Before there was Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, there was Edward Norton’s. Before Edward Norton’s Hulk, there was Eric Bana, who starred as Bruce Banner/Hulk in the 2003 Ang Lee film.
When Eric Bana took on the role of Hulk, the film was set pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, the thought of sequels or being part of a larger universe never crossed Bana’s mind. In fact, according to Bana, it took some convincing on his own part to say yes to taking on the role of Bruce Banner. He explained to Marc Maron on the WTF with Marc Maron Podcast, “It wasn’t a quick yes, that’s for sure,” Bana told Maron.
When Eric Bana signed on, he became the first actor to play the part of Bruce Banner and the Hulk since the late Bill Bixby did on his The Incredible Hulk TV series. “It took me a while to get my head around it. I wasn’t privy to the script prior to signing onto the film. It’s one of the only films I have done where that was the case. It just wasn’t the type of film that I saw myself doing.”
Not only wasn’t it something Eric Bana saw himself doing, but a sequel also was never in the cards. “You certainly didn’t go into a film like that thinking you were going to do more than one … that just wasn’t in play.” At the time, superhero movies weren’t looking at sequels. “The expectations are not the way they are now. I approached it as a one-off.”
While Eric Bana has received praise for his role as Banner, the movie itself was more a letdown than anything. The movie went through a number of drafts before Lee was finally happy with the product. Lee was looking for a more dramatic connection to Banner, which he got with the final script, but what he also got was the one thing fans couldn’t wrap their minds around: the Hulk dogs.
The Hulk dogs (a poodle, a bull mastiff, and a pitbull) are part of the Hulk lore. They appeared in the 2000 Incredible Hulk issue #14 where Hulk is attacked by a pack of dogs who have been infused with Gamma, causing them to grow to massive proportions. The Hulk dogs were well received in the comics, they just didn’t translate well to film.
The movie itself was a decent hit at the box office. Even though certain choices Lee made with his movie didn’t pan out, he put together the movie for $137 million and brought home over $245 at the box office for his troubles.
With all the multiverse talk going on, there could be an opportunity for Eric Bana to go green once again. Disney+’s WandaVision began the Multiverse talk but didn’t quite kick the door wide open. Speculation is that the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, will be the film to truly explore the multiverse, it even has the word in its title. But how much they explore it is unknown.
Then there is the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is said to go all-in with the Multiverse as well. It is known that Jamie Foxx will be returning as Electro and Alfred Molina will again grow his tentacles as Doc Ock, both villains have appeared in previous versions of Spider-Man. Rumor also has it that, along with current Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man Tom Holland, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will be returning to their respective roles as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The multiverse looks ready to explode.
But would Eric Bana do it again? If Maguire and Garfield can return as Spider-Man, then why not have Bana and Norton reprise their roles as Hulk? It could happen, but don’t count on it. Bana spoke with Jake’s Takes about the possibility of somehow showing up in the multiverse, and touched on a few items from earlier, then finally answered the big question. “No, I just, when I went and did that film, that was kind of like pre-Marvel universe. I mean, that universe didn’t even really exist. It always felt like a one-time film for me. That world where you go off and do a movie and there are going to be sequels, that framework didn’t even exist back then. So I guess the short answer is no. I never felt like it was something I was going to reprise or do again and after all this time, I can’t see that happening.” The entire Hulk portion of the interview can be seen above..
Of course, we know actors need to be coy as they try to keep the surprise for fans intact. Andrew Garfield has consistently maintained he is not a part of the new Spider-Man movie, though most assume his presence will be felt. Still, “I wish I could just be able to speak to everyone and say, like, ‘I recommend that you chill’,” he said on Josh Horowitz’s Happy Sad Confused podcast regarding a return as Spider-Man. “Listen, I can’t speak for anything else apart from myself, like, they might be doing something, but I ain’t got a call.”
As for Eric Bana, he seems convinced Hulk is a no-go. But like we’ve said many times before and will probably continue to reiterate – money talks. Hollywood has a way of making the impossible happen. If it makes sense (sadly, many times it doesn’t) and the money is right, Hollywood will get their man or woman.