ruffalo just welcomed She-Hulk to the Marvel Studios family for the upcoming Disney+ series.
How do you think MCU's Hulk would've been different with Edward Norton staying in the role over Mark Ruffalo? Creatively, I think the MCU benefited from casting Ruffalo, who has perfect chemistry with so many other Marvel stars. On the other hand, Norton probably wouldn't have spoiled the movies as often, and maybe wouldn't have live-streamed the entire opening of Thor: Ragnarok...