Moviefone caught up with the actor on an "Avengers" press tour in Toronto, where he spoke to us about taking on such an iconic role, comic book fandom and having a movie that his kids can actually see.
In what way did you put your mark on this character? Joss and I talked a lot about it before I even took the role. We both saw it as a continuation -- we leave the last version, he's been on the run for almost ten years. We wanted to explore what happened to him after that. We felt like he might have some control over The Hulk, and so we kind of picked up there. He's older, he's in his mid-40s, and there comes a time when you're that age when you start to accept your shortcomings as well as your gifts. You also tend to want to face those things head-on. We wanted him to have a sense of humour and irony about where he finds himself - and to finally accept that he can use his powers to the world's advantage.
Did you feel pressure due to the various incarnations of The Hulk before you? Yeah. It was a weird call to get. It also wasn't an easy call to make. Because there have been such great actors who've played Banner, and because there is so much intense interest from the fan scene, particularly about Banner and The Hulk, I was definitely nervous. I really wanted to know how we could add to this. The one thing that was exciting to me, that no one else has done, was actually play The Hulk too. Luckily, the technology is such now that I could actually do that. I always felt, in the past movies, that there was always this disconnect when Banner turned into The Hulk. I never felt that human continuation, and The Hulk never looked like the guys playing him.
That was a fight we had with Marvel, early on. They made it a rule never to have The Hulk look like Banner. But Joss and I really wanted to infuse The Hulk with a real human quality.
Who can you relate to most -- The Hulk or Bruce? [Laughs] Probably Bruce Banner. There was a time in my 20s where I was the definition of the angry young man -- there were plenty of fistholes in the drywall. But that's not a good place to live your life. I'm glad I've been able to Banner-ize my existence.
Were you a comics guy prior to taking this role? It was such a part of my culture when I was a kid. My cousins and I were always like, "I'll trade you a dozen DCs for a Marvel!" Later, there was the Bill Bixby TV show [ "The Incredible Hulk"]. That was the only thing that could bring me into the house for dinner. Then I got into Frank Millers 'A Dark Night' and I became a major fan of 'X-Men.' I guess I was a geek, but also a surfer, a jock, everything.
How is it working on a film that your kids can see (for a change)? Really nice. My children, as you well know, won't be able to see any of my movies until they're in their 20s. They haven't been able to see what I do. When this came along, it was great because it was a character I really loved and it was a Joss Whedon project, and I knew he knew how to do this well. Robert Downey and I spoke beforehand too, and he was like, "You can do this, bro!" He'd also made this a world that an actor like me can fit into.
My kids love The Hulk. They're three little Hulks. My son's like Banner, with The Hulk inside of him that he's trying to control. A man dropped some groceries near my daughter, and she helped him pick them up. The guy turned around and was like, "You're so strong!" and she was like, "I'm the baby Hulk!" [Laughs]
"The Avengers" opens wide in North America on May 4.