|Actor|| Sam Elliott|
Todd Tesen (young)
- "He gets released, and a month later your lab is destroyed. What a coincidence. So you're just not going to tell me where he is, are you?"
- ―Thaddeus Ross[src]
General Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross is the military leader responsible for getting Bruce Banner involved in the experiment which led to the accident that turned him into the Hulk. He is consequently obsessed with stopping Banner and his alter-ego Hulk at all costs.
Lieutanant Colonel "Thunderbolt" Ross was in charge during David Banner's experiments in Desert Base. He decided to shut down his research when he found out that the scientisti was making dangerous experiments on DNA without the Government's approval. In rage, Banner made the whole base explode, forcing Ross and his men to leave.
Years later, Ross has become a General, and he has had a daughter, Betty, who hates him. After many years of silence between the two of them, Thunderbolt Ross contacts his daughter, since he's worried about David's son, Bruce Banner's, Betty's ex boyfriend, researches. The son, infact, is starting to work in the same field of his father, and Ross is concerned about it. Betty, anyway, doesn't want to listen to him and leaves, enraged and disappointed.
After Bruce's first transformation in the Hulk, Ross puts Banner under house arrest for security, preventing him to enter his lab. However, after being provoked by both his father and Glenn Talbot, Bruce transforms again and breaks free, injuring several soldiers in the process. Ross so decides to take him into an underground base, in which he keeps him prisoner, for both his and others' security. Betty tries to convince her father that she can help Bruce in controlling the Hulk, but Ross believes that he's the same as his father, and doesn't agree. Meanwhile, Talbot tries to steal a fragment of Hulk's skin to make research on it, but he only manages to free the brute in the base, which cannot in any way contain it. When the Hulk breaks free, Thunderbolt Ross leads a squadron to hunt him down: the monster destroys tanks and helicopters, and then flees to San Francisco. In here, he's calmed down by Betty and the Army can take him in custody once again.
Because of an agreement between Betty and David Banner, the latter is allowed to speak with his son, with muc of the General's disagreement. When the two start a massive fight, Ross follows them on a chopper and put an end to their fight hitting them both with a Gamma Charge Bomb, leaving them for dead. He later tries to reconciliate with his daughter, without success.
Ross is a proud, loyal, and perhaps obsessive, American soldier. His respect, loyalty and charisma towards his fellow soldiers are fitting traits to a patriot and war hero. However, while these may be his best traits, they are also arguably his worst traits. Believing that his service to the army is for the greater good of his country, his loyalty and attachment lie almost completely to the army, even at the cost of his love for his own family. He has very little respect for weak Americans or any desire to protect their rights and liberties, and something of a hatred of anyone who possesses power greater than the American army, such as the Hulk. He's a loner, and tends to keep a distance from everyone, even from his own daughter, in order to accomplish the best to his duties. He sees the Hulk as a precious resource for the Army and considers him and Bruce Banner properties of the US Government.
In many ways, Ross is an excellent soldier. He is a skilled pilot and tactician, a charismatic and capable leader, and a man capable of gaining the respect of every soldier. But on the other hand, if he were to possess even more power and authority beyond his position, were it not for his loyalty to America, there wouldn't be so many differences between him and a true dictator.
- Betty Ross - Estranged daughter.
- Bruce Banner/Hulk - Enemy.
- David Banner/Absorbing Man - Colleague turned enemy; deceased.
Behind the scenes
- Sam Elliot accepted the role of General Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross without reading the script, being simply excited to work with Ang Lee.
- Sam Elliott went on to play Carter Slade in Ghost Rider.
- The unit patch on Sam Elliot's General Ross uniform is that of the 7th Cavalry Division. This the same unit to which his character, Sergeant Major Basil Plumley, was assigned in We Were Soldiers, Elliot also felt that his performance as Ross was similar to his character in that film.
- Sam Elliot wanted to shave off his mustache, because "four-star Generals don't have mustaches but Ang Lee insisted on keeping it, because General Ross has one in the comics.