UPDATE:CHUD is reporting that Marvel has made an offer to actor/faux rapper Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line). This report should be considered in the rumor phase, but is nevertheless interesting. ---
Marvel producer Kevin Feige has confirmed reports that surfaced earlier this weekend that Edward Norton will not be reprising his role as Bruce Banner/The Hulk for the superhero film of all superhero films, The Avengers.HitFix received word exclusively from Feige, who implied Norton was not enough of an ensemble actor for this film. The statement caused Norton's agent to fire back.
This was Feige's statement released to HitFix: "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." It sounds to me that Feige is saying that Norton is not a team player. I don't think that would be reading too far into this. Considering if all the other actors embody creativity and team spirit, then apparently Norton doesn't. It would certainly be much easier for Feige to say what everyone was speculating, that they didn't want to add another hefty salary.
Norton's agent, Brian Swardstrom, was under the same impressions and had this to say about Feige's 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 don't know Norton, but I can't imagine he's not an agreeable guy. Then again, there were some issues with Norton not getting credit for some of his rewrites to The Incredible Hulk script. My initial guess would be that The Hulk's relative popularity to Iron Man and their expectations for Thor and Captain America have dropped the not-so-jolly green giant down on the hierarchy and Marvel intends to use him minimally in "Avengers," but Feige says they want to "announce a name actor." Perhaps they want a name, but not anyone with serious gravitas who wants an equal slice of the screen time in human, not CGI form. To be honest, The Avengers will be a disaster if the script tries to give every hero his or her own story arch.
If Feige had such a quick change of heart, there has to be something here that Marvel doesn't want to say. My hunch is it would involve revealing details about the film that Feige does not want public, or perhaps they got an even more exciting name to do it for less money than they were negotiating for. Even so, there's no reason to throw Norton's reputation under the bus.
I can certainly understand the frustration among Hulk nation, regardless about how contentious the situation is. Norton appeared to be the guy. He defines cult favorite actor and he has a knack for playing characters at war with themselves. To have their favorite superhero recast now for a third time, obliterating any chance for consistency in the series, has to be really disheartening.
Bruce Banner III should be announced soon. Many speculate the announcement at Comic Con. On the Saturday of the San Diego convention, Marvel will have panels for Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger and the expectation is this will lead into some kind of "Avengers" news.
So, what do you think is going on here and who will be the new Hulk?
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