Norton helped bring the MCU's Hulk to life in 2008's The Incredible Hulk, although his run only lasted for one movie before Ruffalo was cast as the enormous green rage monster for 2012's The Avengers. This became one of only a handful of MCU characters that ever went through a recast over the franchise's 15-year history, and it was certainly the biggest character to have two different actors.
With this change being so high-profile, particularly with Ruffalo and Norton both holding such an elevated level of fame, one has to wonder if there was any awkwardness with the passing of the gamma-radiated torch.
Mark Ruffalo Speaks on MCU Hulk Recast
During an appearance at Emerald City Comic-Con, MCU star Mark Ruffalo shed some light on the period in time when he was recast as the Hulk after Edward Norton's exit from the franchise.
When asked if he had any conversations with Norton about the change and how it went, Ruffalo used the word "awkward" and explained that the two only talked for a minute even though they didn't necessarily want to talk about it
"Awkward. (laughs) No, I mean, I didn’t talk to him, but I reached out to him, as we do now when we don’t want to talk. And I was like, ‘Hey, man,’ and he’s like, ‘No, it’s fine.’ I mean, it was weird. It was even weird when Robert Downey Jr., at Comic-Con [in 2010], when introducing me, said, ‘And now reprising the role of the Hulk, is Mark Ruffalo.’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah– Huh?’"
And while Ruffalo wasn't sure "how attached to [the role] Ed was" during his time with the MCU, he got a sense that his predecessor was at peace leaving the role behind:
But you know, Ed’s… I don’t think… I don’t know how attached to it Ed was, you know, ultimately. I think he was like, ‘Oh, thank God. Let Ruffalo deal with it.’ But he’s been beautiful. We’re friends. It’s never come up as an issue. I’m blessed."
Ruffalo and Norton at Peace with Hulk Recast
While the Hulk being recast became something of a public spectacle at the end of the 2000s, both Ruffalo and Norton now appear to be comfortable with the change, particularly with Norton seemingly feeling a sense of relief from it.
Now, with the change having taken place such a long time ago, the two have come to peace with it even further as the Hulk's MCU legacy continues to build.
There was even talk of bringing Norton into the Season 1 finale of She-Hulk for a time, with Marvel considering switching out Ruffalo for Norton during the scene where the Hulk and Abomination reunited, but it never came to pass.
Looking to the future, there's a small chance that the MCU could pay tribute to Norton's time playing the Hulk with an appearance in 2026's Multiversal epic, Avengers: Secret Wars.