When Edward Norton signed on to play Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, Marvel's second Phase One adventure, many fans assumed that he would return for The Avengers, which was teased at the end of Iron Man. Edward Norton eventually turned down the chance to reprise his role as the Green Machine, paving the way for Mark Ruffalo to step in. While discussing his new indie hit Birdman, which is currently playing in limited release, Edward Norton explained why he decided to step away from Hulk in a new interview with NPR.
"My feeling was that I experimented and experienced what I wanted to. I really, really enjoyed it. And yet, I looked at the balance of time in life that one spends not only making those sorts of films but then especially putting them out, and the obligations that rightly come with that. There were just a lot of things-I wanted more diversity. I sort of chose to continue on my path of having a diversity of experiences. Maybe on some unconscious level, I didn't want to have an association with one thing in any way degrade my effectiveness as an actor, in characters. I think you can sort of do anything once, but if you do it too many times, it can become a suit that's hard to take off, in other peoples' eyes. And if I had continued on with it, I wouldn't have made Moonrise Kingdom or The Grand Budapest Hotel or Birdman, because those all overlapped with [The Avengers]. And those were more the priority for me, but I continue to be a fan and I'm really, really happy I got to do it once."
"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."
That statement was met with a response from the actor's agent, Brian Swardstrom, who spoke about the negotiation process.
"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."
"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 and of Hulk and The Avengers that feel it would be rood not to respond. So here it 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 i 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?"
Of course, Edward Norton's departure from The Avengers turned out just fine for all involved. Marvel's The Avengers, with Mark Ruffalo taking over the Hulk role, took in $1.5 billion worldwide in 2012, and Edward Norton has been thriving in critically-acclaimed indie roles such as the aforementioned Moonrise Kingdom or The Grand Budapest Hotel or Birdman. Regardless, would you have liked to see Edward Norton play Hulk in The Avengers and beyond? Or are you happy with the way things worked out? Chime in with your thoughts below.