As expected, it turns out Penn's script remains the basis for the film. However, as production drew near and the writer was needed for promotional duties on another film - The Grand - he had to leave the project where it was. Feeling the script required further work, Marvel and director Louis Leterrier brought Norton on board as both actor and writing talent.
Not to be controversial but, given Zak Penn's past work, I'm kinda hoping Norton's touch-ups are substantial.
As was proven by the brilliant American History X - on which Norton stirred controversy by taking over editing duties - the actor clearly has a special knack for what makes good storytelling. However, as the LA Times suggests, he has "acquired a reputation for stepping on writers' toes when it came to script revisions." Examples include uncredited work on then-partner Salma Hayek's Frida and turning up on the set of Red Dragon with revised dialogue for both his own character and Anthony Hopkins' Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The jury remains out, so to speak, on whether director Brett Ratner fought with Norton over the issue or in fact requested the rewrites.
Thankfully, in regards to The Incredible Hulk, things seem a little more positive. The LA Times reports:
Norton had well-established (if underground) writing experience and strong ideas about how to separate the film from any confusion over its connection to the 2003 Ang Lee version by casting it in a more distinct, starting-over vein like Batman Begins or Casino Royale.
Regardless of the politics involved, I have to say this sounds great. While Zak Penn seems to write for the fans in such a way that every scene induces a geek-gasm - at the expense of a solid overall narrative - Norton appears more likely to produce a quality film.
In a year of The Dark Knight and Iron Man, perhaps 2008 will prove - once and for all - that comic book movies needn't aim for the lowest common denominator to make money. Intelligent and dramatic stories, a good cast and major fanboy action may well be able to co-exist.
I'm looking at you, Tom Rothman.
Source: LA Times