Tim Roth says he first took Marvel role in 'Incredible Hulk' to embarrass his kids: 'Dad's a monster'

·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
·4 min read
SHE-HULK: ATTORNEY AT LAW, Tim Roth, as Emil Blonsky, (Season 1, ep. 103, aired Sept. 1, 2022). photo: ©Disney+/Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection
Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky in She-Hulk. (Photo: ©Disney+/Marvel Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection)

While many a Marvel fan has surely wondered what became of Emil Blonsky, aka Abominable, over the course of 12 or 13 years following The Incredible Hulk, Tim Roth did not.

“I never bothered to even think about it,” admits the 61-year-old London born actor, who played Blonsky so long ago that another actor, Edward Norton, was still embodying scientist-turned-Hulk smasher Bruce Banner.

“I originally just did it for my kids. They were little and they were at school and I thought, ‘Dad is a monster. That's hilarious.’ I did two movies for that, Planet of the Apes, dad’s a monkey, and The [Incredible] Hulk, dad’s a monster, and also to embarrass them, which is always good. And I succeeded.” (Roth has three sons, who were around the ages of 12, 13 and 24 when The Incredible Hulk was released.)

That’s not to say Roth’s Hulk experience didn’t turn the actor, whose character returned in CGI form with a cameo in last year’s Shang-Chi and now plays a key role in the Disney+ series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, into a low-key Marvel fan. Or at least one foul-mouthed merc in particular.

“I do travel with their movies when I'm in a hotel room, or if I'm on a plane and I've got my iPad, I’ll [put on] Deadpool,” he says. “It’s brilliant, the R-rated Marvel universe with comedy at its core. I think they broke the mold with that kind of stuff. I think it's fascinating.”

THE INCREDIBLE HULK, Tim Roth, 2008. ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection
Tim Roth in 2008's The Incredible Hulk. (Photo: ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

Technically, Roth’s return to the MCU came in 2021’s Shang-Chi. The titular hero (Simu Liu) watches Abomination — the villainous Hulk-like beast Blonsky turned into after a super-serum dose gone wrong in Incredible Hulkbattle Wong in an underground cage fight (the moment, it turns out, was setting up a She-Hulk plot point). But the actor worked minimally on it. “I think, in all, I was in the studio for about 10 minutes,” Roth laughs. And what he recorded, from the sounds of it, was mostly grunts.

Roth is back in the flesh in She-Hulk. Blonsky, seeking parole after his rampage through Harlem in The Incredible Hulk, is the first client Walters is assigned to defend at her new firm GLK&H — much originally to her chagrin, considering he tried to kill her cousin. But Blonsky is a changed man (he even writes haikus now!), or at least we think he is thus far, as Marvel does a tidy job redeeming his character. “I was under direct orders from your government,” Blonsky reminds Walters.

The Reservoir Dogs and Rob Roy actor says Blonksy’s character shift dates back to conversations he had with Kevin Feige and Stan Lee on the set of The Incredible Hulk. “We’d be hanging out and we'd go, ‘OK, if there was a sequel,’ and their idea was that he’d be sealed into a steel box, a vault and dropped to the bottom of the ocean and left. So that when however it is that he comes to remove himself from that environment, he's had a lot of time for think. And in a sense, there is a similarity, that he's been in a maximum security vault, isolated in a bubble and he has had a lot of time to play and to think.”

With his role in She-Hulk, Roth becomes one of the few actors who’s now acted opposite multiple Hulks in Norton and Mark Ruffalo, who assumed the role of Bruce Banner in 2012’s The Avengers.

“They’re very different people,” Roth says. “Now it's like way down the line with Mark. [With Edward], that was the beginning, [we were] finding ourselves. They're two incredible f***ing actors. Oops, excuse my language. But they’re incredible actors… I've always wanted to work with Mark. I'm a fan. And we get to sit and laugh wearing these silly costumes, and chat and shoot the breeze and do all of that stuff. Are they different? Yes. They're different people. What Ed did was develop it. And he was following the Banner from before from the [Lou Ferrigno] TV series and the Ang Lee thing [2003’s Hulk starring Eric Bana]. And he took it very seriously. Now there's been this huge evolution that Mark has gone with… what he's turned it into and what he's made. So in a sense, I got to be at the beginning and then jump in at the end and it's been an incredibly wild ride.

“I do appreciate it. It's a lot of fun, plus I'm still embarrassing my kids, so it's fine.”

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is currently streaming on Disney+.

Watch our interviews with the cast and creators: