Actor Mark Ruffalo has played Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2012’s The Avengers. But he’s said on multiple occasions that he doesn’t expect to be called in for a solo film, mostly because of behind-the-scenes bad-blood between Marvel Studios and Universal Pictures.
The rights to a standalone Hulk movie belong to Universal, who released the 2003 film starring Eric Bana, and the 2008 version with Edward Norton in the lead role. A clause, similar to the one between Marvel and Sony with regards to Spider-Man, allows Marvel to feature Hulk in larger storylines as a supporting character.
“I think they’ve been working on it,” Ruffalo said of the two studios, in a 2015 interview to Yahoo. “Marvel and Universal famously don’t get along very well, and so that’s working against us, definitely. But I know for a fact that everyone is holding out hope that one day we can do it. But the nature of the relationship right now, it’s a little prohibitive. And I hope that that changes, that changes with regimes, it changes over the course of time. But right now it doesn’t look particularly promising.”
In 2017, at the D23 expo, Ruffalo was explicit in his irritation at the matter. “I just want to make one thing perfectly clear today that a standalone Hulk movie will never happen,” he told Variety. “Because Universal has the rights to the standalone Hulk movie and for some reason, they don’t know how to play well with Marvel, and they don’t want to make money. But I feel like I have two or three years before I’m too old to play the Hulk.”
It was reported in early 2020 that the rights to the character had, in fact, reverted to Marvel and that a solo film could be on the cards. A few months later, Ruffalo in an interview with Variety sounded more optimistic. “There’s an idea that I think could be really interesting,” he 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 between all these movies.”
After appearing in The Avengers, Ruffalo’s Hulk starred in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame. He also played a major supporting role in Thor: Ragnarok.