July 12, '10, update: First Marvel's Kevin Feige lambasted Edward Norton, who played Bruce Banner in Louis Leterrier's 2008 The Incredible Hulk, in a missive sent to hitfix.com. Feige bluntly explained that Norton's temper had been the cause for the actor's being dropped from the upcoming The Avengers.
Then Norton's agent lambasted Feige for having sent out such an undiplomatic – and, according to the agent, also untrue – notification about his client.
Now it's Edward Norton's turn to comment on the matter in a carefully worded note posted on his Facebook page:
“As most of you know, I don't like to talk much about the business of making movies because it means a lot to me to protect the audience's fullest enjoyment of the 'magic' that films can have. But I am so appreciative of the outpouring of support from fans of the Hulk and the Avengers that I feel it would be rude not to respond.
“So here goes: It seems it won't work out for me to continue playing Bruce Banner for Marvel in 'The Avengers.' I sincerely hoped it could happen and be great for everyone, but it hasn't turned out as we all hoped. I know this is disappointing to many people and that makes me sad.
“But I am very sincerely grateful to Marvel for extending the offer and even more so for giving me the chance to be a part of the Hulk's long and excellent history. And I really can't thank the fans enough for how much enthusiasm you've sent my way about what Louis and I tried to do in our turn with the legend. It means a lot to me. I grew up with Banner and Hulk and have been a fan of every incarnation.
“I'm really proud, and very blessed, to have been one of them and will be thrilled to see him live on through other actors. Hulk is bigger than all of us, that's why we love him, right?"
Photo: Universal Pictures / Marvel
Edward Norton as Bruce Banner in Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk
Edward Norton, the star of the 2008 hit The Incredible Hulk and an Academy Award nominee for Primal Fear and American History X, will not be returning as Bruce Banner and his green & brawny alter ego in the upcoming Marvel Studios film adaptation of The Avengers.
To be directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers should star (some of those names have only been rumored) Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (the Black Widow), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Don Cheadle (War Machine), and Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson).
Regarding Edward Norton, with whom Marvel had a falling out at the time The Incredible Hulk came out – Norton was reportedly unhappy with the film's ending and refused to do publicity for it – Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige sent the following missive to HitFix.com:
“We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in the [sic] 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. … We are looking to announce a name actor who fulfills these requirements, and is passionate about the iconic role in the coming weeks.”
In response to Marvel's actions, Norton's William Morris Endeavor agent Brian Swardstrom has also sent HitFix his side of the story (full text at HitFix.com):
“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. … 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. …
“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. … 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.”
Edward Norton The Incredible Hulk photo: Universal Pictures.