It’s a good thing for Marvel Studios execs that Edward Norton hasn’t been exposed to gamma radiation like his on-screen counterpart, Dr. Bruce Banner, otherwise the threads of his shirt would be ripping as I type. In case you missed it, Friday we reported Marvel’s confirmation that Edward Norton would not be reprising his turn as The Hulk in the superhero crossover flick The Avengers. According to the press release Marvel sent Hitfix, Norton’s lack of involvement in the project was not a monetary decision but rather, “rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.”
You certainly don’t need a lot of experience in reading subtext to decipher that Marvel is calling into question Norton’s creativity (a seemingly unfounded accusation of an actor of Norton’s caliber) as well as his ability to be a team player (that may or may not be a different story). As a result, and in classic eye-for-an-eye style, today Norton’s agent Brian Swardstrom has come to his client’s defense with a press release of his own.
Hit the jump to check out Swardstrom’s full rebuttal as well as a brief overview of the Marvel/Norton story thus far.
“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.
When Norton was originally cast as everyone’s favorite green Avenger back in 2007, few could have predicted the messy fallout that is now occurring between Marvel and the actor. After all, his addition to the franchise was the key component necessary in reviving the character on the silver screen after the full-scale failure that was Ang Lee’s Hulk. Moreover, in spite of how you may feel about how 2008′s The Incredible Hulk turned out, Norton’s presence alone brought an aura of excitement to the character’s film future that was previously non-existent. In spite of this excitement, however, shortly after the film’s release much was made of Norton’s apparent disapproval of its final cut and, from there, Marvel’s relationship with the actor has seemed shaky at best.
Which brings us to today, where we surprisingly find Marvel and Norton’s representation Internet-sparring via press release and, most importantly, an integral part of The Avengers left unfilled only weeks before Marvel plans to unveil the entire cast at Comic-Con. As a fan of both Norton’s and Marvel’s, I can only hope that some sense of pragmatism will have prevailed between the two parties by that time. Regardless, though, it is becoming increasingly likely that when The Avengers cast takes the stage in San Diego, there will be a giant void where a green giant should be.