[UPDATE: Marvel Studios is officially recasting the Hulk for The Avengers movie - Edward Norton is out. Check out the end of the article for details.]
Since its inception, Marvel Studios has deliberately and carefully been building towards a unique and ambitious cinematic event- The Avengers. From the very first tease offered in the post-credits scene of Iron Man, fans have been salivating over the idea and watching with cautious optimism as piece after piece falls into place.
The Avengers was always going to be a challenging project for creative and logistical reasons but the glue holding it together was the excitement of seeing not only the iconic characters on screen together, but also the familiar faces of the actors we’ve come to associate with them -- which makes this latest development appear to be the first major misstep Marvel has made with the project.
Evidently, when The Avengers assemble on May 4th, 2012 - it will be without Edward Norton as the Hulk. According to HitFix:
Marvel made a decision to hire an unknown, and they informed Norton that they won't be using him in the film. And that is evidently that.
It’s widely known that Norton has had something of a troubled past with the studio but this decision wasn’t made because he declined to be a part of the film. In fact, Norton wanted to play Bruce Banner again. He even recently met with Avengers director Joss Whedon and was reportedly so excited by what he heard that he told his agency to keep his schedule open.
Prior to that meeting, his only stipulation was that The Avengers had to push the Banner character forward in some way. Norton may have a reputation for being difficult to work with but in the case of The Incredible Hulk and The Avengers it’s important to remember that what he was fighting for was his character and the story. He’s a huge fan of the comics and this stuff matters to him and he knows it matters to fans.
Passion is only part of the equation unfortunately- there’s also the financial aspect of this situation. We know Marvel initially low-balled Mickey Rourke and Samuel L. Jackson for their involvement in Iron Man 2 and with a project as immense and intimidating as The Avengers, they’re no doubt looking to cut costs wherever they can.
While details of how exactly the negotiations between Marvel and Norton fell apart are unclear, I can’t help but wonder if the studio felt the actor might just be more trouble than he’s worth.
Norton’s performance was hands down my favorite part of The Incredible Hulk so this news is particularly troubling to me. There’s just absolutely no way I can see an unknown actor bringing the same weight and authority to that role. I understand the pressure to control costs, but the true value of this property is not in its budget or box-office gross- it’s the innovative execution of something that’s never been attempted before. As the HitFix article so perfectly sums it up:
“Avengers assemble" is more than just a nifty slogan for a ball cap. It's a call to arms for a one-of-a-kind movie event. Please... treat it that way. The rewards will be worth the effort.
It's official, Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige has released an official statement - confirming the studio is in fact ditching Norton and recasting a more "collaborative" Hulk-worthy actor for The Avengers:
"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."
Norton himself has responded to Marvel's announcement with this note on his Facebook Page:
How do you feel about The Avengers minus Edward Norton? Is this a big mistake on Marvel’s part or do you think it’s possible that an unknown can deliver in the role?
I guess this goes against the rumored plans to have Norton appear on stage as part of the Marvel presentation at San Diego Comic-Con.