Like most superhero fans, I really enjoyed the second Hulk movie, ‘The Incredible Hulk’ starring Edward Norton. I was not a huge fan of Ang Lee’s ‘Hulk’, I felt he missed the main point of the Hulk which was to have fun and, well, quite frankly, Hulk Smash!
The off screen issues of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ are fairly well covered. Edward Norton re-wrote a lot of the script and apparently (I wasn’t there of course) was a bit of a control freak during the production. There was also talk of him not wanting to do press for the finished film. When they announced ‘The Avengers’ was going to be a film, my geek heart leapt with joy, but would Edward Norton reprise his role as Bruce Banner? The Hulk does feature a lot in The Avengers comics and Marvel seems to have a plan about uniting all of the individual characters that they are making films of, but would Edward Norton, not the industry’s best team player, return to the role. The little tag at the end of ‘The Incredible Hulk’, the one with Stark and General Ross in the bar, would indicate that Marvel does indeed plan to use the Hulk in ‘The Avengers’, but would Edward Norton return to the role?
The answer is simple, no. The lead up to the simple answer is not so simple.
Three days ago HitFix posted an article saying that although Edward Norton was interested, Marvel was not going to have him return to the role and instead want an unknown to play Bruce Banner. This is weird considering how careful Marvel has been in getting their films and characters just right in the lead up to ‘The Avengers’.
On July 10th HitFix again put up information about this. This time Marvel producer Kevin Feige issued a statement on this. He said:
“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.”
This would definitely solidify the rumours of Edward Norton’s difficult behaviour. What Kevin Feige is saying, very nicely mind you, is that he has a large cast of big names in ‘The Avengers’ and he doesn’t need ego problems.
Let’s just pause for moment and reflect on ‘The Avengers’, what are we talking about when we talk about big names? Avenger’s Assemble! Chris Evans (Captain America), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Don Cheadle (War Machine), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury). Add to this The Wasp and The Hulk and possibly The Vision and you have a very expensive and ego filled cast already. And if that wasn’t enough, it is written and directed by geek god Joss Whedon (‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’, ‘Angel’, ‘Firefly’, ‘Serenity’ and ‘Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog’). If Norton has already displayed behaviour that could rock this boat it is not unreasonable for Feige to be concerned.
I held off reporting on this a few days ago until I some had solid news and today Norton’s agent, Brian Swardstrom of WME has released a press statement (source: hitfix) to counter Marvel’s. It is pretty damning stuff, I would say that there is now a little bad blood between the two camps. Here is the 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.
I will say that I am one of those fans he is talking about, I really wanted Edward Norton to return to the role. I loved the idea of the continuity that Marvel is trying to create between their films. Okay, so they hit a minor speed bump when they replaced Terrence Howard (Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes) with Don Cheadle in the ‘Iron Man’ franchise, but at least it was a secondary character. As a comic reader, the character crossover is the one thing that films could never capture due to different studios producing the various movies. With Marvel producing their own films, it is the closest that we will ever get to that sense of universe continuity.
I guess the last thing I’ll say on this is that I really still hold out hope that Marvel and Norton patch things up and Edward Norton does return as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, I would just love to see that version of ‘The Avengers’. In Joss we trust.
Okay, comic fans assemble! What are your thoughts on all of this? Comments below.