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The 'She-Hulk' finale considered going full meta and bringing back Edward Norton as Bruce Banner

‘[W]e did entertain the idea’ of Abomination facing his old-school green movie nemesis, says director Kat Coiro.

By Benjamin Bullard
Edward Norton Incredible Hulk

Though he was only around for one solo movie, Edward Norton will forever be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s origin story, having smashed up the big screen as the star of 2008's The Incredible Hulk — the second film, after Iron Man, to help launch the MCU into box office history.

These days, fans can’t envision the Hulk without thinking of Mark Ruffalo in the role, after creative differences with Norton led to Marvel recasting Bruce Banner, beginning with 2012’s The Avengers. But as the duo of past movie Spideys in Sony’s receipt-melting Spider-Man: No Way Home showed last year, there’s nothing viewers love like a good comeback story... especially when it comes with a meta-nod to the larger franchise’s nostalgic roots.

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Well, if any Marvel project has proven it knows how to do meta, it’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. She-Hulk filled its just-concluded first season with tons of fan-facing double takes and fourth wall breaks, not to mention bringing back original baddie Tim Roth — the very same Hulk actor who starred opposite Norton in the original film as Emil Blonsky (aka Abomination).

Fans finally got to see Roth and Ruffalo bring the MCU’s old and new elements into the same scene — if only for a moment — in “Whose Show is This?”, last week’s over-the-top She-Hulk Season 1 finale. But as fun as it was to see 14 years’ worth of pent-up bad blood kinda, sorta come together once again, Marvel toyed with the idea of adding an even deeper meta-twist: asking Norton himself to return to play Hulk in the season’s crowning episode.

“There was a lot of talk about the fact that the last time they were together a different actor was playing the Hulk,” director Kat Coiro recently explained to The Direct in discussing Hulk and Abomination’s shared She-Hulk screen time. “And Mark made quite a few jokes about that. And we did entertain the idea of swapping Mark out for Edward Norton. But that did not come to pass.”

Whether as Banner or as the big fella himself, having Norton show up in either of Hulk’s forms would’ve no doubt made for a seismic cameo moment with viewers. Though Coiro didn’t expand on why the series didn’t find a way to ultimately bring Norton back, She-Hulk hasn’t been shy in general about wearing its MCU past on its sleeve: Ruffalo’s meta, early-season remark about Hulk being a "different person now...literally” is just par for the course in a show whose record-scratch moments letting fans in on the joke are just another typical day at the (law) office.

We’re still waiting for the next word from Marvel on She-Hulk’s future as a series, but that definitely isn’t stopping the cast (or the fans) from smashing all the way back through its MCU past. All nine episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law are available in full at Disney+, while Norton can be found grappling with early-MCU rage issues over at HBO Max, where the original 2008 The Incredible Hulk is now streaming.

Looking for more superhero action? Stream Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, and more on Peacock right now.