Could Edward Norton ever return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe? One writer joked about such a thing recently with the idea that Norton could be brought in to play Bruce Banner/ The Incredible Hulk once again. In an interview with Discussing Film (via Comicbook.com) What If…? writer A.C. Bradley mentioned the possibility of bringing in the original Hulk to voice the character in the show if Mark Ruffalo didn’t work out. While that didn’t come to fruition, with the proliferation of the Multiverse, nearly anything is on the table now with this franchise.
A.C. Bradley referring to Edward Norton as Bruce Banner came in a discussion about the most recent episode of Disney+’s What If…? titled “What If…Earth Lost Its Mightiest Heroes?”. In the episode, three of the original Avengers are killed in mysterious circumstances leading to a whole new construction of superhero alliances on Earth. As part of that sequence, the show revisited an early scene in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Banner, this one dating back to the University showdown in 2008s The Incredible Hulk. Bradley said, “I did joke early on, ‘If we can’t get Ruffalo back are we going to ask Norton?’ And I was told that Mark Ruffalo already agreed to do the show…”
So, no Edward Norton isn’t reprising this role, but it sounds like it was discussed even if there was a bit of jest in it. It is easy to forget now, more than a decade later that Edward Norton was the guy the studio originally wanted in the part of Bruce Banner. The Incredible Hulk was technically the second Marvel movie in Phase One, following Iron Man by just a few months. The franchise was far from what we know it to be now and this world was just being established. Robert Downey’s Tony Stark is what got things kicking, but in The Incredible Hulk, Louis Leterrier’s take on the big green galoot was entirely different in its tone and approach to the character.
From a box office point of view, The Incredible Hulk vastly underperformed Iron Man at $134 million compared to $319 million and was met with only lukewarm critical reactions. It sits at just 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, one of the lowest marks for the whole franchise. There have been some conflicting messages in the years following about why Edward Norton didn’t reprise the role when they began down the Avengers path. Norton has said he wanted to diversify his career some, leaving the comic book space. But there have also been reports that Marvel head Kevin Feige wanted to go in a different direction.
With the way Marvel is now handling the Multiverse, bringing back different characters from other iterations, as well as introducing new ones to the franchise, there is always the possibility a previous actor or actress reprises a role or comes back “from the dead” altogether. It could definitely happen with Edward Norton at some point.
We will next see Edward Norton in Knives Out 2, the much-anticipated sequel on Netflix which is bringing in another ensemble cast for a murder mystery.