Marvel dumps Edward Norton from Avengers movie?

Edward Norton won’t be playing Hulk in The Avengers movie, as Marvel releases a pointed statement saying why.

As Marvel continues to put its multi-superhero movie masterplan together, we already know that the likes of Iron Man, Captain America and, of course, Nick Fury, are set to take to the screen in 2012 for its Avengers movie. But one question mark has always been raised over where exactly Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk fits into the project. Not the character (who hasn’t been confirmed for inclusion, but it’s widely assumed that he’ll be in there), rather the actor who will be playing him.

Taking the lead in the last Hulk movie was Edward Norton, and you don’t have to spend much time with Google to recall rumours of just what an unhappy ship that movie’s production appeared to be. Norton was reportedly unhappy with the final cut of the film, and that led to speculation that he wouldn’t be taking part in The Avengers.

However, then rumours arose that Norton was in discussions with Marvel about reprising the role of Bruce Banner on the big screen, which was a surprise, but not unwelcome news.

Yet Marvel now appears to have pulled the rug. For over the weekend, it released a statement confirming that Norton would not be taking part in the film. What’s particularly interesting about the statement is just how terse it is: there’s no Hollywood gloss, and if you had no idea beforehand that all was not well between Norton and Marvel, it didn’t leave you in much doubt by the end of it.

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The statement, released by Marvel Studios’ President of Production Kevin Feige to the HitFix site read:

“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.”

Ouch.

You can read the HitFix story in full here

However, there’s more. For Edward Norton’s agent read the above statement too, and wasn’t very happy about it at all. And now he too has released a statement, again to HitFix. His agent, Brian Swardstrom, has the following to add.

“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. 

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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.”

The full statement is here.

It’s little secret that Marvel is frugal in the amount of money it pays actors for its films, and we’d be surprised if the two major contributory factors here weren’t money and Norton’s previous relationship with Marvel. However, we can’t remember the last time we saw such a pointed statement from a film production company over a casting decision.

On the upside, it does look as though Joss Whedon is definitely down to direct The Avengers. But get ready now for another exhaustive Marvel casting process to begin, this time for The Hulk in The Avengers.

Anyone got Eric Bana’s number?