On Friday we heard that Marvel intends to replace Edward Norton as The Hulk with a different actor for The Avengers, with Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige saying they have a “need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members”. He was saying Norton isn’t a team player, basically.
Well Norton’s agent, Brian Swardstrom, wasn’t too happy about Feige’s statement so he delivered a Hulk smash of his own in response.
“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.
So it appears Edward Norton was in talks to return but Marvel didn’t want to meet Norton’s financial requests. I suppose both sides are to blame but if I were Marvel I would have just sweetened the deal slightly so that Norton was happy and then get on with making the movie.
Maybe Marvel would have been a bit more generous if The Incredible Hulk made more of an impact at the box office. At the moment Iron Man/Downey Jr. are the stars of the show and, while I would prefer Norton to return, The Avengers can still make $500 million+ without Norton. And that is how studios will look at it ultimately.
Expect the new Bruce Banner to be revealed at Comic Con in just over 2 weeks time.