Edward Norton No Longer the Hulk

The recent film The Incredible Hulk was Marvel's way of "atoning" for Ang Lee's Hulk from a few years back. Bring in a bigger actor (Edward Norton), feature an actual villain for the Hulk to square off against (Abomination...although, Nick Nolte can be a villain in his own right) and tie it into the movie universe Marvel is creating (Robert Downey, Jr.'s appearance at the end as Tony Stark). The movie was met with generally warm temperament and everything seemd to be working out splendidly.

There were reports that during the filming, however, that Norton was a little bit of a malcontent at times. Part of the contract he signed (and part of his contract in general I believe) is that he has full creative control in his films. This could be because he wants to control his image or maybe he's just a control freak. Regardless, there was something of a falling out between Norton and Marvel about the control and Norton wasn't even included in the credits as a writer (despite writing part of the film, which was then completely rewritten by Zack Penn who received sole writing credit).

All that has led to this: Marvel will not be bringing Norton back in the upcoming Avengers movie. Let's dive in.

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige sent the below statement directly to Hitfix:

"We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in the Avengers. Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H, Chris E, Sam, Scarlett, and all of our talented casts. We are looking to announce a name actor who fulfills these requirements, and is passionate about the iconic role in the coming weeks."

Norton's agent, Brian Swardstrom, has since responded:

"This offensive statement from Kevin Feige at Marvel is a purposefully misleading, inappropriate attempt to paint our client in a negative light. Here are the facts: two months ago, Kevin called me and said he wanted Edward to reprise the role of Bruce Banner in The Avengers. He told me it would be his fantasy to bring Edward on stage with the rest of the cast at ComiCon and make it the event of the convention. When I said that Edward was definitely open to this idea, Kevin was very excited and we agreed that Edward should meet with Joss Whedon to discuss the project. Edward and Joss had a very good meeting (confirmed by Feige to me) at which Edward said he was enthusiastic at the prospect of being a part of the ensemble cast. Marvel subsequently made him a financial offer to be in the film and both sides started negotiating in good faith. This past Wednesday, after several weeks of civil, uncontentious discussions, but before we had come to terms on a deal, a representative from Marvel called to say they had decided to go in another direction with the part. This seemed to us to be a financial decision but, whatever the case, it is completely their prerogative, and we accepted their decision with no hard feelings.

We know a lot of fans have voiced their public disappointment with this result, but this is no excuse for Feige's mean spirited, accusatory comments. Counter to what Kevin implies here, Edward was looking forward to the opportunity to work with Joss and the other actors in the Avengers cast, many of whom are personal friends of his. Feige's statement is unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory. Mr. Norton talent, tireless work ethic and professional integrity deserve more respect, and so do Marvel's fans.

Brian Swardstrom

Let's take Feige's statement first. One of the first things the statement says is that it's not about the money, no doubt eager to eschew the reputation that Marvel has earned (fairly or unfairly) from the situations involving Terence Howard and Jon Favreau. He then goes on to cite Norton's perceived stubbornness as the reason why he wouldn't work in the Avengers film. Naturally, when you're putting together something that high profile with that many big actors you need to have cohesion and teamwork.

Norton's agent, as expected, fires back in an attempt to counter both points. He does seem to agree that it wasn't about the money (as he indicates that negotiations had began about Norton's contract) but that Marvel just decided to go in a different direction. His response seems to paint Feige as the villain here, indicating that his statement is somewhat childish and not showing the true events that occurred.

So we're left with a "he said, she said," which seems to happen a lot with Marvel. I personally don't know either Feige or Norton and I'm not trying to defend either side. I do know that Marvel has been striving exceptionally hard to keep continuity in the movies and something big must have happened to drop Norton from the Avengers role. Some people might say this is the same thing that happened to Howard and, to an extent, they're right. But War Machine isn't nearly the main character that Hulk is...Marvel didn't write a yearlong Planet War Machine. My point being that this is something of a huge continuity hit that feels to me like someone just wants to prove a point.

Feige has insisted that they're going to bring a big name in for the part. Frankly, they don't get much bigger than Norton. Adrien Brody has been mentioned, and Nathan Fillion will always be mentioned because of his geek street credibility. Sharlto Copley from District 9 would be a great fit if they wanted to go that route. Marvel will definitely have someone in place within the next week, considering their big panel at Comic-Con that Saturday at 6 PM will focus on the Thor and Captain America movies. It wouldn't surprise me if Marvel took that panel as an opportunity to make a big reveal about who the new Hulk will be. Fans will no doubtedly be upset here at least temporarily. I think in the end though that the new Hulk will be announced and everyone will rejoice.

Marvel should be more worried about their reputation here. As mentioned earlier, this is the third instance where a big name has been involved in a contract dispute after the unexpected success of their film. Favreau was the only one who "survived," but even he was reportedly not going to direct Iron Man 2 since rumors swirled that Marvel wouldn't pay him more. In the end Norton is expendable to an extent, as he isn't nearly as charismatic and franchise propelling as Downey is (or Samuel L. Jackson for that matter). Until Captain America 2 is in production and there are talks about Chris Evans not coming back due to money.

There's also the possibility that is all really just an elaborate PR stunt, and Kevin Feige will come out on stage at the Thor/Captain America panel at SDCC alongside Norton. I'm guessing not, but who knows. Only time will tell.


  1. Marvel has had bad luck with the hulk-it kind of reminds me what DC went through with Keaton-Kilmer-Klooney all those years ago-

    As the editor said, Ed Norton apparently did some re-writes for the original film but did not get a writing credit-This apparently so annoyed Norton that he pretty much skipped doing publicity for the 2008 film at all-Notwithstanding Mel Gibson is the old adage that the worst publicity is no publicity; can you imagine Robert Downey not doing IM2 publicity? Tobey not doing Spider Man publicity? Of course not, Norton not doing publicity hurt the film's take and let's face it, the film was pretty expensive and hardly needed this kind of handicap-Studios and corporate companies tend to remember the kind of thing that hurts them in the wallet

    I am astonished to read in the post that Norton potentially gets complete creative control over his projects-This is a caveat more reserved for very accomplished Directors and am surprised that an actor even of Norton's accomplishment would get that kind of treatment-As for managing his image and career most actors rely on PR and Management firms (like William Morris who just dumped Mel Gibson)to do this because studios are in the end a business and can't be specifically bothered about Ed Norton's image when millions of dollars are at stake-One thing is for sure,two years down the road there is still a lot of bad blood between the actor and Marvel and it appears that Marvel pulled the plug (or at least fired the first shot)-The company may have just thought Norton was too big a pain in the ass to have to go round two with

    At the end of the day this is not the loss that losing Downey would be (which in theory would probably sink the project altogether) and there are some good possibilities out there with Adrien Brody (who, like Norton is percieved as a quality, offbeat looking actor more than a movie star), Mark Ruffalo (ditto)-My pick? Russell Crowe the perfect merge of actor and role...

  2. see if Norton had the services of Ari Gold it wouldnt of went down this way


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