Ed Norton Ousted from Hulk Job In Nasty Online Back-and-Forth

Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk
Photo: Universal Pictures

On Saturday I posted the recent news (via HitFix) Marvel had decided they were going to cast ‘an unknown’ to play Bruce Banner and The Hulk in the upcoming superhero ensemble feature The Avengers as opposed to bringing Edward Norton back to reprise the role he played in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. In the post I asked readers what they thought of the decision and already 868 people have voted with 777 of you (89%) saying “yes” you want Norton back in the role to maintain franchise continuity. Well, it looks like the 91 people that either voted “no” or that they didn’t care won out.

HitFix’s Drew McWeeny has been all over the story and received updates from both Marvel Studios’ President of Production Kevin Feige (read here) as well as Edward Norton’s agent, Brian Swardstrom of WME (read here). I will start with Feige’s email as forwarded to McWeeny and we’ll go from there”

“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.”

A friend sent that above statement to me late last night and in his email he wrote, “Marvel was passing on Norton, okay. But look at the WAY they’re passing. It’s a big FUCK YOU to Norton.” It seems Norton’s agent felt the exact same way, but Swardstrom was a little more verbose… Have a look:

“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

The Avengers will be directed by Joss Whedon (Serenity) and it sounds like the Comic Con crowd may get the first introduction to the complete cast on July 24th in San Diego. Right now Feige and “special guests” are set to present Thor and The First Avenger: Captain America to the Comic Con crowd that night at 6 PM and it would make for a perfect opportunity to reveal the rest of the Avengers cast as well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Norton will be on stage with the likes of Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Evans (Captain America), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and/or whomever else is invited to attend.

The Avengers is already set to be released on May 4, 2012 with production expected to begin sometime early next year. I did a massive update on the Avengers film status following Comic Con last year (read that here) and at the time Feige was quoted by Collider when asked if Norton would be in the film and he said, “I think he will be [in it], absolutely.” My, what a difference a year makes.

Of course, there were always reports of tension between Norton and Marvel prior to the release of Hulk, which Norton did virtually zero publicity for all while releasing a statement disputing all the nasty rumors.

Any of you have any thoughts on the matter?