In 2003, Marvel’s jade giant, the Hulk, took to the big screen for a big budget, live-action adventure film. The movie – simply titled, Hulk – focused on the origin of the iconic character, and was presented as a comic book melodrama.
Directed by Ang Lee, Hulk starred Eric Bana as Bruce Banner/Hulk, alongside a cast that included Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, and Nick Nolte. The film was initially envisioned as the first entry in a run of Hulk movies, but it ultimately became a stand-alone affair.
However, in 2008 another Hulk movie hit cinema screens. The film – directed by Louis Letterier – was called The Incredible Hulk, it was a lot more action-orientated than its predecessor, and most notable of all, it starred Edward Norton.
But why wasn’t Eric Bana involved in the movie? And more importantly, why did Eric Bana stop playing the Hulk?
Eric Bana stopped playing the Hulk because he simply wasn’t asked to reprise the role. When The Incredible Hulk was put into production, a decision was made to take the Hulk movies in a completely new direction, and this meant not including Eric Bana in the film.
In a recent interview for the podcast, WTF With Marc Maron, Bana confessed that after starring in Hulk, he wasn’t asked to appear in any future movies – he didn’t even receive a call from the producers. Not that it bothered him, because he never saw himself remaining with the character beyond one movie anyway.
He said: “The (Marvel) universe as you know it didn’t exist back then. 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 added: “The expectations were not the way they are now. I approached it as a one-off.”
While Bana may have approached the movie as a one-off, he was contracted to appear in future Hulk movies. However, as the actor noted, back in 2003, being contracted to appear in multiple movies didn’t necessarily mean you were going to appear in multiple movies.
Unlike today, where Marvel movies tend to be planned out years in advance, and actors appear in a string of sequels and spin-off projects, this wasn’t the approach when Hulk was released. Back then, movies were largely taken one at a time, and a sequel only happened if the first movie proved to be a box office hit.
And that’s where Hulk stumbled. While it was a moderate success at the box office, the film only made $245.4 million from a budget of $137 million, which might sound good, but it simply wasn’t enough money to justify a direct sequel.
Another movie was put into production, but it was conceived as a reboot of the franchise – and as it was a reboot, a new actor was drafted in to establish a distance between the two projects. Recasting the role made it clear to audiences this was a new Hulk and nothing like what had come before.
Not being included in the project, Eric Bana moved forward with his life, and didn’t think too much about returning or appearing in other superhero movies – and this was mostly because he’s not a huge fan of superhero movies anyway!
He said: “They’re not the kind of movie that I race out and see myself.” He admitted that he only pays attention to the movies if he wants to be involved in them, and if he doesn’t want to be involved in them, then they fall outside of his radar.
So, no hard feelings about only playing the Hulk once, or about not being asked to reprise the role. As far as Bana is concerned, he did the job he was asked to do and that’s what matters.
Thank you for stopping by It’s A Stampede! to read this post about Hulk. For more Marvel-related content, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.
- What is The Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect?
- Watching and discussing Marvel’s Generation X (1996)
- The order of The Incredible Hulk: Visionaries