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Mark Ruffalo on the Hulk’s Future and Why He’d Love to Team With Wolverine

Mark Ruffalo Variety Cover Story
Thomas Loof and Pernille Loof for Variety

Mark Ruffalo wants to reprise his role as Bruce Banner and his mean, green alter-ego the Hulk in future Avengers sequels and spinoffs. However, the actor admits that it’s unclear when or if the strongest man alive will resurface after Earth’s Mightiest Heroes defeated Thanos in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame.”

“There’s nothing completely at a place where it’s a done deal,” Ruffalo said in an interview for Variety’s recent cover story. “There’s some talk of having Banner/Hulk show up in [the Disney Plus series] ‘SheHulk.’ If we come up with something good, that would be really interesting. Right now that’s about it. That’s all there is on the table.”

Ruffalo would love to anchor a stand-alone movie with the Hulk, something that was previously attempted when Edward Norton and Eric Bana were playing the role, but an opportunity that has so-far been denied him.

“There’s an idea that I think could be really interesting,” Ruffalo said. “We’ve never really followed him into his life. He’s always kind of off on the side. He’s like the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of the Avengers. It’d be interesting to fill in all the blanks about what happened to him in between all these movies.”

Don Cheadle, a close friend and co-star of Ruffalo in the “Avengers” series, said the two definitely bonded on set as they are both forced to wear unitards  — what Cheadle calls “mo-cap suits” — wrapped with tech gear to accommodate the CGI needs of their characters.

“Mark and I get to share that misery,” Cheadle said. “Everyone else is walking around in their cool clothes. Mark and I are walking around in these unitards with symbols and dots and balls attached all over them. Mark has it worse than anyone because he has to wear that rig over his face.”

Both Cheadle and Ruffalo are known for their character work in adult dramas. The contrast to the demands of filming a superhero blockbuster is not lost on them.

“Both of us are walking around in these suits and we just look at each other — we wanted to be actors, right?” Cheadle says.

After their first “Avengers” movie together, Cheadle recalls Ruffalo giving him an important piece of advice about the use of a “modesty cloth” — a type of jockstrap used by male dancers — while working in costume.

“I said to him ‘I did a whole movie without it. You couldn’t have mentioned this before?’ I’m walking around here butt-ass naked practically and you didn’t think to mention it?’ ”

Taika Waititi, the director of 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok,” said that Ruffalo insisted on playing both Banner and performing all of the green-screen work needed to bring the Hulk to CGI-induced life.

“He has very strong opinions about what Hulk would say and how he would say it,” said Waititi. “People assume, ‘Oh, well it’s a CGI character. Why would an actor do the movements?’ But he insisted on doing all the work in motion capture. All of that stuff is him, dressed in those ridiculous pajamas that you have to wear with ping-pong balls on his head.”

In “Thor: Ragnarok,” Ruffalo was excited about exploring the ways that the Hulk had subsumed Banner, the gentle scientist that he also portrays.

“He wanted to show that Hulk was driving the vehicle and Banner was left in the trunk,” remembers Waititi.

Playing the role was a departure for Ruffalo, who made a name for himself appearing in indie dramas such as “The Kids Are All Right” and “You Can Count on Me.” The technological hurdles nearly convinced him to turn the role down when director Joss Whedon and co-star Robert Downey Jr. approached him about appearing in 2012’s “The Avengers.”

“I did try to talk them out of casting me,” Ruffalo recalled. “I said, ‘I don’t know if I’m the right guy, I’ve never done  anything like this.’ Between Joss and Robert, they were pretty convincing that I could do it. I was scared. I was really scared. I’m still scared. The technological aspect of it makes it really hard to work that way. I struggle with it all the time. But my motto is make fear your friend. Just keep pushing yourself into those places where you feel scared or challenged.”

It also helped that Ruffalo was a comic book fan as a child. He grew up reading “X-Men” and “Wolverine.” Now that Disney/Marvel has purchased Fox, and with it the rights to the “X-Men” films, he has an idea for what could be in the Hulk’s future.

“Maybe Hulk and Wolverine could hook up,” said Ruffalo.