Before Marvel was the well-oiled machine it is today, it went through a few growing pains. And unfortunately, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk became one of the prime examples of those pains. The Edward Norton-starring superhero movie was notoriously plagued with on-set creative disputes between its star and the studios (the film was a co-production between Marvel Studios and Universal), who clashed over their visions for The Incredible Hulk. While we never got to see Norton’s version, the actor recently elaborated on what his vision for The Incredible Hulk original story would’ve been.
In an interview with the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Norton revealed that he had quite a mythic vision for The Incredible Hulk. One specific Greek myth in fact: the myth of Prometheus, a Titan who stole fire from the gods to give to humanity, leading him to be punished by being chained to a rock with his entrails plucked out by birds for all eternity. It’s not a comparison most would draw to the scientist who turns big and green when he’s mad, but Norton has a very thought-out explanation:
Hulk is Prometheus, right? The guy who steals fire from the gods for people but gets burned doing it and is cursed. He’s trying to take the power of nature back out to people and he gets burned. That’s how I thought about it, if we could do something like that, that leans into this guy who thinks he’s going through something good that’s going to help humanity, and he cracks open the back side of God and takes something out that’s not meant to be taken out, and now he’s cursed. That’s what’s amazing, even if the show was silly on so many levels, Bill Bixby was cursed. And there’s something pretty heavy in that, pretty cool in that. I think it was really worth a crack.
Norton’s ambitious vision fits with his darker two-film plan Norton told the New York Times he had originally pitched to Marvel, and which they accepted before it all fell apart. “I laid out a two-film thing: The origin and then the idea of Hulk as the conscious dreamer, the guy who can handle the trip,” Norton said. “And they were like, ‘That’s what we want!’ As it turned out, that wasn’t what they wanted.”