Mark Ruffalo Learned About His ‘Avengers’ Casting in This Ridiculous Way

The Big Picture

  • Joining the MCU has become less exciting, with actors now wary of getting sucked into the Marvel machine.
  • Mark Ruffalo’s journey to becoming the Hulk involved secret pages of the script and a blessing from Edward Norton.
  • Marvel is known for its secrecy, but Ruffalo has struggled to keep spoilers to himself, showcasing his important role in the MCU.

We’re at a point where the novelty of major actors joining the MCU has long eroded. It’s now a punchline about how quickly an actor will get sucked into the Marvel machine, to the point that newly minted stars like Paul Mescal and Jeremy Allen White have talked about dodging that bullet. This wasn’t the case 14 years ago, when it was first announced that indie darling Mark Ruffalo would become Bruce Banner for The Avengers, launching his stardom into a whole new stratosphere that he’s still thriving in. Joining such a franchise is a huge ordeal, and Ruffalo once shared what the process of getting the role was like, and it speaks to how freaky doing mainstream studio fare can be.

The Avengers (2012) poster

The Avengers

When an unexpected enemy threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins.

Release Date
May 4, 2012

Joss Whedon

143 minutes

How Mark Ruffalo Got the Role of the Hulk in the MCU

In the definitive history book MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, it details how Ruffalo first got in Marvel’s crosshairs at all. He was in consideration for the role in The Incredible Hulk by director Louis Leterrier, before Marvel suggested he go with Edward Norton based on star power. Ruffalo’s profile had begun a new rise after getting Oscar nominated as Best Supporting Actor for The Kids Are All Right, and he was “uncertain if he belonged in an action-movie spectacular.” Luckily for him, Avengers co-writer/director Joss Whedon was in favor of Ruffalo, and so he had a plan to get him enticed. Whedon decided to secretly give Ruffalo pages of the script that involved Banner, and Ruffalo clearly liked what he read. Before officially saying yes, he felt the need to call Edward Norton and “got his blessing to take the part.” It’s always nice to see the great ones giving each other proper respect like that.

On the eve of San Diego Comic Con 2010, where the full cast of The Avengers was set to be announced and presented, a deal had still not been struck between Marvel and Ruffalo’s representatives. Ruffalo got a call from his agent, who told him to “look out your window at five o’clock in the morning. If there is a car there, you got the part. If there’s not, just go back to bed.” Ruffalo woke up the next morning at 5:00 A.M., looked out his window, and saw a limo waiting for him. He got in the limo, on a plane to San Diego, and was there on stage for the first grand reveal of what would become one of the most iconic films of the 21st century.

Marvel Actors Need To Be Sworn to Secrecy — Usually

While this might sound like a deleted scene from a David Fincher film, this is just one instance of Marvel’s longstanding romance with keeping things as secretive as possible. With so much money behind the productions and with how much the movies lean into the tropes of long form comic storytelling, it’s imperative that Marvel keep a tight lid on any and all developments that could leak out. Actors who get involved in the MCU have long been schooled on the art of keeping what’s coming next on the down low. That schooling has usually led to good results, with one notorious exception being Tom Holland, who has maintained a reputation for not keeping his mouth shut — which is quite adorable. It’s ironic that Ruffalo would be sworn to such a life of secrecy, as he has grown to have a notorious relationship with keeping secrets. He’s had a habit of blurting out “spoilers” in interviews, to the point that he’s even called himself out over it in the past.

It’s a testament to the quality of acting that Mark Ruffalo has brought to his portrayal that Marvel has let his secret slippery slide. While the development of Banner/Hulk has been shaky, to say the least, it’s been made more tolerable thanks to Ruffalo’s consistent emotional anchoring of one of the MCU’s most evolved characters. The Banner character has become so comfortable with the audience over the years that it’s almost hard to fathom how strange it was to have Ruffalo involved in this franchise at all. Were it not for the off-kilter creative instincts of Joss Whedon, Ruffalo wouldn’t have been thought of for The Avengers all those years ago. He’s come a long way from that foggy-eyed limo ride, and we should all rejoice that it happened.

The Avengers is available to stream on Disney+ in the U.S.

Watch on Disney+

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