William Hurt as General Ross in 'The Avengers: Infinity War'

Who Is Thunderbolt Ross in the MCU? General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, Explained

Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross is a character fans have taken a renewed interest in after the news broke that Harrison Ford has been cast in the role. Ross was previously portrayed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) by William Hurt. Hurt held the role from 2008-2021 across five films. Sadly, just as he was preparing to portray the leader of the Thunderbolts team in the upcoming Thunderbolts film, Hurt passed away.

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On October 17, 2022, news broke that the role of Ross had been recast. Ford will reportedly appear as Ross in the upcoming MCU films Thunderbolts and Captain America: New World Order. Fans are anticipating that the film might see Ross as his alter ego, Red Hulk. Though Hurt portrayed Ross across many films in the MCU, he only took on the character’s human form. He never transformed into Red Hulk as Ross does in a later period of his life in comic book history.

Here’s everything you need to know about Hurt’s history as Ross in the MCU and what the character’s future might hold as Ford takes over the role.

Ross’ early history in the MCU

William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross in The Incredible Hulk
(Universal Studios)

Hurt made his MCU debut as Ross in The Incredible Hulk in 2008. In the film, Ross is a U.S. Army General interested in recreating the super soldier serum. As a result, he invites Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) to partake in an experiment. However, when things go awry, Banner is bombarded with gamma radiation and transformed into the Hulk. This leads to Ross becoming obsessed with capturing, detaining, and potentially weaponizing the Hulk. He teams up with Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to capture the Hulk, with Blonsky receiving multiple serums to try to mimic the Hulk’s power. Instead, Blonsky transforms into Abomination and proves to be an even bigger threat than Hulk.

Ross lets his ego go long enough to allow Hulk to stop Abomination and deliver him to Ross’ custody. Despite the turmoil Ross caused, he is still approached at the end by Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) who proposes to create a superhero team. After this appearance, Hurt didn’t appear again until 2016, when he reprised his role as Hurt in Avengers: Civil War. In the film, he has risen to become the U.S. Secretary of State and has acquired much influence and political power. However, he has suffered health issues and revealed he underwent a triple bypass surgery. Still wary of superheroes like the Hulk, he approved of the Sokovia Accords.

When Captain America (Chris Evans) rebelled against the accords, Ross sent Iron Man after him and his cohorts and arrested many superheroes.

Ross’ recent MCU history

In Infinity War, despite the imminent threat of Thanos (Josh Brolin), Ross continued his crusade against the heroes. He placed Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) under house arrest while still pursuing several fugitive heroes, including Captain America. Ross even alienates his former ally James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), who refuses to assist Ross and calls him out for making criminals out of superheroes. In the end, Ross and his daughter are among those who disappear in the Blip. He is brought back, along with all the others who disappeared, in Avengers: Endgame and is briefly seen attending Stark’s funeral.

Ross made his final appearance in Black Widow, which takes place before Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. In the film, Ross is still on his mission to hunt down all heroes who went against the Sokovia Accords. He is also still suffering health issues, apparently having undergone a second triple bypass surgery. However, this doesn’t stop him from desperately pursuing and eventually capturing Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), though she manages to escape from him.

Ross’ MCU future

Harrison Ford at Star Wars Celebration
(Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Hurt has been exceedingly influential in the MCU through his portrayal of Ross. After all, a lot of his actions directly led to the events of Captain America: Civil War, as well as Avengers: Infinity War. With that being said, though, since The Incredible Hulk, Ross has not had a lead role in an MCU film. That seems bound to change with the casting of Ford as Ross in Thunderbolts. In the comic books, Ross is the leader of the anti-hero team, the Thunderbolts. As a result, Thunderbolts could be Ross’ biggest, most prominent appearance yet.

Additionally, he may be getting to the point of transforming into Red Hulk. In the comics, his transformation was propelled by his dying before being resurrected. His disappearance and reappearance after the events of Avengers: Endgame, could very well be the near-death experience that motivates him to become Red Hulk. Likewise, the multiple references to his ill health and serious heart surgeries could also be leading to his Red Hulk transformation.

Ultimately, in the future, we can expect to see our typical, politically powerful, and suit-clad Ross who is wary of superheroes and desperate to be in control of them. Meanwhile, his Red Hulk transformation is always a possibility, and after spending over 15 years in the MCU, it should be getting closer.

(featured image: Disney)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.