A few days back news broke that Marvel Studios had possibly made a choice not to bring The Incredible Hulk star Edward Norton back to play Bruce Banner in The Avengers. Instead, the studio decided that it would be in their better interest to go out and find an unknown actor to take on the part — a decision that most seemed to think was not the right one.
HitFix, who first broke news of Marvel’s plans, now finds themselves at the epicenter of this story’s progression as a confirmation of Norton’s omission and replacement has been given, and a response fired right back.
Marvel head Kevin Feige was the one to offer up the confirmation explaining that it was not a money thing as everyone had assumed, but a creativity and collaborative issue…clearly a knock on Norton’s reputation. The actor is known for being vocal on the set when he doesn’t agree with the direction and can sometimes be hard to work with. It could be said that this is unprofessional and not worth dealing with, but the actor’s tendencies could also simply account for his passion for a project. Feige also notes that they’re looking to bring in a name actor instead of the previously suspected “unknown,” which is at least one good thing about all of this.
Here’s the statement from Kevin Feige:
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.
Being as this is an obvious shot at the actors previous on-set dramas, Norton’s agent, Brian Swardstrom, fired right back and laid the whole story out for HitFix.
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.
And now both sides are loud and clear. All we have left to do is choose a side. So are are you Team Edward or are you Team Marvel? Yes, I went there.
The aforementioned San Diego Comic Con panel for The Avengers should be the can’t-miss attraction of the convention thus far. Just to see director Joss Whedon bring his cast — including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Samuel L. Jackson — out on stage will be something to see. Now we can only wonder if it would have been cooler with Edward Norton, or if they have a star in mind that will make us all forget.
If you can’t have Norton, who would you like to see play Bruce Banner/Hulk in The Avengers? Anyone for Eric Bana?