A veteran stuntman in the MCU - who also was credited for roles in Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War - recently criticized Edward Norton's portrayal of the Hulk in The Incredible Hulk, specifically discussing how the actor made VFX work more difficult.
The Hulk is more complicated to bring to life on the big screen than other Avengers characters such as Tony Stark or Steve Rogers due to just how much visual effects work has to go into making sure he looks realistic.
Ever since Marvel Studios first took on the task of bringing the Hulk into the MCU in 2008's The Incredible Hulk (which starred Edward Norton in the titular role), many fans ultimately praised the overall CGI for the character.
However, the work that went into it, especially during The Incredible Hulk, wasn't always easy.
MCU Veteran's Critical Comments Regarding Edward Norton
Terry Notary is a stuntman, choreographer, and motion capture actor who has been a part of multiple MCU projects.
He also notably portrayed Cull Obsidian in Avengers: Infinity War, and even served as the stand-in for Groot when Sean Gunn wasn't on-set in that film and Avengers: Endgame.
In Joanna Robinson's new book titled MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, Notary recalled his experiences working on 2008's The Incredible Hulk, where he was credited as the choreographer for the Hulk and Abomination as well as the motion capture specialist for both characters.
It was revealed by Notary that Hulk actor Edward Norton had little interest in actually putting any work into the motion capture to bring his character to life during the 2007 production, even though he expressed his interest in playing both Bruce Banner and the Hulk.
This resulted in the VFX team being forced to manually render all of the character's facial expressions, which made the process much more difficult.
Notary was critical of Norton's performance (or lack thereof in his opinion), stating that the actor "wasn't really engaged" and "was not very present through the whole thing:"
"[Norton] wasn’t really engaged, as far as the Hulk stuff goes, unless he was transforming from himself into the Hulk. He was not very present through the whole thing."
On the other hand, Notary praised Abomination actor Tim Roth for his willingness to do exactly what Norton refused to - jump into the mo-cap suit and give every bit of effort he had.
Notary called Roth a "quintessential actor that likes to be involved," and stated that he was committed to making Abomination "look good:"
"[Roth is] one of those quintessential actors that likes to be involved, wants to make sure that he’s going to look good and his character’s going to look good."
Robinson also explained in her book how the motion capture work was done for The Incredible Hulk. Instead of placing the traditional mo-cap dots on actors' faces, they utilized a new technology where actors such as Edward Norton and Tim Roth would be sprayed with dust, leaving far more data points for the VFX team to utilize.
The Incredible Hulk VFX supervisor and co-producer Kurt Williams explained what exactly goes into making "a successful CG character," which can be anything as small as "micro-movements in the eyes," all the way to "the subtlety in fingers:"
"The difference between a successful CG character and a not-successful CG character are the micro-movements in the eyes, the muscles in the facial expressions, the subtlety in fingers and those little muscles."
Rhythm & Hues (the lead visual effects studio that worked on The Incredible Hulk) animation director Keith Roberts took a more respectful approach than Notary when talking about Norton's lack of effort, saying that because the actor didn't perform motion capture, "Hulk doesn't have Edward Norton's facial expressions:"
"Hulk doesn’t have Edward Norton’s expressions, but the two are eerily similar in facial timing."
How Did Edward Norton's Performance Affect The Incredible Hulk?
According to multiple crew members who worked on The Incredible Hulk, Edward Norton made the entire VFX process much more difficult than it needed to be to bring his character to life.
However, thanks to the hard work of the VFX artists, Hulk's appearance, expressions, and fine details came across successfully in the final cut of the film, especially considering it was released back in 2008.
While Norton's lack of commitment didn't seem to change the overall effect of the final product, he did seem to make the lives of the VFX artists much tougher, which was probably discouraging considering how meticulous their jobs already are.
Mark Ruffalo, who has portrayed Hulk in every project the character has been featured in since The Incredible Hulk, at least seems to have been more committed to the role than Norton was, which VFX artists are probably thankful for.