Marvel: Norton Won’t Return As Hulk For ‘Avengers’; Norton’s Rep Responds

Edward Norton won’t be reprising his role as the Incredible Hulk in 2012’s “The Avengers,” a Marvel rep confirmed to Access Hollywood on Sunday.

Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige explained the decision in a 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,’” Feige told the site. “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.”

The actors referred to in the statement include current Marvel stars Robert Downey Jr. (“Iron Man”), Chris Hemsworth (“Thor), Chris Evans (“Captain America: The First Avenger”), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Scarlett Johansson (“Iron Man 2’s” Black Widow), who are expected to reprise their superhero roles in team-up film “The Avengers.”

A rep for Norton responded to the statement to Hitfix on Sunday, calling it “purposefully misleading” and claiming that his client had been in discussions to return to the role.

“This offensive statement from Kevin Feige at Marvel is a purposefully misleading, inappropriate attempt to paint our client in a negative light,” the rep told the site. “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 [Comic-Con] 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 [director] 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.”

However, the rep further claimed, the talks fell apart last week.

“Marvel subsequently made him a financial offer to be in the film and both sides started negotiating in good faith,” he told Hitfix. “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.”

Norton played the role of Bruce Banner and his alter-ego, the Incredible Hulk, in 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk,” a reboot/follow-up to 2003’s “The Hulk,” which starred Eric Bana in the title role. Reports of a feud between the actor and the studio emerged along with the film, however, with Norton finally issuing a statement to Entertainment Weekly to address the rumors.

“Every good movie gets forged through collaboration, and different ideas among people who are all committed and respect the validity of each other’s opinions is the heart of filmmaking,” he told the mag in April 2008. “Regrettably, our healthy process, which is and should be a private matter, was misrepresented publicly as a ‘dispute,’ seized on by people looking for a good story, and has been distorted to such a degree that it risks distracting from the film itself.”

With Marvel hosting panels at the San Diego Comic-Con International later this month, news on who will replace Norton – and perhaps further casting information – seems likely to emerge in the weeks to come.

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