Mark Ruffalo’s Best Movie Role Almost Went To Robert Downey Jr

Mark Ruffalo almost lost his role in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island to Robert Downey Jr.

By Douglas Helm | Published

Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio are both pitch-perfect for their roles in the twisty Martin Scorcese thriller Shutter Island, but Ruffalo wasn’t initially the first pick. According to E! News, Scorsese considered both Robert Downey Jr. and Josh Brolin for the role of Chuck Aule instead. However, Ruffalo wrote Scorsese a letter telling him how much he wanted to work with him and the letter worked, nabbing him the part in the end.

While Mark Ruffalo nailed the character, it’s not hard to imagine that Robert Downey Jr. would have also done a great job. History had different plans, and the movie was amazing anyway. Interestingly, Martin Scorcese also wasn’t the initial choice for director, as Wolfgang Petersen and David Fincher were once attached to direct the film at one point.

Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., and David Fincher actually worked together just a few years before Shutter Island in the fantastic film Zodiac. The two actors likely knew each other quite well at this point, so it’s doubtful there was any bad blood over the casting choice. Besides, Downey Jr. was pretty busy with other projects at the time.

While Mark Ruffalo was busy filming Shutter Island, Robert Downey Jr. continued to revitalize his career and cement himself as one of the most popular actors of the 2000s. Downey’s Iron Man 2 was released the same year as Shutter Island, so he was finding plenty of success in a different genre. Of course, both Ruffalo and Downey’s careers would fully intertwine when they both appeared in 2012’s The Avengers.

Although Mark Ruffalo was a little late to the MCU party, he’s been playing Bruce Banner/Hulk for over a decade now. Robert Downey Jr and Ruffalo’s characters essentially became best friends over the course of the MCU’s ongoing storyline. It’s pretty clear that friendship extends to real life as well.

dicaprio shutter island
Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island

In fact, Mark Ruffalo revealed in an interview with Jimmy Fallon that Robert Downey Jr. was the one who convince him to take the Hulk role. Ruffalo most recently appeared as Banner/Hulk in the Disney+ She-Hulk series, which starred Tatiana Maslany in the titular role. At the very end of the series, Banner revealed that he has a son named Skaar.

Since we only got the briefest glimpse of Skarr in She-Hulk, it’s pretty much a guarantee that we’ll be seeing more of him and Mark Ruffalo in future MCU projects. Of course, Roberty Downey Jr.’s time in the MCU is over after Tony Stark sacrificed himself to take out Thanos. Thanos, who happened to be played by Josh Brolin, aka the other person up for the same Shutter Island role as Ruffalo and Downey.

It’s cool to imagine what could have happened with all of these projects, but it seems like everything ended up working out for the better. Ruffalo joined one of the most successful movie franchises of all time, Robert Downey Jr. became one of the highest-paid actors working, and Brolin gave us one of the best villains in the MCU in two of the highest-grossing films of all time. Ruffalo’s Hulk is the only one still standing, so it’ll be interesting to see where he’ll pop up next.