The following is an overview of the characters in the live-action Hulk films, Hulk (2003) and The Incredible Hulk (2008). It must be stressed that the two films do not share the same continuity.

Bruce Banner/Hulk

A genius scientist who, because of exposure to gamma radiation, transforms into the Hulk when stressed, enraged, or excited.

Eric Bana

Bana was cast in October 2001, signing for an additional two sequels.[1] Ang Lee felt obligated to cast Bana upon seeing Chopper, and first approached the actor in July 2001.[2] The role was heavily pursued by other actors. Bana was also in heavy contention for Ghost Rider, but lost out to Nicolas Cage.[1] Bana explained, "I was obsessed with the TV show. I was never a huge comic book reader when I was a kid, but was completely obsessed with the television show."[3] It was widely reported Billy Crudup turned down the role. Johnny Depp and Steve Buscemi were reported to be in under consideration for the lead.[4] Edward Norton, who went on to play the part in The Incredible Hulk, expressed interest in the role. Norton eventually turned down the part as he was disappointed with the script.[5][6]

Edward Norton

David Duchovny was a front-runner for the film before Norton's casting.[7] Gale Anne Hurd recalled Norton's portrayals of duality in Primal Fear and Fight Club,[8] while Norton reminded Kevin Feige of Bill Bixby, who played Banner in the TV series.[9] Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk with Bixby, remarked Norton "has a similar physique [and a] similar personality".[10]

Norton was a Hulk fan, citing the first comic appearances, the Bixby TV show, and Bruce Jones' run on the comic, as his favorite depictions of the character.[11] He had expressed interest in the role for the first film.[12] He initially turned down the part for this film, recalling "there [was] the wince factor or the defensive part of you that recoils at what the bad version of what that would be", as he felt the previous film "strayed far afield from a story that was familiar to people, [...] which is a fugitive story". When he met Leterrier and Marvel, however, he liked their vision, and believed they were looking to him to guide the project. Thus, Norton rewrote the script.[6] "Norton's script has given Bruce's story real gravitas," Letterier said. "Admittedly I'm not the most adult director, but just because we're making a superhero movie it doesn't have to just appeal to 13-year old boys. Ed and I both see superheroes as the new Greek gods."[13]

Lou Ferrigno voices Hulk: During the 2008 New York Comic Con Leterrier publicly offered Ferrigno the chance to voice the Hulk for the film.[14] This marks the third time Ferrigno portrayed the Hulk, having also voiced the character in the 1996 animated series. Originally, the Hulk's only line was "Betty" at the film's ending, which would have been his first word. Leterrier was aware that fans wanted him to speak normally, and added "leave me alone" and "Hulk smash!" The latter line received cheers during a screening he attended.[15] Ferrigno also has a cameo in the film as a security guard who is bribed by Banner with a pizza.[16] Ferrigno had also made a cameo as a security guard in the 2003 film.

Supporting characters

Rick Jones

Main article: Rick Jones (comics)

Although he does not appear in The Incredible Hulk, Rick's name is briefly shown on a list of Bruce Banner's known associates during the film's opening credits.

Betty Ross

Main article: Betty Ross

Jennifer Connelly

In the 2003 film, Hulk, Betty Ross is played by Jennifer Connelly and as Rhiannon Leigh Wryn (as child), and is Bruce's girlfriend and scientific colleague. She is the second person to learn about the Hulk, when Banner saves her from his father's gamma-enhanced dogs, and is the only person capable of calming the Hulk down. At the conclusion of the film, when Banner has been declared dead, she is contacted by her father, asking if she has heard from Banner, but she coldly informs him that, even if Bruce was alive, she hopes he wouldn't contact her (her phone lines are all being tapped), and that she loves him.

Liv Tyler

In the 2008 film, The Incredible Hulk Betty Ross is played by Liv Tyler. Like Banner, Ross is a Harvard graduate and is now a cell biology professor. In the time she and Banner were separated, she began dating Dr. Leonard Samson. After Bruce's sudden return, she begins desperately trying to help him in any way she can, even introducing him to Samuel Sterns, who attempted to cure him, but with no success. By the end of the movie she and Bruce are separated once more, with her being unsure as to where she'll go from there.

Doc Samson

Main article: Doc Samson

He appears in the 2008 Incredible Hulk film, and is played by Ty Burrell.[17] He does not have any superpowers, but he is portrayed closer to his earlier appearances before his incident. He is in a short relationship with Betty Ross. He calls the military regarding Bruce's location at Culver University, but criticized General Ross's reasons for hunting Banner/Hulk, especially after witnessing the Hulk protecting Betty from the crossfire of General Ross's attacks (He says, "I used to wonder why she never talked about you...Now I know."). A large number of his scenes, including the scene where he talks to Bruce as seen in the film's trailer, were cut from the film. In opening credits, the name Leonard Samson appeared on the quick clip of a list of Bruce's accomplices. In deleted scenes, he is hospitable to Banner and he, Betty and Banner have a nice time talking. In another scene he reveals to Banner that he has been jealous of him and Betty all along, then the deleted scene from the trailer occurs. In the final scene where Betty is at Liberty Island, Samson calls Betty where he seems to be depressed. She asks him if he really sent the armada, and he admits. He wants Betty to return, but she says not yet, but she will return. When she is about to hang up, he asks her to not hang up, but she does it anyway.

Jim Wilson

Main article: Jim Wilson (comics)

Jim Wilson is briefly mentioned in the 2008 film, The Incredible Hulk, where he (portrayed by P.J. Kerr) is shown in a news interview at Culver University. He is interviewed along with a young school newspaper reporter named Jack McGee (Nicholas Rose), a reference to the tabloid reporter character of the same name who was played by Jack Colvin in the The Incredible Hulk TV series.



Main article: Abomination (comics)

Tim Roth portrays Emil Blonsky in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk and also supplies motion capture and voice work for the Abomination. This version is a near-retiring Royal Marine - recruited by General Ross - to hunt fugitive Bruce Banner. Blonsky's disastrous first encounter with the Hulk encourages him to take the unstable World War II Super Soldier Serum to compensate, although a growing addiction to the drug drives him to receive an additional dose, morphing Blonsky into the "Abomination" (a term applied to Blonsky by scientist Dr. Samuel Sterns who administers the dose). He is later defeated by Hulk during a rampage in Harlem. Rather than the large reptilian creature that he is in the comics, this film depicts the abomination as a superhuman being much like that of the Hulk, with exaggerated bone structures as weapons.

Absorbing Man

Main article: Absorbing Man

The Absorbing Man also appears in an early script of the 2003 feature film Hulk.[18]

Brian Banner

Main article: Brian Banner

In the 2003 Hulk film, Brian, renamed David Banner (a reference to the television series), appears as the main antagonist in the film and is portrayed by Nick Nolte, and Paul Kersey in the film's prologue and subsequent flashbacks. The character's antagonist name, as stated by Ang Lee, is simply called The Father.

In the film, David is a genetics researcher who, in his quest to improve on humanity, experiments on himself; after his wife, Edith Banner gives birth to Bruce, David, seeing that Bruce is not normal, barely showing emotion and gaining patches of green skin when he does, feels that he is responsible, realizing that his experiments on himself have affected Bruce. Trying to find a cure for Bruce's condition, David has his research shut down by General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross; going into a rage over the loss of his work and the hopelessness of Bruce's situation, David accidentally destroys his laboratory and tried to murder Bruce (believing he would mutate out of control), only ending up killing Edith when she tried to stop him. While Bruce is taken into foster care, with the memories of his mother's death blocked out, David is confined to a mental institution.

Years later, after being released from the institution and after Bruce becomes the Hulk, David, believing the Hulk to be his "true son" tests him by sending three "hulk-dogs" to kill Betty Ross before attempting to replicate his powers, which results in David giving himself Absorbing Man-like abilities. After both he and Bruce are captured by the military, David engages the Hulk in a fight, after biting into an electrical wire referencing to Zzzax, they then battle in the sky, then on the ground with David being composed of stones, after that being made of lake water, which ends when David attempts to absorb the Hulk's power. Unable to contain this newly acquired power, David swells into an energy bubble, which is destroyed by General Ross with a Gamma Charge Bomb. Bruce survives the explosion, but David dies in it.[19]


Main article: Hulkbusters

In the novelization of the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk (written by Peter David, a noted contributor to the Hulk's comics history), two members of a military strike team sent to capture the Hulk are named "Saunders" and "Laroquette" after members of Banner's Hulkbusters (the characters are unnamed in the theatrical release of the film).


Main article: Leader (comics)

Dr. Samuel Sterns appears in the 2008 film, The Incredible Hulk, where he is portrayed by Tim Blake Nelson. In this film, Sterns already starts off as a genius professor. He is shown trying to help Bruce Banner throughout the film through encrypted e-mails and online chat under the alias of "Mr. Blue", but has been gamma testing animals, and possibly people, believing he could make humans immune to all diseases using a sample of Banner's gamma-enhanced blood. Emil Blonsky coerces Sterns to give him an injection of the Banner-enhanced serum causing Blonsky to mutate into the "Abomination." During the transformation, Sterns is knocked across the room and some of the serum drips into a cut on his head. Sterns' head begins to pulsate and grow slightly, and a grin appears on his face, almost as though he is intoxicated. Nelson is signed on to reprise the role in a future film, where he would become the Leader.[20][21]

Thunderbolt Ross

Main article: Thunderbolt Ross

Sam Elliott

Actor Sam Elliott played the role of General Ross in the 2003 movie Hulk, directed by Ang Lee. The film portrays him as a 4-star general. In the film, it is revealed that Ross was responsible for locking away David Banner, Bruce's father, when Bruce was 4 years old after learning of David's dangerous experiments. He thinks that both Bruce and David are dangerous to his daughter, Betty. His motive of thinking is that Bruce is dangerous because he might follow in the footsteps of his father, who was creating the same experiment in Bruce's childhood. Ross hunts the Hulk after the Hulk breaks out of the military base. Upon discovering that Bruce Banner is the Hulk, he releases David and takes him to Bruce. When David transforms into a being similar to Absorbing Man, Ross deploys a bomb in order to destroy David. Months after that event, Ross talks to Betty, who was sad from the loss of Bruce, who is believed dead. He asks her if she can do anything to find him, which she denies.

William Hurt

William Hurt portrayed General Ross in director Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk released on June 13, 2008.[22] In this version, he was in charge of Banner's research into creating potential 'super soldiers' using gamma radiation, but Banner had been told that he was working on a means to help treat people for radiation poisoning. After he experiments on himself, Banner goes on the run from Ross, who wants to learn how to use the Hulk's mutation as a weapon, stating "As far as I'm concerned that man's whole body is the property of the US military." When he meets Emil Blonsky, a Royal Marine serving as part of his team, he is impressed by Blonsky's dedication and provides him with samples of a super soldier serum that allow him to briefly fight the Hulk, although he is badly injured as a result. During his encounters with the Hulk, it is clear that Ross regards the Hulk as a monster, allowing Betty to watch the fight because he reasons that she will 'see the truth' about Banner. When the super-soldier serum, combined with a sample of Banner's blood, transforms Blonsky into the Abomination, Ross is forced to allow Banner to attempt to use the Hulk against this new foe. After Blonsky's defeat, witnessing the Hulk actually listening to Betty and allowing his opponent to live, Ross does not give the order to fire on the Hulk and allows him to escape, suggesting that he is more open to the idea that Banner is not a total monster than he was. At the conclusion of the film, he is seen drinking in a bar, only to be confronted by Tony Stark, who comments that he's always felt hardware was better than biology, and offers to talk to Ross about a team 'they're' putting together.

Glenn Talbot

Main article: Glenn Talbot

In the 2003 Hulk film, Maj. Glenn Talbot is played by Josh Lucas. In this version, he is a former military officer-turned-bioscience executive—at a company that is also a politically powerful Defense Department contractor. He is a long-lost acquaintance of Betty Ross (who knew him back when she was in college, and he was an officer under Gen. Ross' command). This Talbot is ambitious, pushy, and obsessed with making a big fortune quickly; he targets Betty and Bruce's lab for hostile takeover, if they keep refusing his offers to quit the lab in order to work for his firm. Later in the film, he becomes bent on getting a tissue sample of Hulk for military "super-soldier"-type applications. Throughout the film, his attempts to bully Banner constantly result in his being thrashed by the Hulk. Upon capturing Banner, Talbot begins the tissue extracting process, but fails when Banner manages to break free. Ross orders Talbot to come to him, in order to have a full evacuation of the underground detention center. However, Talbot ignores Ross' orders for a lockdown. Talbot is killed when he fires an explosive missile at the Hulk, and it ricochets off of the Hulk's impenetrable skin and back towards Talbot. In an earlier version of the script, Talbot (instead of Emil Blonsky) becomes the Abomination and later battles the Hulk.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Michael Fleming (2001-10-14). "Aussie has bulk for Hulk". Variety. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  2. Rob Worley (2003-06-19). "Countdown to Hulk: Ang Lee's new green destiny". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  3. "Bana was TV Hulk Fan". Sci Fi Wire. 2001-12-27. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 
  4. David Hughes (2003). Comic Book Movies. London: Virgin Books. pp. 261–269. ISBN 0-7535-0767-6. 
  5. Edward Douglas (2007-04-16). "Zak Penn on Norton as Hulk!". Superhero Hype!. Retrieved 2008-06-02. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Edward Norton". Total Film. 2008-03-07. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  7. Steve Zeitchik (2006-02-23). "Marvel stock soars on rev outlook". Variety. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  8. Edward Douglas (2008-04-20). "Exclusive: Letterier, Feige and Hurd on Hulk's Return". Superhero Hype!. Retrieved 2008-04-21. 
  9. "The Hulk's Incredible Return". IGN. 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  10. Shawn Adler (2007-10-23). "Lou Ferrigno Says Hulk Cameo A ‘Smash’". MTV. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  11. Edward Douglas (2007-07-28). "Live from Comic-Con: The Marvel Studios Panel!". Superhero Hype!. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  12. Edward Douglas (2007-04-16). "Zak Penn on Norton as Hulk!". Superhero Hype!. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  13. "News Etc.". Empire: pp. 15–16. April 2008. 
  14. Jeff Otto (2008-05-27). "Special Report: "Hulk" Edit Bay Visit". Dark Horizons. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  15. Eric Moro (2008-06-09). "Exclusive: Hulk Director Speaks". IGN. Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  16. Robert Sanchez (2008-05-27). "Edit Bay Visit Part 1: Incredible New Footage from The Incredible Hulk!". Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  17. Bill Varble (2007-10-21). "This Just In". Mail Tribune. Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  18. Dayna Van Buskirk. "Feature Article: The Lost "Hulk" - David Hayter's Draft". UGO. Retrieved 2007-12-03. 
  19. Ang Lee (Director).. Hulk. [DVD]. United States: Universal Pictures. 
  20. Nick de Semlyen (June 2008). "Fight Club". Empire. pp. 66–72. 
  21. Shawn Adler (2008-06-12). "'Incredible Hulk' Stars, Director Already Have Wish List For 'Hulk 2': Iron Man, Samson, The Leader And More". Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  22. "William Hurt Joins The Incredible Hulk!". 2007-06-13. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 


Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Stream the best stories.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Get Disney+