Ed Norton Replaced As The Hulk

Marvel wants a fresh green face

As the start date for shooting Marvel Studios’ ambitious, multi-character epic The Avengers gets ever closer, confirmed details for the film are still few and far between. While everyone expects Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark and Sam “signed for nine billion films” Jackson’s Nick Fury to crop up alongside Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Chris Evans as Captain America, we still have no official word on whether the Hulk will appear or who will play him. And according to Drew McWeeny at HitFix, it looks like it won’t be Edward Norton.

Yep, it would appear that Norton is not in their current plan, despite the relative success of The Incredible Hulk. Since Norton himself seems interested in making it work, there’s no clear reason for why the company would be hunting around for someone new.

But there are possibilities. For one, a newcomer would be cheaper, and given how much the producers will need to spend on The Avengers to make it work, it’s not shocking that the purse strings would tighten somewhere. And secondly, Norton didn’t exactly endear himself to the Marvel brass with his actions as the Hulk was being edited.

So now the choice for Bruce Banner appears to be up in the air, like many things about the film itself. Even the choice of director, though despite the lack of official confirmation, Joss Whedon is widely assumed to have that job locked up. And given how many people have mentioned him taking meetings and talking about the subject, it would seem near set in stone that he’ll be anointed at Comic Con in a couple of weeks. For sheer entertainment value, we hope Marvel brings a line-up of well-known possibilities to the stage at the end, and proceeds to dump slime on those unlucky enough not to win the job. Wouldn’t that make it more fun?

Update: Hitfix has now got an official confirmation from Marvel that the company is moving away from Norton. "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."

Ouch... as breakup statements go, that's definitely an "it's not us, it's you" deal...

Update The Second: Oh, it's on! Norton's agents have now hit back, releasing their side of the story in a statement via HitFix. You can read the whole thing over there, but it boils down to an accusation of bad faith on Marvel's behalf after Norton had an agreeable meeting with Joss Whedon over the role, and that negotiations were well under way when the company called to say they were going to find someone else.

Final Update: Now Norton has released his own statement on the matter, regretting the decision that was made. "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 Leterrier 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?"

So now it's official, who would you pick to replace Norton? Or are you now planning to boycott the film? Speak out!

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