Mark Ruffalo is the first live-action actor since the Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno duo to play Marvels green goliath more than once. Having played the role in 2012's Avengers and again in the post credit scene for Iron Man 3, Ruffalo will return as the scientist with anger-management issues this May in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but this time around it seems the character has finally evolved past the "don't make me angry" cliches, and has become a battle of identities between the intelligent and rational Banner personality and the angry, uncivilized personality of the Hulk.
Fully unleashed the Hulk has the capacity to be the strongest character in the MCU!
Speaking with Empire during their on-set visit a few months back Ruffalo explained the conflict between his characters personalities, his hopes for a future solo outing for his character and about realising the Hulk using new, state-of-the-art performance capture techniques with co-star and performance coach Andy Serkis at the award winning Imaginarium Studios...
Empire: Where is Bruce when this movie begins?
MR: "I think he’s definitely matured a little bit since the last one. He’s become more acclimated to this thing and to being part of the team. I think he feels more a part of them all. But in this particular take on it, it’s a much more character-driven version of The Avengers than the first one. It gets a little deeper into each character. S.H.I.E.L.D. is not happening anymore, so there’s not that much time spent with the S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff. I feel that every character has their own cool little thing happening. I had great stuff in the last one but there’s even more stuff in this one. It’s nice, because I know this character now after playing him twice…"
Empire: Three times if you count the end of Iron Man 3…
MR: "That’s right! They sort of grow on you a little bit, I think. It’s nice to build upon something that was already there and it’s easier than starting all over again."
Empire: Your version of this character really seems to have pierced the public’s consciousness.
MR: "That’s nice to hear. It seems like they conflate Bruce and the Hulk. It’s usually, ‘HULK!’ as I’m walking across the street. But sometimes it’s ‘Banner!’ If you go on my Twitter feed you’ll see it’s mostly Hulk. I think it was pretty spectacular what we were able to accomplish, with CGI, with The Hulk, and I can’t take full credit for that. But what they do say is very flattering and very encouraging. I think for the most part, they feel satisfied with it. It’s a beloved part for so many people, including myself. I remember when it was announced that I got the part – there was a fair amount of booing and hissing. I made the mistake of going online and looking at a thread where people were talking about it, and it was not glowing, to say the least. So it’s been nice that for the most part people accept me in that part now."
Banner has a dark side, seperate from the Hullk!
Empire: So you’ve seen a lot of the ‘Science Bros’ stuff on Tumblr?
MR: "They did all kinds of stuff, I’ve seen all of it. I think it’s really cool that there’s this kind of open source riffing based on these pop culture references. I get a kick out of it, I didn’t think it was going to turn into that. Robert has been a friend of mine before these movies, I’ve worked with him before. He has been very supportive of me, and kind of like my big-brother-older-actor friend. I felt really comfortable shooting that stuff with him, and that was kind of my meat of the movie. We worked really well together and the dynamics of that relationship are kind of the dynamics of our relationship, in a weird way. And so it worked. I had no idea it was going to pop in the way it did and the funny ways it spun off. It’s become quite a, let’s say, fetish for some folks. Science Bros Plus."
Empire: In Age Of Ultron, what can you say about The Hulk? We’ve seen the Hulkbuster concept art, so is it safe to assume that Banner can no longer control him?
MR: "Hulk is the kind of wild card. He’s the loose cannon of the group. He’s more like an atom bomb. You could guess where he’s going to go but he could go either way. I think that there is, obviously, the day when everyone expects it to go wrong and that day comes. And they’re ready. And Bruce designed the contingency plan. As much as you feel Bruce has some mastery over it – certainly, with ‘I’m always angry’ and he can turn into it at will – I still feel that there’s some part of him that doesn’t completely trust it and doesn’t completely trust himself."
"There’s a battle going on between these two opposing egos that live inside him. He’s definitely worried that the day is going to come when the Hulk gets the best of him, and maybe won’t release him, maybe won’t give him back. The Hulk knows this too. There’s a moment in here where he, begrudgingly, decides to go back to Banner. Who knows where these things will go, but as Bruce is able to impress his will on the Hulk, going into The Hulk and being inside the Hulk when he’s raging, The Hulk’s will is also growing and able to impress upon Bruce. That makes for some wild things. We’re laying the groundwork for that here. It’ll be interesting to see if that ends up being what would be the next Hulk movie."
In reality Banners body is battlefield, but who will win control, Banner or the Hulk?
Empire: What’s happening with that?
MR: "Who knows, really? That’s such an amorphous thing. Nobody has talked to me about that yet. It seems people want it, but it’s tough. They’ve already done two of ‘em, and they’ve only done two Thors, they had a nice run on Iron Man. I feel like they have their plates full. There’s probably other people they’re keen on doing but I think people have shown that they’re ready to see another one."
Empire: You can admire Marvel for not disturbing their grand plan to rush out a Hulk movie. It would have been the easy thing to do after Avengers.
MR: "It’s a tough nut to crack. Traditionally you’re watching a guy who doesn’t want to do the very thing that you want him to do. It’s hard to take for two hours. I don’t know how many times you can use that same framing for it, but now he’s maturing and there’s a cool dynamic growing between Banner and The Hulk. And the CGI is so much better. The stuff we can do now, you can do a real performance. I’ve been working with Andy Serkis [at his Imaginarium studio] and he has it set up where you go in there and you just start working on a character. It is so exciting to me, because I can do whatever I can imagine, with a team of people of course."
"The nuances you can bring… I can make The Hulk as real as any other character I’ve ever played and in ways more nuanced, more interesting. It’s boundless. The technology is at such a place where I can do that in real time. There’s a big giant screen and a bunch of them all over the place and I’m in my stretchy motion-capture suit and there’s The Hulk right in front of me, doing everything I do. You become a puppeteer and you’re creating the way this guy moves and the way he expresses himself, and there’s a facial capture happening at the same time. In the past you would do your face, you’d move your head and you’d do all the scenes with your features and they’d capture that all and scan everything. Then I said, ‘Why don’t I play the scenes and give you that?’ We did that but it was very much taking the information from the actor and then gobbing it all together. Now I can do all of that with every nuance and I hang out there for six hours at a time. Let’s try this, what if he’s like this? All of a sudden you’re building this thing that no-one ever imagined. It’s based on the script but it’s also free. What we can do with The Hulk now… oh my gosh, it’s going to be mind-blowing."
The Hulk is also capable of heart warming softness and compassion!
Empire: On Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, they did the mo-cap stuff on location…
MR: "(Nodding) I do it on location now. I’ll bring a sound system with me and when I breathe, it has this mass and it has this sound and it fills the set, and that informs my movement. It helps everybody else with the reactions - all of a sudden this creature is present. Even the sound helps you. When I’m at Andy’s place, we tweak the sound until it sounds like we want it to sound and the whole character just comes alive. Oh man, it’s so exciting. There’s a lot more of my participation in that this time. Where this is going to be by the time they’re ready to do another Hulk movie, it’s so exciting. We can do such great stuff. It’ll be seamless between that character and Banner and you’ll have the feeling that you’re literally watching another person."
Empire: Where does the Hulk come from, for you? What are your influences?
MR: "There are a lot of apes and gorillas and cats in Hulk. I was using a lot of that stuff in the first one. This one has that. Rage is one emotion. It’s hard to give it much geography when it’s just rage all the time. I’m finding other primal things in him this time that I wouldn’t have thought to bring into it. The script also opens it up to that. He is like another person. He’s an aspect of Banner that the volume is so pumped up on. It’s very primal. It’s almost like the pre-consciousness of Banner. It’s very base in its needs and I see there’s lust, there are the essential parts of a person there. But when you think of us in our prehistoric beginnings, we were food, procreation, domination. Although he’s like a different person, there is this weird communication back and forth between the two of them. I’m starting to sense that now. I’m interested in this place where they bleed into each other."