I can't believe that they didn't lock Norton down before letting him star in the last Hulk movie, its just amazing to me that the would invest in him in the last movie having planned this and not had him guaranteed for both. I think they hoped he would bring star power to the last Hulk and people would just get so excited for this they wouldn't notice.
I've always wondered about that so I decided to dig up some dirt.
Old article, but it explains everything. Guess it was a financial decision which is ridiculous seeing the budget is $220 million already.
Marvel Studios. I want to like them. I’m really excited about Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers. But they’re schmucks. And, as it turns out, really bitchy, passive-aggressive schmucks at that.
Since Joss Whedon was hired to direct their superhero team-up film The Avengers months back, things have been quiet, and the one remaining Big Question was whether or not Edward Norton would return to play The Hulk/Bruce Banner. Already on board were Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, and Chris Evans as Captain America. But Norton was a question mark, because his experience on The Incredible Hulk didn’t exactly leave everybody hugging each other: Norton wanted to rewrite the script, and Marvel let him, but then forced director Louis Leterrier to edit a stripped-down, action-heavy version of the movie with most of Norton’s contributions excised. It was rumored that Norton would refuse to do press for the film; he ended up doing some, not a lot.
In recent months, however, whenever Norton was asked about doing The Avengers — which was pretty often — he seemed surprisingly open, if noncommittal, to the idea. Hopes grew.
Well, yesterday, hopes came crashing down in a fiery symphony of destruction. Marvel Studios’ President of Production, Kevin Feige, sent the following statement to Hitfix:
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. Let’s recap:
•Norton is not as sufficiently “creative or collaborative” as the rest of the cast.
•Norton cannot “work as part of an ensemble.”
•Norton is not sufficiently “passionate.”
Today, Norton’s agent, from the reasonable perspective of a guy doing his job trying to protect his client, released the following statement, again to Hitfix:
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.
Edward Norton has gained a reputation for being an actor with very strong opinions. At the same time, it’s not like he’s a nightmare; he’s forged a lot of working relationships and enjoys a healthy career and a lot of job offers. And even if I didn’t think Norton was a terrific actor, I’d have to side with him here. Feige’s statement, as Norton’s agent said, is unprofessional in the extreme. That’s a fact.
What’s so hard about this breakup is the disconnect. All we’re hearing is that Norton was looking forward to joining the film, was in negotiations, and then was abruptly let go. What happened behind the scenes that led to this?
The most likely answer? Despite Feige’s denial, money. Norton’s agent acknowledges that the salary negotiation “discussions” had been going on for weeks, and for Marvel to walk away when they were that far in the process means there really isn’t any other logical reason. And that’s where the scales tip even further toward Norton’s favor: Marvel is notoriously stingy with its offers. Mickey Rourke nearly walked from Iron Man 2 after they offered him only $250,000 at first, and Scarlett Johansson accepted a deal that was according to Deadline “as bad as any deal that I’ve heard…lowball money.“ On the other hand, I doubt Norton comes cheap, but Marvel would’ve had to expect that.
But salary negotiations are normal. Sometimes they break down, and it sucks, and we move on. The twisted part remains Feige’s statement, which was uncalled for and really only hurts Marvel in that it gives Norton the automatic sympathy vote. When Marvel told him they were walking away last Wednesday (July 7th), he didn’t go public with a statement insulting them, after all.
It also pisses off fans who appreciate a sense of continuity. How great would it have been for Norton to surprise the crowd at Comic-Con in two weeks? What might have been…