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‘Avengers’ Bruce Banner Based On Bill Bixby’s Version

PLUS: When will more ‘Dr. Horrible’ be coming?

Joss Whedon got an entourage of characters already developed put into his lap for “The Avengers.” All he had to do was find a way to make them all play well together.

But not everyone was defined. Sure, there have been successful franchises built around Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and others. But one Marvel character has had trouble making the transition to the big screen. And it seemed clear from the start that neither Eric Bana nor Edward Norton would be taking on the green monster once again.

“We really were starting fresh” on the Hulk, Whedon told Yahoo! in a recent interview. “But we were starting with something that had been embodied several times.

So would this be the Bruce Banner of Bana? Or the Bruce Banner of Norton? Whedon decided to pick from Door No. 3.

We “agreed upfront that the template for who we wanted this guy to be in his life was Bill Bixby,” Whedon said, referring to the late actor who portrayed Banner on television in the late 1970s, who was “busy helping other people.”

“That was more interesting to us than the Banner in the first two movies who was always fixated on curing himself. We spent a lot of time talking about what makes us Hulk out, the nature of anger, how it feels.”

Mark Ruffalo, known for “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Shutter Island,” will take on the Banner mantle this time, and will be written for the first time by the team of Whedon and “Alphas” creator Zak Penn.

This film could very well establish Whedon as a big-budget movie director, his first outing since the “Firefly” film spinoff “Serenity” in 2005. Marvel and Paramount are hoping to do with these characters what was done with the X-Men franchise, except in reverse. X-Men started out ensemble, and then later had individual films planned (although the only film made so far was “Wolverine.”)

For “The Avengers,” however, Marvel has focused on individual films for each first, and then brought everyone together. Which will probably match what Warner Bros. will eventually try to do in the DC Comics universe if it can ever get its Justice League concept together.

Beyond “The Avengers,” however, fans want to know about something with a much smaller budget: When will there be a sequel to his Internet hit “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” which was made during the writers strike.

“We have been working on that for a while,” Whedon said. “It’s been hard, because we all have jobs, and some of them are extremely taxing. But we have had a vision of the thing for a while. We have been working on it, we have a bunch of songs and a few scenes. We need a little free time, and right now, that’s plenty hard to come by.”

Especially for Whedon. Besides “The Avengers,” he also is in post-production for “Much Ado About Nothing,” a modern retelling of the William Shakespeare classic that includes some of his past favorite actors like Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker, Sean Maher, Alexis Denisoff, Tom Lenk and others. It also will include Spencer Treat Clark, the now grown up kid from “Gladiator” and “Unbreakable.”

For more of Yahoo!’s interview with Whedon, click here.

“The Avengers” opens May 4.

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