That Hulk belongs in a museum! Harrison Ford is making the jump from one massive Disney-owned franchise to another. As reported by multiple outlets (and confirmed by Deadline) Ford, famous for playing Han Solo and Indiana Jones, will apparently join the Marvel Cinematic Universe to play Thaddeus Ross, taking over for the late William Hurt. It’s a pretty big announcement and one that signals that Marvel has big plans for the character going forward, including, probably, some hulking out.
Right now, the thinking is that Harrison Ford will start playing Ross in Captain America: New World Order, the fourth “Captain America” film overall, but, the first one starring Anthony Mackie as the “new” Cap, following the events of The Falcon and the Winter Solider. But who is Ross, anyway? Did you forget?
Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross, Explained
Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross made his comics debut in the very same 1962 comic book issue of The Incredible Hulk where Bruce Banner first appeared, so he’s been around since the beginning of this whole Hulk thing. The character has also been a fixture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies since almost the beginning, as he first appeared in the second-ever MCU movie, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk (starring Ed Norton). At that point, Ross was played by William Hurt. The character begins as a Lieutenant General who is on a mission to capture and reign in Bruce Banner (again, Norton back then) after he transforms into the Hulk following a botched experiment in a super-soldier program Ross was overseeing. Ross especially has a grudge against Banner because his daughter Betty Ross (played by Liv Tyler in The Incredible Hulk) is in love with Banner, who he sees as a menace.
Ross didn’t appear again in the MCU for several movies following The Incredible Hulk, but he would eventually return and become something of a fixture. He next showed up in Captain America: Civil War, where it was revealed that he had been appointed Secretary of State. It was Ross — an ultimately law-abiding but nonetheless somewhat antagonistic presence — who presented the Avengers with the Sokovia Accords and urged them to get in line. He next chronologically appeared in Black Widow, where he tried and failed to apprehend the fugitive Natasha. He appeared again in both Infinity War and Endgame, the latter of which he was seen attending Tony Stark’s funeral.
How Thaddeus Ross connects MCU canon
For a while, it looked like Hurt’s take on Ross was just about the only thing from The Incredible Hulk that Marvel acknowledged in subsequent films. By 2012, Mark Ruffalo had been recast as Bruce Banner, but there’s been essentially no mention let alone sight of Tyler’s Betty Ross, and Tim Blake Nelson’s character, who was set up to become the supervillain known as Legion, was a seemingly a forever-dangling cliffhanger. However, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings brought back Tim Roth’s Abomination, unexpectedly, and then Roth appeared in the recently concluded She-Hulk: Attorney at Law series as well. Nelson’s Legion character will be the villain in the next Captain America film, New World Order. The Incredible Hulk is back in vogue, and as a longtime Hulk character and MCU standard, it makes sense that Ross would have future appearances as well. He’s slated to appear in both New World Order and Thunderbolts.
So, it makes sense that Marvel would recast the character in the wake of Hurt’s death at 71 from complications of prostate cancer. Reports began circulating recently that Ford would be taking over the role. Although the two actors don’t look exactly the same nor do they have the same acting cadence, it’s not a stretch to see Ford pulling off a good Ross.
The Red Hulk explained
There’s something else to consider. In the comics, Ross eventually becomes a Hulk himself — a Red Hulk, a character who has both been an anti-hero working on the side of the military and an uncontrollable rage-filled monster with a vendetta against Banner. There’s no specific evidence that Ross will become Red Hulk in the MCU, but it certainly seems probable. And, if Ross does become Red Hulk, it makes Ford’s recasting make that much more sense. Why get Ford if you’re not going to do something awesome with him?
So, hypothetically Ford will be able to be on set for a couple of days as “normal” Ross, then spend future days and future movies chilling in a voice recording both as a red CGI monster with his likeness running around smashing. Work smart, not hard!
Captain American: New World Order is expected in theaters on May 3, 2024.