You go away for a weekend to share your craft with the world, and all hell breaks loose.
The hell that broke loose? The state of The Avengers.
With Joss Whedon set to direct, and filming due to begin early next year, Marvel Studios is dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s for their big superhero crossover movie. And one of these things was apparently to not bring back Ed Norton as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk. Downey was signed for Iron Man, Helmsworth for Thor, Evans for Cap, but there’d be a new guy with purple pants.
The rumor began on Friday, with HitFix.com posting a rumor that Edward Norton was out, and the search for a replacement Hulk was a-go.
It didn’t take long for Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige to allow this rumor to become reality, as they responded with a fast, and somewhat terse statement to, again, HitFix.com.
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.
“An actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members”?! That’s pretty rough. Sure, we heard that Ed’s kind of a headcase, and wanted to make some changes to the script of The Incredible Hulk, but I really liked it, and his portrayal of Banner. And I can’t say that’s the most professional way of going about things.
Enter Ed Norton’s agent, Brian Swardstrom of WME, who issued his own statement:
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.
OH SHIT! THIS JUST GOT REAL! SCREW THE AVENGERS! THE REAL FIGHT TO SEE IS MARVEL STUDIOS VERSUS EDWARD NORTON!
Whatcha got to say about THAT, Ed? Why don’t you take to your Facebook and fight the man!
As most of you know, I don’t like to talk much about the business of making movies because it means a lot to me to protect the audience’s fullest enjoyment of the ‘magic’ that films can have. But I am so appreciatve of the outpouring of support from fans of the Hulk and the Avengers that I feel it would be rude not to respond. So here goes: It seems it won’t work out for me to continue playing Bruce Banner for Marvel in The Avengers. I sincerely hoped it could happen and be great for everyone, but it hasn’t turned out as well as we all hoped. I know this is disappointing to many people and that makes me sad. But I am very sincerely grateful to Marvel for extending the offer and even more so for giving me the chance to be a part of the Hulk’s long and excellent history. And I really can’t thank the fans enough for how much enthusiasm you’ve sent my way about what Louis and I tried to do in our turn with the legend. It means a lot to me. I grew up with Banner and Hulk and have been a fan of every incarnation. I’m really proud, and very blessed, to have been one of them and will thrilled to see him live on through other actors. Hulk is bigger than all of us, that’s why we love him, right?
And that right there, is why Ed Norton is a class act. Sure, he hints that it may have been a financial issue (he says Marvel extended the offer), but in one statement, he address the problem, and extinguishes the flames of angry fandom.
Look, I’ll be honest – I really dug Norton as Hulk. But considering The Incredible Hulk made “only” $267 mil versus the miserable Ang Lee Hulk making $243 mil, maybe I was alone in this. Sure, $267 million is WAY more money than any of us will ever see in our lives, but when Iron Man made $585 Mil that same summer, it tells Marvel Studios that something isn’t quite right in their movie universe. And if Norton looks to make the process more difficult, they have the financial proof that audiences may not really miss him when he’s gone.
Either way, it’s already been a strange journey into production for The Avengers, and I’m pretty sure that we’ll know after SDCC who the new Hulk will be. Some names are already being passed around, like a Mark Ruffalo and a Joaquin Phoenix, but damnit…I still will wish it was Ed Norton up there on the big screen.