Over the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 11-year rise to power, few of its stars have seemed more charmingly ill-at-ease with the franchise’s monolithic dominance than Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo. Maybe it’s a function of his late-addition status, having taken over the character of Bruce Banner from Edward Norton after his Incredible Hulk movie failed to make much of an impact. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s sick of getting yelled at all the time for his lack of respect for corporate superhero secrecy. Mostly, it just seems to be a function of his personality, which seems eternally self-effacing and bemused by his status as a cog in the greater Marvel Machine.
Case in point: Ruffalo’s response when asked this week about whether his Banner/Hulk/Banner-Hulk hybrid would be appearing in any more Marvel movies, despite the fact that he was one of the most high-profile survivors of this summer’s Avengers: Endgame. His fan-favorite glamour does not appear to have stopped Ruffalo from viewing this gig as one that could be lost at any time, it seems, like a Subway sandwich artist whose manager is really looking to find a place for her kid in the weekly work rotation:
It’s all up in the air. I started asking as Endgame was winding down and my contracts were up, I was like, ‘So, you know, is there a place for me here?’ And the response was, “Well, we’re going to let this sort of come to an end and then see where we are somewhere in the future.” So I just took that as a really nice way of saying probably not.
Admittedly, Marvel has been making strides, as it moves between MCU Phases 3 and 4, to expand its appeal past its record-shatteringly bankable roster of A-list stars. And Banner himself seems to have reached something like the end of his narrative arc—albeit one that played out mostly at the edges of other people’s movies—mastering his rage and transforming into a selfie-snapping destroyer of eggs, rather than buildings. Still, though: It would be weird for one of the franchise’s most popular characters to just disappear, no matter how much Ruffalo seems to be waiting for the other shoe to drop.
In fact, when pressed, even Ruffalo was forced to note that there’s a decent possibility he’ll pop up somewhere in Jessica Gao’s upcoming She-Hulk show. (The titular character is Banner’s cousin in the comics, and it’s his gamma-irradiated blood that forces her to transform.) Apparently not even Mark Ruffalo can “Aw, shucks” his way out of this potential bit of brand synergy, noting that, “I would not rule [a She-Hulk appearance] out at this point. And I’m supposed to have a talk with Kevin Feige in the next couple of months. So you know, who knows? That’s how it all started. So that might turn into something.” Meanwhile, we can only hope that his shifts at the Subway continue to hold out.