Eric Bana says he will never return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the Hulk

Eric Bana played Marvel's Hulk in Ang Lee's controversial 2003 film. (Photo: Getty/Everett Collection)

Eric Bana played Marvel’s Hulk for the first and only time in Ang Lee’s controversial 2003 film. (Photo: Getty/Everett Collection)

Now that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has officially become the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse, we’ve seen several previous variants of popular heroes make surprise returns to the big screen – from Patrick Stewart’s Professor X to the three Spider-Bros to Hugh Jackman’s Ragin’ Canadian, Wolverine. But there is at least one classic Marvel movie hero is not get a repeat: Eric Bana’s Hulk.

The Australian actor played Bruce Banner and his green-skinned rage monster for the first and only time in Ang Lee’s Divisive hulk Film that hit theaters almost twenty years ago on June 17, 2003.

Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment alongside Mia Wasikowska for her new family movie, bluebackthe 54-year-old Australian actor makes it clear he has no plans to return to the MCU.

“I think my previous work supports the answer to that question,” says Bana when asked if he would reprise the role should Marvel invite him to participate in their multi-phased, multiversal shenanigans. He did not revisit the film before the 20th anniversary either. “I haven’t seen it in a long time,” he admits.

Bana has confessed to having mixed feelings about his brief stint as the Hulk in the past and has described his find it “frustrating” to play the character, and expressed disappointment at being separated from the rest of the cast for so much of the shoot. “It always felt like I was working on a little movie,” he says today, referring to the fact that he was rarely present for the longer sequences of the Hulk in full rampage mode. “I was kind of in a room with another actor who was just doing normal stuff. It never felt like a huge movie until I sat down and watched it.”

Twenty years later, what’s fascinating about Lee’s film is that the Oscar-winning director—who just came out of his Global wuxia blow, Crouching tiger, hidden dragon – made a highly dramatic story about inherited trauma in (ragged) superhero gear. The crux of the film is the exceedingly toxic relationship between Bruce and his father, David Banner (played by Nick Nolte), who passed his own mutated DNA to his son – genes that help create the Hulk when the younger Banner of he is hit with a dose of gamma radiation.

“I had a lot of fun working with Nick on the father-son stuff,” Bana recalls. “It was such a different film than anything that came out at the time. The whole [Marvel] the world hadn’t exploded yet.”

Nick Nolte and Eric Bana in Ang Lee's Hulk. (Photo: Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

Nick Nolte and Bana have a thoroughly toxic father-son relationship in 2003 hulk Movie. (Photo: Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

hulk came after two other Marvel films not affiliated with Marvel Studios: Mark Steven Johnson’s daredevil and Bryan Singers X2: X-Men United, both of which also play fast and loose with comic book canon. But Lee’s film remains one of the most extreme departures from what is written on the site, and the reaction from fans and critics at the time was decidedly mixed. It didn’t help that the visual effects required to bring the Hulk to life weren’t quite where they needed to be two decades ago.

“I think we did some motion capture stuff, but they realized it wasn’t really helping them given the technology at the time,” says Bana. “Back then it was so raw because it was so early for all that stuff. So I didn’t really have much to do to play the big guy.”

Eric Bana in Hulk. (Photo: Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

The Hulk prepares to hit hulk. (Photo: Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

Bana also plays a relatively small role in blueback, but he has a major impact on the life of the film’s main character, marine biologist Abby Jackson. Based on the popular 1997 novel by Australian author Tim Winton, blueback‘s story follows her growing up from a young girl (Ariel Donoghue) who takes regular diving trips with her mother (Radha Mitchell) to a passionate teenager (Ilsa Fogg) who initially opposes local developers and fishermen trying to exploit the sea, to an adult (Wasikowska) who decides how best to protect and care for both the sea and her increasingly ill mother.

Bana plays another diver, Macka, who befriends Abby at a young age and helps foster her love of sea life in all its forms. Though he and Wasikowska don’t share scenes blueback, they share a love of Winton’s novel and previous connections with the film’s director, Robert Connelly. “The book is a really important work here in Australia,” says the actress. “And we’re both individually friends with Robert and have always heard from him for years.”

Eric Bana in Blueback. (Photo: Quiver/courtesy Everett Collection)

Eric Bana in blueback. (Photo: Quiver/courtesy Everett Collection)

Wasikowska shot all of her scenes as an adult Abby before the younger actresses and Bana gathered to film the scenes depicting her early years. As Macka, the actor plays an eccentric diver who helps nurture the young girl’s love for the world beneath the waves. “He’s almost like the crazy uncle,” Bana says of his alter ego. “I really admired the way it was written and how mischievous and mysterious Macka was. There’s something about him that really attracts young Abby and he’s becoming an important part of her life.”

Funnily enough, Macka’s nickname in the film is “Mad” Macka – a nod to Australia’s most famous action hero, Mad Max Rockatansky, the post-apocalyptic street fighter played by Mel Gibson. Bana was born in 1968 and saw director George Miller’s first film in 1979 crazy max pictured as a child and has credited him with wanting to be an actor. (He was reportedly in the running to take on the role in Miller’s Revival 2016, Mad Max: Fury Roadbut the role went to Tom Hardy instead.) But he insists Mad Max didn’t affect his portrayal of “Mad” Macka.

crazy max is my favorite film of all time and it had a huge impact on me,” he says with a smile. “I never made that connection with this character, but I’m happy to hear it was made! As a boy a lover of young cars, you can imagine the impact crazy max had on me.”

Mia Wasikowska in Blueback. (Photo: Quiver/courtesy Everett Collection)

Mia Wasikowska in blueback. (Photo: Quiver/courtesy Everett Collection)

Meanwhile, both Bana and Wasikowska are hoping for it bluebackenvironmental message affects young viewers. “One of the things experts are saying is that increasing the biodiversity around you is the best way to help protect the earth from climate change,” notes the actress. “It’s little things like this that really make a big difference. The best chance we have [for the planet] are individuals who change their behavior in small increments.”

Like her co-star, Wasikowska is also celebrating a personally important cinema anniversary this year. Ten years ago she starred alongside Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in Only lovers are still alive, Jim Jarmusch’s typically unique take on a traditional genre film – in this case a vampire tale. The film, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2013, followed a crew of immortal bloodsucking beings as they contemplate the end of their existence. It’s an experience the actress still counts among her favorites.

“I really adored Jim,” she says now. “He’s so unique: I’ve never worked with anyone like him. He was very protective of his script: he didn’t want agents to read it, and I think that’s because they’re something of a skeleton. If you turn around on set, he’ll happily take small pieces of whatever you bring with you. I remember there was a drum set on set one morning and I was beating on it. He said, ‘Let’s start there with you.’ He has his own specific and authentic vision.”

blueback opens in theaters March 3; hulk can be rented or bought from most VOD services Eric Bana says he will never return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the Hulk

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