William Hurt has been part of the MCU since the very beginning. The Incredible Hulk came out over a decade ago in the summer of 2008 along with the first Iron Man. Way back then, Hurt first introduced us to General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, the military General hellbent on stopping the Hulk from rampaging across the planet unchecked.
It wasn’t until eight years later that we saw Thunderbolt Ross again in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. In his appearance there, Ross was now the Secretary of State of the United States of America, and he had a bone to pick with the Avengers for causing collateral damage and casualties in their superhero fights across the globe. He popped up in small capacity in both Avengers: Infinity War to hassle War Machine and then again in Avengers: Endgame at Tony Stark’s funeral.
As revealed by Just Jared this week, William Hurt was seen on the set of the upcoming Black Widow movie, playing Thunderbolt Ross once again. Since most of the film takes place after Civil War in MCU continuity, one could assume Ross is after Black Widow since she helped Captain America escape capture. But the Secretary of State seems worse for wear in the photos, appearing emaciated and walking with a cane.
His strange appearance on set is leading some to believe Marvel is setting up ole’ Thunderbolt to become the infamous Red Hulk from the comicbooks! In said comics, Ross volunteers to be experimented on by the evil organizations A.I.M. and the Intelligencia in order to fight the Hulk on an even playing field. The experiment results in turning Ross into a red hulking monster. Red Hulk differs from regular Hulk in that the angrier he gets, the hotter he becomes, emitting immense amounts of heat.
People might remember A.I.M. in the MCU from Iron Man 3 (2013), where they created the Extremis formula which allows test subjects to recover from devastating injuries by emitting, you guessed it, immense heat. So, one might assume that Thaddeus Ross is old, weak, and sick by the time the Black Widow movie rolls around in continuity, but he’s not ready to give up the fight against the Hulk and other unrestricted superheroes.
Maybe—and this is a big maybe—Ross tries to save his own life by experimenting on himself. We saw in The Incredible Hulk (2008) that he has access to the old super soldier program from WWII that resulted in Captain America, Hulk, and the Abomination. Combined with A.I.M.’s volatile Extremis formula, which was almost exclusively tested on military veterans, one could easily see things turning red hot for the old grouch.
There have also been rumors of Marvel Studios developing the Thunderbolts into a movie or Disney+ series. In the comics, the Thunderbolts are a team of super villains attempting to reform into heroes. Although the team was originally led by Baron Zemo in the comics, Red Hulk has been a prominent member in the past… not to mention Thaddeus THUDERBOLT Ross shares the same name.
While all this is just speculation in the highest regard, it’s fun to try and put the pieces of the MCU puzzle together. What do you think Thaddeus Ross’ sickly appearance in Black Widow means? Could the Red Hulk be destined for the silver screen? Are the Thunderbolts not far behind?