Mark Ruffalo Almost Played The Hulk in 2008

[caption id="attachment_179068" align="alignleft" width="300"]Marvel Marvel[/caption]

Underneath the green body paint, shredded muscles and shredded(er) purple pants, The Hulk has an identity crisis. Marvel's big green guy has been played by three boldface names in the past decade: Eric Bana in 2003's maligned, Ang Lee-directed "Hulk," Edward Norton in Louis Leterrier's 2008 "The Incredible Hulk" (one of the earliest of Marvel's Phase One pictures) and, finally, Mark Ruffalo's affable portrayal of Bruce Banner in last summer's "Marvel's The Avengers."

This trio, however, could have been just two: Leterrier revealed that he originally had his eye on Ruffalo, not Norton, to play the Hulk.

During an interview with NextMovie for his new film "Now You See Me," we asked Leterrier what he thought of "Marvel's The Avengers," having made his own Marvel movie just a few years ago. He praised Ruffalo's performance as the Hulk and let loose with the casting that could have been.

"I've seen 'The Avengers.' I know it very well because that's how I know Mark Ruffalo, because I met him for my Hulk," he said. "I met him before I met Edward [Norton], and he was my choice, my number one choice, Mark, to be the Hulk."

Ruffalo would go on to be Leterrier's leading man in "Now You See Me," but what stopped him from raging out in 2008?

"Marvel, maybe rightly so then, said that he was not well-known enough by the public," Leterrier said. When Leterrier was casting, Ruffalo's most well-known roles had been in the Jennifer Garner chick flick "13 Going on 30," a small part in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and a leading role alongside Laura Linney in 2000's "You Can Count on Me."

"When you do a movie you have to think about the international audience and international audiences didn't know Mark enough then, so it didn't happen, and I met Edward and I love Edward, and it was fantastic.

"But we stayed in touch, and no harm no foul. When I met with him again to talk about this movie, it was on the set of 'The Avengers' and he was like, 'Louis, it's thanks to you that I'm here, so whenever, wherever, let's get together.' When I saw 'Avengers,' in a sense I was like, 'This is what I saw in him!' This is what I thought he could do so well and bring to the character of Bruce Banner, and I was so happy that Marvel let him do it."