[The following story contains spoilers for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’s “The People vs. Emil Blonsky.”]
Tim Roth last appeared as Emil Blonsky/Abomination in Marvel Studios’ second feature film, The Incredible Hulk (2008), and now, after 27 more movies and seven television series, he’s back in the MCU’s eighth series, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
In “The People vs. Emil Blonsky,” written by Francesca Gailes and Jacqueline Gailes and directed by Kat Coiro, Blonsky is up for parole, having seemingly turned over a new leaf, and so he requests Jen Walters/She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany) to defend him despite her being the cousin of his former adversary, Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). It took considerable doing, but Jen ultimately convinced the parole board to free Blonsky under certain conditions. However, the question still remains if Blonsky can be trusted.
“He’s in a maximum security facility. He’s isolated in a bubble. He’s left to think. He’s left to plan. And when you meet him again, can you believe him?” Roth tells The Hollywood Reporter. “But we shall see, or shall we? He’s a clever guy. That’s for sure.”
Since very few elements have carried over from Louis Leterrier’s Incredible Hulk, it’s fair to wonder if the recasting of Edward Norton’s original MCU Bruce Banner/Hulk affected Roth’s chances of returning even sooner. And while the English actor never gave the subject much thought, he’s always admired Mark Ruffalo, who took over for Norton as of 2012’s The Avengers.
In fact, the two actors actually worked together on She-Hulk and even acknowledged the recasting, in either a deleted scene or a scene from an upcoming episode. (Roth seemed to lean more in the direction of it being a deleted scene, but he wasn’t entirely sure since he hasn’t seen the show.)
“I’ve always wanted to work with [Mark Ruffalo], and it just happened to be this, which was kind of fun. But we messed around with [the recasting],” Roth shares. “I don’t know if any of it made it into [She-Hulk], but when I looked at him as we were shooting, I was like, ‘You’ve put on weight. There’s something about you …’ So it was that kind of stuff. We messed around, and we were encouraged to improvise and play. So we dealt with [the recasting].”
In a recent conversation with THR, Roth also discusses being cut from Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as well as his interest in seeing an extended cut.
So did the opportunities to return in She-Hulk and Shang-Chi come out of left field? Were you remotely expecting it?
No, not at all. It made me laugh, honestly. I can’t remember the order that it came in, but they asked me if I could come in and do some voice work. They put the Abomination into Shang-Chi, which I’ve never seen. So I knew nothing about it, but they said, “Would you come and do a little bit of voice work?” And I just thought, “Yeah, okay.” And then they said to go in and meet with Kevin [Feige] because he had an idea. So I met with Kevin and Wendy [Jacobson] over at Marvel, and they said, “This is what we want to do. Tell us what you think.” And I just laughed at the fun of it.
I did [The Incredible Hulk] for my children. That’s why I did it. “Dad’s a monster.” They loved the comics. They loved the Hulk, and I grew up on the Hulk. So there I was in a Hulk movie, and the chance to embarrass your kids at school is always good. And it worked. So I did it, and then I moved on. But I remember talking to Kevin Feige and Stan Lee on set about what happens to Blonsky, and their idea was that he was in a steel vault, welded shut, and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. So he’d have time to think. But that’s what we’d chat about when getting ready to work.
And in a way, that’s what they did. He’s in a maximum security facility. He’s isolated in a bubble. He’s left to think. He’s left to plan. And when you meet him again, can you believe him? And who comes to his rescue? She-Hulk. So that’s where the journey begins, and I thought it’d be a lot of fun to revisit my kids’ childhood. You also have to pull it off in some way, so hopefully we’ve done that. I’ve never seen it.
Because your character was tied to Edward Norton’s version of Bruce Banner, did part of you think that you wouldn’t be back because of that association and subsequent recasting?
No, I never thought that deeply about it. I remember when they changed the actor, and I remember enjoying what Mark [Ruffalo] did. I was a fan of Mark as an actor. He’s just an incredible guy and an incredible actor. I’ve always wanted to work with him, and it just happened to be this, which was kind of fun. But we messed around with [the recasting]. I don’t know if any of it made it into [She-Hulk], but when I looked at him as we were shooting, I was like, “You’ve put on weight. There’s something about you …” So it was that kind of stuff. We messed around, and we were encouraged to improvise and play. So we dealt with [the recasting].
But overall, the [recasting] never really crossed my mind. I guess I just don’t think that way. I don’t think franchises existed at that point, anyway. All of that stuff came later with what Robert Downey Jr. and those guys managed to achieve with humor. That broke all the walls down, and off they went. It was quite extraordinary.
So has Blonsky truly been rehabilitated? Is that the power of having seven wives?
(Laughs.) Apparently so, yes! But we shall see, or shall we? I don’t know what you’ve seen, but he’s had a lot of time to think. He’s a clever guy. That’s for sure.
Your characters tend to sit in unique ways, whether it’s resting your arm on the back of a booth like Freddy Newandyke/Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs or placing one foot on the seat of the booth like Pumpkin in Pulp Fiction or slouching in a chair like Blonsky. Am I on to something here? Are you consciously making these choices?
It was definitely commented on at school, in the English sort of way: “Sit up straight! What is the matter with you!?” That kind of thing. But Blonsky would definitely do that, wouldn’t he? There’s something annoying about somebody who doesn’t follow the rules, and there’s something interesting about watching him play with people. So I think it might just be the way that I am. But it would very much depend on the character, and it seemed to belong in the Blonsky world.
So Quentin Tarantino released The Hateful Eight: Extended Version on Netflix, and there was talk of doing something similar for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, be it a three hour and twenty-minute cut or a miniseries format like Hateful Eight.
Oh, wow! I didn’t know that.
I was going to ask you if you’ve heard anything regarding an extended cut of Hollywood, but it all sounds like news to you.
I didn’t even know that he’d done an extended version of The Hateful Eight. When we did Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it was just a cameo. I came and did a few scenes. He was so sweet about it when we talked, but the cut came out to be four hours long or something. So he had to make a decision about the characters he had to flow with, and so the other characters’ storylines, unfortunately, went by the wayside. All of those storylines were shot, so it’d be a hell of a fun thing to see. My son [Hunter Roth], who worked on it as an assistant, went to the screening at the Arclight, and he was like, “You got billing!” It cracked him up because it said, “Tim Roth (Cut).” (Laughs.) And that’s so Quentin. I actually love that. So if he does an extended version, that would be kind of weird and wonderful. It’d be something to see.
Are Quentin’s return invitations as fulfilling as any good review or acting award?
Basically, we’ve all got Quentin in our phones, and if it lights up, everyone takes the call and goes, “OK!” It is such a pleasurable, unique experience working with him. It is unlike anything. I was there at the beginning, and the man hasn’t changed. His ability to get his ideas across has changed because he’s been given the freedom to go and play. So as an audience, we enjoy what he brings us. As an actor, you hope you’ll be on that journey with him again. Once is never enough. It’s just a hell of a ride.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is now streaming on Disney+. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.