Marvel Studios has officially confirmed that they have decided not to bring back Edward Norton to reprise his role as Bruce Banner, aka The Incredible Hulk, in the superhero crossover flick The Avengers. This is rather disappointing news, since Norton’s performance was the high spot of the Hulk’s generally forgettable 2008 film (though that film was still leagues ahead of Ang Lee and Eric Bana’s out-and-out terrible 2003 version, Hulk). Norton and the studio have been at odds for some time now over the actor’s salary were he to join The Avengers, but the studio took some (rather unnecessary) pot shots in their statement from President of Production Kevin Feige:
“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 [Downey Jr.], Chris H[emsworth], Chris E[vans], Sam [Jackson], Scarlett [Johansson], 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. You’re trying to tell me that Ed Norton, generally considered to be one of the finest, bravest actors working in Hollywood today and #20 on my list of actors most overdue for an Oscar, doesn’t embody the “creativity and collaborative spirit” of Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson, and doesn’t “thrive working as part of an ensemble?” That’s just mean-spirited to put that in a press release like this. No word yet who the studio hopes to pick up the role, although the favorite of the rumor mill at the moment is Sharlto Copley, the breakout star of last year’s District 9 last seen in The A-Team. Not a bad choice if they can get him, but I for one will severely miss having someone of Norton’s caliber around to play off of Robert Downey Jr.