Marvel To Norton: Sorry But You're Kind Of A Jerk [UPDATE]
And who says that those in power never listen to the common man? Yesterday we reported that Marvel Studios was allegedly going to go with a new actor to play Bruce Banner/the Hulk in their big action ensemble, The Avengers. Edward Norton had previously played the tortured scientist/purple pants enthusiast in 2008's The Incredible Hulk, but got into a bit of tiff with Marvel execs over his script and the focus of the movie. But late last night Marvel Studios released a statement to HitFix explaining away the whole situation.
And for a Hollywood statement, it's a remarkably candid document:
"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."
Wow. There was no, "We had separate visions" or "We enjoyed working with Ed Norton and wish him all the best," or any other typical Hollywood breakup boilerplate. What kind of a colossal dick must Norton have been to Marvel for them to publicly announce that they're only looking for easy collaborators and actors who work well with others, and that ain't you, babe? The "this isn't about money at all, by the way" proviso is just salt in the wound.
Color me disappointed that Norton won't be reprising his role as Bruce Banner; I thought his Hulk was an underrated superhero flick and he had the perfect demeanor and build for puny Banner. At least Marvel is now saying that a "name actor" will be filling the role now, rather than the complete unknown rumored yesterday. As an astute commenter wrote yesterday, they could always cast Eric Bana just to complete the circle.
Damn, this is getting contentious. Norton's agent, Brian Swardstrom of WME has just responded with the following 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.
Well, spoiler alert for anyone going to the Marvel panel at ComiCon -- looks like you're gonna get a glimpse of the whole cast together. Photo-ops aside, this is a nice little sally square back to Marvel Studios. It was ballsy of them to flat-out call Ed Norton uncooperative but sometimes ballsy will get you a punch right in the kisser.
Of course, this might all just be the greatest amount of pre-production character work ever done. After all, the whole reason why the Avengers were founded was to hunt down the Hulk and ultimately, isn't that what's going on right now?