While on the set of The Avengers last year, I got learn about some of the cool things the Hulk will be doing in Joss Whedon‘s movie. Now that you’ve seen the latest trailers showing the Hulk rescuing Tony Stark and punching aliens in the face, I’m pretty sure you’re counting down the days to seeing the finished film. I know I am. As I write this it’s 38 days.
Anyway, last June, when the production was still filming in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I got to participate in a group interview with Mark Ruffalo. As the latest actor to play Bruce Banner, Ruffalo talked about how he’s the first one to play both Banner and the Hulk (via motion-capture), Banner’s mental state when the film starts, how much control Banner has over the Hulk, whether or not the Hulk speaks, his thoughts on the script, if he would want to do Hulk solo movies, and so much more. Hit the jump to either read or listen to the interview.
As usual, I’m offering two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio or the full transcript is below. The Avengers opens May 4.
MARK RUFFALO: Buddy, I’m going to let it rip. I’m the worst.
What were you told as you were walked over here?
RUFFALO: “Don’t say anything of interest.” I’m going to say this, and you can print it or not: Hulk may or may not end up being the bad guy in this movie. Look at him [points at on-set publicist]. He’s thinking, “What the fuck is he doing?” He’s on the phone with my publicist right now.
(Kevin) Feige just showed us a lot of stuff, way more in last hour than we knew in the last two days. We saw you breaking out of the Helicarrier, saw the containment chamber, Calcutta… we were told a lot of stuff.
RUFFALO: Old Calcutta.
Yeah, exactly. What have you filmed so far or are about to film that you’re most excited about?
RUFFALO: I’ve been having a lot of fun with the Hulk motion capture stuff, actually. I have the one distinction, the only distinction that I hold, is that I’m the only actor to play Banner and the Hulk. So I’ve been working a lot with ILM on him, so no one will be able to blame ILM fully if this Hulk doesn’t work.
Have you see a good representation of the Hulk?
RUFFALO: I’ve seen an awesome representation. I could show it to you guys. I could show it to you but you can’t take a picture of it.
We actually can take a picture.
RUFFALO: Fuck, no!
I meant that we really can’t.
RUFFALO: I’m just going to show them a picture of the Hulk, but they can’t take a picture. I’ll show it to you first. I’m the loose cannon of the whole cast.
We talked a lot of the other actors and they talked about the scenes you’re doing in the mo cap suit on set. What’s that like?
RUFFALO: Did they make fun of me?
Jeremy (Renner) did a little but.
First of all, how did that feel? Do you just have to get comfortable with it?
RUFFALO: The first day I was a miserable bastard, I was just a trained actor reduced to the state of a Chinese checkerboard. Once I got over everyone laughing at me…
RUFFALO: Come on! Give them a little something to go on.
PUBLICIST: They’ve seen a lot today. They went to the art department.
RUFFALO: But they haven’t seen that!
The good thing is even if we don’t get to see it, now we love you.
RUFFALO: I tried. Those bastards…
Where is Banner’s mental state? Where will we pick him up because in the last movie, he’s just really miserable, he hates what he is?
RUFFALO: Yeah. It’s hard to watch a movie of a guy who doesn’t want to be there. I think Banner is aging and he’s been living with this thing. Two years have passed since the last one, and we’re kind of going for this world-weariness of accepting, and trying to get to the point where he can live with it and maybe master it, or come to peace with it, and so there’s this kind of nice ironic wryness about Banner. He’s not so fucking miserable. I think that’s kind of a throwback. We started to talk about a throwback to Bill Bixby, which was the Banner that I grew up on basically. He had a kind of a charm about him in this kind of world-weariness. He was on the run but he was still able to flirt sometimes and smile sometimes and occasionally crack a joke, so that’s in there. When you have a movie when there’s so many characters, you end up getting about 10 minutes of screen time for your particular character and, in the 10 minutes that we have, we’re trying to bring out this kind of charm in him and maybe this idea that he wants to be a superhero. He looks at Stark and he’s like, “That’s the dude who actually did what I attempted to do.” He’s the model. He made it work, so Banner and Stark have a very cool relationship in the movie.
RUFFALO: Yeah, there’s a lot of that. He ends up being an intricate component to the first part of the movie. They really aren’t after him necessarily to be the Hulk. They’re really after him because of his gamma expertise. There’s a big portion in the movie where he’s doing a lot of that and helping them kind of crack this riddle. Did I give too much away?
Does your version of the Hulk talk?
RUFFALO: He does.
Is that your voice? Are you the, “Hulk smash!”?
RUFFALO: As of this moment, I am, but you never know what they’re going to do. They might watch and go, “Oh my God!”
RUFFALO: Is it a sentence? I don’t think it qualifies as a sentence. It doesn’t have all the components of a sentence.
We were wondering though that maybe S.H.I.E.L.D. or Tony Stark or somebody had been able to come in, because in some versions of the comic The Hulk is Bruce Banner but he is the Hulk.
RUFFALO: Yeah, he’s a smart Hulk.
RUFFALO: He hasn’t graduated to that yet but hopefully he might be on the way to that. I don’t know where it’s going to go after this, but I feel like we’re trying to open the door to the integration of the two, you know. I like to think of it as the guy trying to break a bucking bronco. He has some tiny little semblance of control over it but still it’s completely out of his control, you know. That’s kind of where the last one left off, I felt like.
RUFFALO: Why not? It was the one character… you know I was a comic book kid and I really always loved the Hulk, and then when The Incredible Hulk, that show, came on, I would not miss that. So if I was going to find myself in this world, this is the guy that I’d be most likely to be interested in doing. Yeah, and to make a very short answer long, I’d love for him to do his own movie. You know I think it’s a tough nut to crack because, like you said, it’s hard to watch a guy who doesn’t want to be there for two hours.
Was Black Widow the one who gets him into that tent in Calcutta?
RUFFALO: Black Widow could get anyone into a tent, literally and figuratively.
You’re the one hero in this movie that hasn’t had a chance to play his character yet. Do you feel added pressure?
RUFFALO: Hell yeah. When I was at Comic-Con, I’ll never forget… Robert didn’t help me with this, but when he introduced me and he said, “Now reprising the role of The Hulk,” and they all went, “Yeah!” because they thought it was going to be Ed Norton, then Downey’s like, “Mark Ruffalo!” And they’re like, “Yeah! Huh?” And it’s been like that ever since. I made the mistake of going online one day and reading the fanboys’ take on me playing the Hulk and it was not encouraging.
RUFFALO: Right, yeah.
You really were.
RUFFALO: And so, yeah, I’ve never done anything that had so much scrutiny on it before I even rolled the frame of film, so it’s intense. Joss is like, “You know, you’re the only character that I’m introducing so if you go down, we both go down, so don’t fuck this up.”
We just love the rapport between the different characters, like Sam Jackson and Robert Downey, they have such a presence in the Iron Man movies. We saw a scene earlier with with Chris (Evans) and Robert earlier and they really going at each other. Do you ever get scenes like that with Robert or Sam Jackson, like where you really have to go toe-to-toe with them?
RUFFALO: I had some great stuff with Robert. I might have a little bit of some stuff with Sam but really a big bulk of my stuff is just Robert. It’s not toe-to-toe really because there’s a simpatico between the two of us, but definitely there’s some nice stuff happening there.
So is your dialogue like that, very fast-paced?
RUFFALO: It’s fast-paced, but if has that Joss Whedon kind of interesting inner character. I mean Banner, he has so much inner conflict so it’s a lot of that kind of stuff. It isn’t that ‘30s kind of rat-a-tat-tat, but he’s got some very cool stuff that’s picked up from some of the later comic books.
Is your first Hulk-out in this movie intentional or unintentional?
PUBLICIST: Let’s wait on that one…
You know they have erased your phone by now. It’s gone.
RUFFALO: And so’s the hard drive on my computer. It’s just been confiscated.
When you’re in your mocap suit, what are you going for in the physicality, what are you attempting to base how this guy moves on?
RUFFALO: Believe it or not, I looked at lot of gorillas. Just because they had this kind of lumbering thing that becomes explosive, you know. I like that. Plus, when you do the motion capture, you put the suit on and then you go into a room where they have monitors all around, and so you step in front of this monitor and there’s the Hulk. It’s literally like putting a costume on but it’s the Hulk. Every move I make, the Hulk is making – a very rudimentary version of him – and all of a sudden, you start looking at that and you’re like, “Moving like that isn’t honest to that character.” All of a sudden, the image of the Hulk starts telling you how to move. He doesn’t move quickly. He has this kind of lumbering thing and his shoulders are a little rolled over, you know.
RUFFALO: They had me on a little stage.
Where are you?
RUFFALO: It depends. Some of the stuff, they do just standing on the ground but some things they put me on the table so that they can get the framing right and the table puts me exactly at the height that the Hulk would be, which is about eight and a half feet, so we do that mostly for framing. They also bring in a cutout.
Yeah, we saw a cutout.
RUFFALO: And they’ll put that on like a backpack thing, put that on someone’s shoulders. It’s all mostly for framing because once I’m in the mo cap suit, they could pull me out of any scene and put me in anywhere they really want to.
Have you been involved in the big fight going on at the railyard? It seems to be outside Grand Central, and there’s a lot of destruction, so I assume you have to be in some ways involved in that.
In the art we saw, he’s in that.
So you have been over there in the motion capture suit, in this heat?
RUFFALO: Yes, and that was my first day and that was a miserable day. It was smoky, it was hell and I felt really uncomfortable. I’m not well-endowed, and those suits don’t really show you off in the most…
Were you wearing underwear or like what Scarlett was wearing? She told us she wasn’t wearing anything underneath.
RUFFALO: They spray paint her suit on in the morning. But she looks good in it.
Was doing the mo-cap one of the reasons you took the job or did that just come later, after you were hired, with the discussions?
RUFFALO: No. When we’re talking it, that was one of the things, that we would take the Avatar technology, and that really interested me. You know I always loved those Hulks but you don’t see the resemblance of the guy, and a physicalization of that character. I don’t feel like it’s captured quite yet. And so I thought that was really exciting to take that Avatar technology, and see what that would do.
So you had signed on prior to seeing the script?
RUFFALO: Yes, I did which is a big no-no for me.
Can you talk a little bit about it? We heard that Joss did a few drafts but everyone seems to be really talking up the script and how good it is.
RUFFALO: Yeah. I think it’s very hard to have this many characters, these many storylines, and have each character make an arc, you know. That was my worry. I said, “Joss, don’t put me in there if I’m just going to be standing around. There’s no reason to.” And he’s like, “No, no, no, don’t worry. Everyone’s going to have their voice, and everyone’s going to have their own little character arc,” and he’s really come through on that. He was kind enough to give me a couple of scenes of where he was headed and we worked a lot together on the script over the months that he’s been writing it, just you know, “What do you think about the Hulk?” He’s a very confident writer and so he’s really collaborative and I’ve seen him being that way with a lot of the actors. Yeah, I think the script is in really good shape.
Obviously, Banner knows Captain America through history I guess – even though we haven’t seen the movie yet but you know what I mean – what is your first reaction when you meet him? Can you talk a little bit about that first scene?
RUFFALO: We don’t really get to see that moment. We kind of hopped over that, but there is a history there.
Have you had any conversations with any of the other Hulks, whether it’s Ed Norton or Lou Ferrigno or Eric Bana? Have you run into any of them?
RUFFALO: I actually called Ed, because I’m friends with Ed, and I wanted it to be copasetic. I didn’t what to step on his feet, and he said, “Do it, buddy.” He bequeathed it to me and we have a joke that it’s our generation’s Hamlet. We’re all going to get a crack at it.
I was going to ask you about 3D and your thoughts on the format. They’re going to be releasing this in 3D. There seems to be, with audiences, some still love the format, but what are your thoughts in 3D?
RUFFALO: Fad? And not a cool fad. I don’t know. I’m into this whole 4D thing. Are we going to go 4D? Have you heard about that?
RUFFALO: That sounds cool for this kind of movie. I don’t know. It’s fun to watch a movie in 3D, but I don’t know, I have no idea what’s going to happen with 3D. It seems to me, every few years, we roll up some smell-o-rama or something, but I think the 4D, it seems to me, is what’s going to really take off for a while.
Can we quote you that 3D is our generations smell-o-rama?
RUFFALO: Go ahead.
Do you know what you are doing after this? Isn’t it going to be weird going back to do another drama, isn’t it going to be strange? Do you think it will be odd going back to drama after doing something this epic?
RUFFALO: Yeah. I like to try different things. If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m kind of a casualty of ADD, and I like to try different things. I always kind of find myself back in indie ‘dramadies’ or dramas, but I’ve gone out and done a lot of the bigger studio things – nothing ever like this, but no one’s ever really asked me to. I kind of go where I find my interest is taking me mostly. I don’t really have too much of a plan.
Can you talk a little bit about the first day when everyone’s in costume? Are you in that scene with everyone in costume?
RUFFALO: Yeah. I’m like, “Where’s my costume, man? This sucks.” Yeah, they all looked dope, they’re all ripped up and I’m there in this not very flattering little linen suit. I’m thinking, “Wow, this is the team and here I am total outsider.” But I think that really works for Banner and I think it really works for Banner in this particular story.
Did you sense a special energy when you guys were filming?
RUFFALO: Oh yeah. It’s like, “It’s The Avengers. There they are!” and they’re all pretty remarkable talents unto themselves. You know there’s no one being kind of dragged along except for maybe me. Yeah, it was pretty inspiring. I mean it is, as Robert Downey calls it, the mother of all comic book movies, and so with that comes the terrifying notion that it is the mother of all comic book movies.
Did you do any physical training for the role?
RUFFALO: You know I did. I’ve been in the gym, but they distinctly told me they do not want me to be ripped up, but I lost 16 pounds. They want him to be thin but still very much like Bill Bixby’s everyman Hulk, everyman Bruce Banner.
I was just wondering, while you’re on a set and you’re on a table and you’re acting like the Hulk and you’re throwing around cars, how does that work? Are you just acting like you’re throwing stuff?
RUFFALO: Well, at ILM, they actually give you something to throw. It’s just very light. Then when you look up on the screen, it’s a car flying across the room instead of a cardboard box, you know. That’s pretty much how they do it. Once you shoot all this, I’ll do it all on set and then we’ll go back to ILM for three days and refine it, and do it on the stage where I can actually see the feedback of a screen. That’s something that they haven’t done before.
For more from our Avengers set visit: