No one much talks about the 2003 Hulk anymore. It was from a very different time. The first Iron Man was still four years away. Superhero movies weren’t the only blockbusters in town. They didn’t even happen all that often. And so, nearly 20 years ago, we got a comic book extravaganza from Ang Lee. It didn’t get great reviews. It underperformed. It still isn’t much respected. (Although Lee’s decision to edit it like a comic book movie, complete with multiple panels, makes it perhaps the most aesthetically daring comic book movie of all time.) But even if it had been huge, its resident Bruce Banner had zero interest in doing more.
That person is Eric Bana, the Australian actor and comic who went from acclaimed actor — his turn in the renegade criminal biopic Chopper earned him raves, and he was singled out among the huge ensemble of Black Hawk Down for praise — to the head of a summer tentpole. Bana sat down for a recent WTF with Marc Maron (as caught by The Hollywood Reporter), and he was predictably candid with his host about the role he only played once.
“It wasn’t a quick yes, that’s for sure,” Bana told Maron. “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.”
What’s more, the MCU was still a glint in Bob Iger’s eye. And so Bana saw it as a one-time gig. “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,” he said. “The expectations are not the way they are now. I approached it as a one-off.”
Bana told Maron he wasn’t asked back for 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, which rebooted the character, now with Edward Norton. But he’d already learned that he and superhero movies do not mix. “It’s why I haven’t re-dabbled in that area,” the actor told Maron. “They’re not the kind of movie that I race out and see myself so that conversation is something I have with myself if I want to be a part of it.”
Bana, however, had nothing but nice things to say about the current Bruce Banner: Mark Ruffalo, who still hasn’t gotten his own solo jawn. “He’s the one who worked it out,” Bana said. “He found his stride.”