Marvel FINALLY Addresses Edward Norton’s Hulk Departure In the MCU

By Aeron Mer Eclarinal Posted:
Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, Mark Ruffalo as Hulk

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law's premiere answered many questions about Mark Ruffalo's Hulk, explaining how he managed to get back into his human form and showing his whereabouts after the events of Avengers: Endgame. In addition, it also teased the character's future due to the arrival of a spaceship from Sakaar

Warning - The rest of this article contains spoilers for She-Hulk Episode 2. 

While She-Hulk Episode 2 continued to explore Walters' new life as a superhuman, it also addressed what's next for Bruce Banner as he sets off on a journey in space. In an exclusive interview with The Direct, She-Hulk producer Jessica Gao teased that Hulk is set to "handle some off-world things" that happened during his time in Sakaar. 

Not only that, but the installment also revealed a major callback to a previous MCU recasting that hadn't been addressed in years. 

She-Hulk Revealed a Major Incredible Hulk Easter Egg 

Before Hulk heads back to Sakaar, the Avenger has an interesting conversation with his cousin, Jennifer Walters, about Tim Roth's Abomination. 

Walters called Bruce to ask him if it was okay to take Blonsky's case. Surprisingly, Bruce agreed, which then led to him telling a story about how Blonsky wrote him a "really nice letter" and a "heartfelt haiku" to sort out their differences.

Mark Ruffalo as Smart Hulk, She-Hulk
Marvel Studios

Aside from that, Bruce also pointed out that he's a "completely different person now," which is an actual reference to Edward Norton being replaced by Mark Ruffalo for the role of the Hulk: 

Hulk: “Actually Blonsky wrote me a really nice letter a while back. A really heartfelt haiku. So I put everything behind us. That fight was so many years ago, I’m a completely different person now. Literally.”

Jen: (looking at camera) “Ha ha.”

Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters
Marvel Studios

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Tatiana Maslany revealed that Hulk's line about being a different person was actually an ad lib by Ruffalo, noting that "it's as meta as you can possibly get:"

"That was a Mark [Ruffalo] ad lib! That’s truly the world of this show. It’s as meta as you can possibly get, and what’s more meta than discussing the fact that the Hulk in [The Incredible Hulk (2008)] was played by a totally different actor? There are so many layers to it."

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Ruffalo admitted that "it's really funny" that She-Hulk is acknowledging Hulk's complicated history in the MCU. The MCU veteran also confirmed that he joked around with previous Hulk actor Edward Norton about the recasting, telling him that the character is "like our generation's Hamlet:"

"I think it’s really funny. It’s just the reality that we all are often dancing around, but it’s true. I actually joked with Ed about this. I was like, ‘It’s like our generation’s Hamlet. Everyone’s going to get a shot at it.’ And there’ll probably be another couple before it’s all over. People will be like, ‘Remember when the Hulk used to look like Mark Ruffalo? Now it looks like Timothée Chalamet.’ ” 

Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk

Edward Norton's recasting serves as the main topic of conversation among fans when it comes to talking about the Hulk. The actor was reportedly replaced due to the movie's tumultuous production, with reports of him revising the script well into production and clashing with producers over their desired 135-minute cut of the 2008 flick. 

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige released an official statement about the issue, saying that the decision to recast Norton was rooted in "the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit" of the other cast members:

"Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors. but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H, Chris E, Sam, Scarlett, and all of our talented casts."

Will More 'The Incredible Hulk' Characters Return?

Even though it's been over a decade, She-Hulk's latest meta Easter egg about Hulk's recasting has been a long time coming. It was also fitting that they did it in a subtle yet hilarious way, which is reminiscent of how Don Cheadle's James Rhodes addressed Terrence Howard's recasting in Iron Man 2

This reference could serve as the launch pad for more references to The Incredible Hulk, paving the way for some of its unresolved storylines to be addressed. Mark Ruffalo's acknowledgment that the MCU is "often dancing around" on this topic is a nice touch, and it's good that this has been finally addressed so that Hulk's story can move forward into greater things. 

Aside from Abomination and Thaddeus Ross, there are still other characters from The Incredible Hulk that have yet to return to the MCU, and Liv Tyler's Betty Ross is a prime candidate for a comeback. Avengers: Endgame director Joe Russo confirmed that Betty was a victim of Thanos' snap, but she was later restored by Hulk's snap. 

It would be fitting if Betty would return in a future project to acknowledge Bruce's transition into Smart Hulk, potentially setting up a romance plot down the line. Another notable character from the movie is The Leader, played by Tim Blake Nelson. This Marvel villain could be revealed as a future threat who is pulling the strings from behind to mess with Hulk's future. 

Hopefully, this meta-reference is a sign of good things to come for the MCU's exploration of the Hulk mythos. 

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.