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Marvel Fires First, Norton Fires Back, Phoenix Might Hulk Out

If your eyebrow is raised from the news floating over the weekend that Edward Norton will not be returning to the Marvel fold as the lovable green menace for The Avengers, you’re probably not alone. We fans have been left standing in flustered silence at several of Marvel’s decisions, but this one might be the most nonsensical from an outsider’s point of view.

We tried to gain some perspective, but my calls to Marvel went unreturned – either because they don’t care to comment or because I actually called a local pizza parlor to order lunch instead. Luckily, the studio released an incendiary statement and, like an old, shotgun-wielding man being robbed, Edward Norton fired back in a must-read pair of dueling press releases.

First, here’s what Marvel’s Kevin Feige had to say:

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.”

And here’s Edward Norton’s response via his agent:

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.

Brian Swardstrom

WME”

And here’s what they both say in plain English:

I thought we had a good thing, baby. Why you wanna do me like this?” – Edward Norton

We’re just not that into you.” – Marvel

This all comes on the eve of Comic-Con where Marvel will be expected to unveil their entire Avengers crew. If rumors are to be believed, the offer has gone out to Joaquin Phoenix to take over the role.

Man, I hate it when rappers think they can act.

It might be just me, but Marvel looks like the catty powers-that-be that Swardstrom makes them out to be. Norton uncreative? That just rings false. It’s well known that he likes a massive amount of control over the projects he’s in (including Incredible Hulk), but I have to wonder what the real story is. Is it really the case that he was unbearable to work with to the point of using the nuclear option?

Whatever the case, you can guarantee that we’ll never know. It’s a Hulk-said, Marvel-said situation that’s intractable at this point. From a public perception standpoint, Marvel needs to explain this better (and without the passive aggressive statements) if they expect to come out looking better than they do.

What do you think?

Source: HitFix

A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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