Mark Ruffalo Addresses When He’ll Retire From the MCU

By Aeron Mer Eclarinal Posted:
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Smart Hulk, Hulk, Marvel Studios logo

After a brief appearance in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' post-credits scene, Mark Ruffalo's Hulk made his triumphant return in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law The show's premiere episode featured a good amount of screen time for Marvel's Green Goliath as he helped Tatiana Maslany's Jennifer Walters navigate her new powers. 

Despite having a limited role in the second episode, the character's appearance teased an exciting future for Hulk in Phase 5. This would mean that Smart Hulk is poised to have a larger role in future MCU projects, potentially in the next two Avengers movies

Now, Ruffalo has addressed what's next for his MCU character following his significant inclusion in his cousin's origin story. 

Will Mark Ruffalo Retire From the Hulk?

Hulk, Mark Ruffalo

In an interview with Variety, Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo talked about his MCU future as the angry green Avenger. 

In Phase 4, half of the original six Avengers are no longer part of the MCU. Alongside Smart Hulk, Chris Hemsworth's Thor and Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye are the only ones who remain. 

When asked when he'll be retiring from his Hulk role, Ruffalo admitted that he doesn't know, pointing out that he's "always surprised" that he's still involved with the MCU: 

"I don’t know! I’m always surprised that I’m still here. I mean, me and Ed Norton joke that the Hulk is like our generation’s Hamlet — we’re all going to get a shot at it. I keep waiting for the next version of it."

The Marvel veteran continued by revealing that he will continue to play the character as long as "people are interested" and if he can still bring "something that's interesting" to fans. Ruffalo also used the comics as an example, noting that there are "grizzled, old versions" of the character that the MCU can take inspiration from: 

"I mean, I’ll probably do it as long as they’ll have me, if people are interested, and I can bring something that’s interesting to me to it, and interesting to the fans. But I have no idea. I mean, you know, when you look at the comics, there’s some pretty grizzled, old versions of him. I’m like, OK, the 67-year-old Hulk, that would be interesting — if all of us are still here making movies and there’s a world that allows for us to do that anymore. With what we’re living in and heading towards, the future feels more precarious than any other time. So I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. But I hope I’m still around to do it."

Ruffalo made his MCU debut as Bruce Banner in 2012's The Avengers, helping Earth's Mightiest Heroes defeat Tom Hiddleston's Loki and the Chitauri. When asked how much he has evolved since then, the actor reflected on his "long journey," touching on how his personal life changed a lot through the years and how he applied many different dimensions of himself to his character:

"Oh, man, it’s been a long journey since then. You know, when I started, in a lot of ways I saw myself as a kind of a kid. I have gotten more successful. I have kids that are adults now. The world is a very different place. Taking my knocks and growing up as a man in that time period, and [I’ve] gotten to really explore all of those different dimensions of Banner and Hulk during the course of that. I’ve really gotten to probably play like five different iterations of the two of them during that time, and bring some important, meaningful part of myself to each one of those things. I mean, that’s been a great journey working with Marvel, is that I’ve been able to input on all of those things. "

The Adam Project and Shutter Island actor then compared the real-life situation of his career to Banner, noting that it's "probably winding down" and at some point, the hero's journey could "come to an end as well:"

"The other thing is that Marvel’s like, in a strange way, this kind of modern mythology that really does reflect the times that we’re in a strange way. It’s really remarkable, actually, how on the head they can be, metaphorically speaking, or allegorically. Yeah, it’s been a great place to express myself and to grow. Now I’m in this other stage, where it’s like, the twilight of myself and my career and probably winding down in a way. I feel like the same thing is probably happening for Banner. He’s one of the three that’s left standing, and that’s probably going to, at some point, come to an end as well."

In a previous interview, Thor actor Chris Hemsworth also addressed the topic of his Marvel retirement, saying that he's not going through that period anytime soon: 

"Are you crazy ?! I'm not going into any retirement period (laughs). Thor is way too young for that. He is only 1500 years old! It is definitely not a film that I say goodbye to this brand. At least I hope so."

Will Hulk Receive a Happy Ending in the MCU?

Whenever Hulk's story ends in the MCU, it's safe to assume that Mark Ruffalo is at peace with the character's swan song.

While every story of any Marvel hero needs to end at some point, giving Hulk a proper goodbye is a challenge that the studio needs to tackle eventually. Given the indestructible nature of the Hulk, it would be pretty hard to easily kill him off. Still, there are other ways the MCU can solve Hulk's ending. 

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law already gave a gigantic tease that Hulk's son, Skaar, could soon make his MCU debut, and the character could be a key piece to the hero's ending. Hulk may end up sacrificing his life for the world during one of the next two Avengers movies, thus saving his son in the process. 

Marvel Comics may also tease how Hulk's story will end. While the Green Goliath was killed several times when he turns back as Bruce Banner, the story of the MCU's Hulk could end in a different way, such as using a powerful villain like Onslaught to murder him or setting up a gamma bomb to blow him up. 

Another poignant way for Hulk and Bruce Banner's chapter to end is to take inspiration from Hulk: The End.

In this comic storyline, every human was dead except for Hulk. Although Banner died more than once, Hulk's regeneration powers always brought him back. This all changed when Hulk and Banner decided they no longer needed each other, thus allowing the latter to die.

This would serve as a fitting ending for Banner since the MCU has already teased that both personalities usually clash against one another. 

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law's first two episodes are now streaming on Disney+.

- About The Author: Aeron Mer Eclarinal
Aeron is a news/features writer and Content Lead for The Direct who has been working for the site since March 2020. From writing about the inter-connectivity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to having an extended knowledge about DC TV's Arrowverse, Aeron's expertise has since expanded into the realm of reality TV, K-drama, animated, and live-action shows from Netflix,  Disney+, Prime Video, MGM+, Peacock, Paramount+, and Max. When he isn't writing and watching all things MCU, Aeron is heavily invested with the NBA (go Celtics!) and occasionally watches thrilling matches in the WWE.