Tim Blake Nelson Will Battle Hulk As ‘The Leader’ In ‘Incredible Hulk 2’ — With Or Without Ed Norton

Fans of this past summer’s “The Incredible Hulk” had a smile put on their faces recently when producer Gale Anne Hurd revealed to MTV News that a proper sequel for the big green guy was very much in the works. As it turns out, they weren’t the only ones.

“I know Gale Ann was talking to you guys about that recently, and I liked hearing it,” beamed an enthusiastic Tim Blake Nelson when MTV spoke with him recently, telling us that he’s on board with Hurd’s plan to have him play the villainous Leader in the next film.

These days, the talented writer/director/actor is in a dark editing bay assembling “Leaves of Grass,” a quirky 2009 drama that features Edward Norton in a dual performance. Nelson told us that during the shooting of “Leaves,” he and Norton sometimes spoke about their recent blockbuster experience, but he still can’t say with confidence that Norton will return following his rumored falling-out with Marvel Studios.

“We talked about [‘Hulk’] a little bit, yeah; we made some jokes about it,” Nelson remembered. “It’s all good, and I really do hope [the sequel] happens, for all sorts of reasons. But yeah, we did, we had a great time on ‘Hulk’ together. I’m eager to do ‘Hulk 2’ if they make it.”

But with stars like Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson continuing to talk themselves up for 2011’s epic “Avengers” flick, and Hulk expected to be a character in that film, Norton has become suspiciously tight-lipped on the topic of future adventures as Bruce Banner. So, with each passing month, it seems more likely that the next Hulk appearance will replace him with another actor just as he did with Eric Bana.

“I feel Edward and I are well-suited for one another. It’s really fun collaborating with him, and he made these characters [in ‘Hulk’ and ‘Leaves’] better,” explained Nelson, revealing that although he’d prefer not to, he would return even if Norton is removed from the series.

“Well, I’m signed on to do ’Hulk 2’ and ’3’ whether Edward’s there or not, so it’s not even up to me,” he explained. “When I agreed to do ‘Hulk,’ I signed off for two sequels, so it’s a moot question. I certainly hope Edward is on the sequel — but that’s up to Marvel and Edward.”

Either way, whenever Marvel and Gale Ann Hurd come calling for the “Hulk” sequel, Tim Blake Nelson says he’s fully prepared to show off his great big brain. “Oh, I already did [research into The Leader] when I was doing [Dr. Samuel] Sterns, because I felt that it would be helpful to lay in stuff as Sterns for what The Leader would be,” he explained of the super-intelligent baddie with a desire to take over the world. “So, that was all part of doing Sterns.”

Would you be willing to see a third actor take on the Bruce Banner role for future “Hulk” adventures? Or are you getting sick of the superhero switcheroos?