Ed Norton Won’t Be The Hulk in the Avengers Movie, to the Surprise of Ed Norton

If you're an Avengers fan, there were quite a few big scoops for you this weekend at Hitfix.com, a site I'd never heard of but apparently need to bookmark immediately. For starters, writer Drew McWeeny broke the news on Friday that Incredible Hulk star Ed Norton will not be reprising his role as Bruce Banner in Joss Whedon's upcoming Avengers movie.

On the face of it, this headline may not come as much of a surprise to many people. Those who followed the making of The Incredible Hulk will recall that Norton (who had a hand in rewriting the script) clashed with the studio pretty publicly over final cut of that film, and that a similar controversy surrounded the final cut of American History X. He is clearly a "hands-on" star, and as Avengers moved closer to production, there were those of us who thought the idea of Norton playing fourth banana and sharing equal billing with Thor seemed somewhat unlikely.

Apparently, though, we doubters had it wrong the whole time. If McWeeny is to be believed–and it certainly sounds as though he's done some honest-to-God journalism for this story–Norton had met at length with Whedon, and both were pretty psyched about working together to realize Whedon's vision for the project. He was apparently telling his people to keep his schedule clear for the film when word came from Marvel that his services would not be required. Marvel being Marvel, the immediate assumption was that they were being frugal, as they allegedly were when they replaced Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2.

Then people started going public.

On Saturday, just to add a top note of acid to the taste in everyone's mouth, Marvel released a statement in which they said, "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…." all but explicitly saying, "There's no working with this guy." The statement didn't even include so much as an "Ed's a brilliant, talented actor, but…."

Needless to say, within a day Norton's agents responded with a statement of their own, saying that Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige himself had approached them asking Norton to meet with Whedon, and that presenting the reasons for their parting as anything other than financial was "unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory."

Finally, today CHUD reported that sources so reliable they don't have to tell you their names are saying Norton will be replaced by the famously level-headed, easy to work with Joaquin Phoenix. No one has publicly confirmed this, but time is running short if Marvel plans to announce this film's lineup at Comic Con. Hitfix has pointed out that Whedon is scheduled to be at Comic Con for a handful of panels that don't have much to do with anything, suggesting strongly that he'll be on hand to preside over an announcement like this at the Thor or Captain America panel.

Personally, I have no idea what to make of any of this. On the plus side, the requisite Joss Whedon Studio Interference is now out of the way, so we'll all have a goat to point to if things don't go our way with this one. And, needless to say, this frees up the Hulk role for Nathan Fillion.

UPDATE: Ed Norton has now released a rather classy statement of his own… as a Facebook photo.


  1. hahah lovin it. 

  2. Eh, not that Norton’s portrayal was bad, but they still need to find their Robert Downey for Bruce Banner. It’s not like people have been talking about how awesome Banner was and are clamoring for more of him. I think Millar nailed it with Steve Buscemi in Ultimates – brilliant but insecure and socially awkward, someone who can be pushed around but make you regret it.

    Phoenix would be exactly wrong.

  3. They really should not have made him angry.

  4. Seems like he was interested, too bad. I enjoyed his portrayal and it would have been nice continuity.


    I guess Eric Bana is out. 

  5. I for one always found it hard to believe an Avengers movie would be difficult to do due to big-name stars not being able to be in a movie together.  about that…

  6. I had heard of this before but I hadn’t seen the statement from Marvel. Its just Hollywood BS people to me its no different than another artist taking over on a book. He’ll look a little different and it may not be as good but its essentially the same.(Hopefully)

  7. More than the other characters, it’s all about the Hulk – CG, rubber suited, puppet whatever – not the secret identity.  If you have a great story and the animated Hulk works across from the other actors, fans will be happy.  After all, Banner is just a puny human.

  8. This is horrible.

  9. I really enjoyed the last Hulk movie and thought Norton was good so this is a massive shame if he really did want to be involved.  I can’t imagine the Joaquin rumor being true.  That seems like an insane choice.

  10. Edward Norton is not crucial to the making of "The Avengers." If he was difficult, I don’t blame Marvel for bouncing him. I doubt that he understands the Hulk better than the creative people at Marvel. If Norton wanted too much money, then buh bye! Marvel is making a statement that their characters are the stars, not the actors. I would rather see the money on the screen than have an actor pocket it.  Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody or even Casey Affleck would be fine as Bruce Banner.  Marvel might even find an unknown who can play the part well.

  11. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    This is exactly how I felt when I heard that Grant Elliot would be taking over the role of George Newton in Beethoven’s Big Break. There is only one George Newton, and that’s Charles Grodin. 

  12. @invasionforce    Dude! Casey Affleck would be amazing as Banner. Holy F!

  13. Big mistake.  Ed Norton’s portrayal of Banner was (by far) the best thing about the last Hulk movie.

  14. So Marvel pulled the same thing with Norton as they did with Alan Moore… kinda?

    Don’t want Phoenix for the part. In my dream world I would have Neil Patrick Harris, and with Whedon directing, that’s not a big stretch.

  15. Robert Downey Jr. made Iron Man successful.

    Iron Man made Robert Downey Jr. successful again.

    But strangely it wasn’t Iron Man, the character, that had the star power to achieve a high grossing film.

    Kinda paradoxical, but true.

  16. The real reason Ed Norton was fired is because all corporations, Marvel included, are compelled to mess with all Joss Whedon projects.

  17. @Paul: So true.

    The Norton statement exudes class, and is actually not his style, as these things go. However, Joaquin Phoenix could be an AWESOME choice for Banner, depending on which Joaquin you get on the set. He is a fabulous actor, my friends, and has the CV to prove it.

  18. Damn. Ed Norton was the perfect Banner and I loved Incredible Hulk. This sucks.

  19. I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all. Stop recasting, Marvel! … and give me a new Captain America …

  20. I really liked The Incredible Hulk. I know this is blasphemous,but I liked it even more than Iron Man. I’m interested to see who they end up casting in the role.

  21. Sorry to see Ed Norton let go, but Marvel could hit it out of the park if they cast Michael Emerson (Ben Linus from Lost) as Bruce Banner.  That would be incredible.

  22. That is an excellent letter.  I’d like to think it is sincere.  If it isn’t, then he PR person deserves a raise.

  23. I liked him in that. I don’t think they can find a Downey to play Banner though. Tony Stark is a cool guy, Bruce Banner, not a cool guy.

  24. Wait, is Joaquin Phoenix back from the crazy? Last I heard of him, he was still trying his hand at becoming a rapper and being a douche at talk shows.

     Anyway, shame about Ed Norton. He’s one of my favourite actors, but I can see why he would be let go due to money reasons. It would be the Hulk on-screen for the most part of the film so it seems like a waste to hire such an expensive actor for such little screen time. But still, continuity would be nice. It’s also kind of cruel to blame his departure on him being a cancer even though it seems he was so on board with Whedon’s vision instead of salary reasons. With Whedon’s track record, the studio execs are usually the real cancers…

  25. Ed would have been cool. Doesn’t matter though as he would have only been on screen for about ten minutes and the rest of the time we’d be watching a green digital cartoon.

  26. I read about this earlier, and Marvel comes off sounding kind of dickish in the whole thing, but hey, it’s the business of making movies and I’m sure it happens all the time.  I did enjoy Norton’s take on Banner.  Plus, I was always interested in the director’s cut of the movie because I had read a lot about the many changes that were made from Norton and company’s original script and take.  Oh well, such is the dazzle of Hollywood.

  27. For everyone saying this is the company trying to ruin Whedon, think about it. Norton loves to be in control. He rewrites or "polishes" the scripts for pretty much every movie he does. Would you want Marvel to allow him to rewrite something Whedon wrote? Would you like him telling Whedon how to direct?

    If you are looking at this from being a Whedon fan, there is no way you can see this as a bad thing. 

  28. @KahunaBlair: Considering Whedon’s feature film track record… yes.  😉

  29. Norton is not the deal breaker for me to see the Avengers. Give me Hulk without Banner and I’ll be fine

  30. @Conor – Touche, sir.

  31. Eh, I think Marvel was just trying to cut costs. 

    So far Marvel Studios has a mixed track record.

    Iron Man was awesome almost by accident (no script!)

    Incredible Hulk was incredibly generic and by the numbers. I still want to see the Norton/Director’s cut.

    Iron Man II was fun, but a huge mess. And Don Cheadle had no chemistry with RDJ. 

    Personally, I really wanted to see Norton/RDJ banter. So big disappointment.

  32. Arrrggghhh (@Arrrggghhh) says:

    Personally, I never felt Hulk was an Avenger.

    I know the history . . . but I think the Avengers was simply marketing all the popular Marvel characters together back in the 60’s. It was a great selling gimmick at the time. It didn’t take long for them to drop the Hulk from the Avengers because his character didn’t won’t in such a title. You couldn’t have true teamwork with Hulk in the group.

    As for the movie, if Hulk is needed in the story, just go CGI — don’t need a talkin’ head Banner.
    But I’d really rather they just not include Hulk at all.

  33. It is pretty disappointing that this happened. Ed Norton is an awesome actor & he did produce the ‘better’ Bruce Banner/Hulk performance. That being said a couple of these replacement suggestions are really sounding pretty great. First off Joaquinn Phoenix, idk about him really he has been very controversial over the past few year(s?) but he can bring a lot of humanity, grace, & the sense of pity in Banner that would enhance the character by ten-fold. Now, granted Adrien Brody may be able to do the same, but really I can not really imagine being scared of an angry Adrien Brody & he might actually play Banner as too much of a ‘why me’ type of character & that can get very annoying very quickly (look @ Brubaker’s run on Daredevil). Now Steve Buscemi is a very fine actor, but he just seems a bit too old to me. I mean he must be passed his 40s & in his mid-50s by now right? No we really need a Banner that is oldest mid-30s youngest late 20s to early 30s. So I think that Joaquinn Phoenix would probably IMO be the better pick if he is out of his crazy world & is able to play-ball & be serious with playing the character to heart. Pray that Marvel makes a smart choice in re-casting! The wrong actor could bring Avengers down a bit!

  34. I got the perfect replacement: Don Cheadle

  35. Joseph Gordon-Levitt would be the best replacement. Joaquinn Phoenix is grabage and he would only bring the movie down. I’d have Levitt as my top pick followed by Faraday from LOST. Both would be perfect.

  36. @bigben2012: Good point!!!

  37. I think the Joaquin Phoenix crazy-rap-thing was performance art?  At least, Casey Affleck was apparently following him around with a camera the whole time.

    Now I want Casey Affleck to play Rick Jones.

  38. I liked Norton as Banner, but this is hardly a deal breaker for me. I’m not seeing Avengers for the Hulk. Here’s hoping that Pheonix thing is a rumor though. Ugh.

    Norton’s letter was classy indeed. With all this behind him, I hope he’ll start making good movies again.  


    Then I realized you meant Joaquin 🙁 🙁 🙁 

    /X-Men nerd

  40. @ohcaroline: Haha. Sorry to get your hopes up. I wouldn’t be opposed to her making an appearance though. She could certainly use the reboot.

  41. I’m indiferent on the whole Hulk thing.  I mean is he really an avenger let alone a hero.  To me the Hulks real power is super Luckyness because all he really does is just throw shit everywhere and happens to hit baddies. 

    but to be serious.  Norton was a great banner, and to me so was Bana (though before u rip me apart, the movie itself was majorly flawed).  To be honest i dont think Banner is to complex of a character to cast or portray. I don’t see him as a major game changer in the storyline of Avengers and for that reason i dont think a recast will make much of a difference….For now it’s all in the hands of joss.