What The Avengers Will Be Like Without Edward Norton

By  · Published on July 10th, 2010

Not so good, if my calculations are correct. The news this evening is that Edward Norton, star of The Incredible Hulk, has been ousted for the role of Bruce Banner, also known as The Hulk for the upcoming Joss Whedon directed Avengers film, due out in 2012. But it’s not just that he’s out. Like Lebron James kicking Cleveland and his legacy to the curb, it’s about how the situation is being handled that matters. Apparently not only is Marvel not using Norton, they are keeping The Hulk. And get this – they are looking to hire an unknown in his place.

The news broke over at HitFix, where Drew McWeeney accuses Marvel of going against the all-important “Avengers assemble” mantra. It’s “more than just a nifty slogan for a ball cap,” he pleads. “It’s a call to arms for a one-of-a-kind movie event.”

The details are that sources inside Marvel Studios are saying that director Joss Whedon has been meeting with cast members for the big team-up – the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth – and that there might even be a big cast reveal at Comic-Con. Whedon has even spoken with Edward Norton, and the result was very warm feelings all around. For all intents and purposes, it sounds like Norton and Whedon were ready to make sweet music in one of the biggest comic book-related events this universe has ever seen. Until it all went dead.

According to McWeeny, Marvel is moving on. They are looking for another actor and leaving Norton out of the mix, most likely having something to do with money. And that’s where it gets interesting. I can see two possible reasons for why Marvel would walk away from Norton: (a) he wants more money than they’re willing to pay – Marvel has been known to be cheaper than my rich uncle, or (b) The Hulk’s role in the Avengers film is so small that it wouldn’t be worth the money, even if Norton was willing to work on the cheap.

The fact is that Ed Norton isn’t locked into 9-picture deals like some of the other actors. Downey is contracted, Jackson is in, the two men of designation Chris are locked in real cheap. Edward Norton’s participation would require some negotiation. And not just over money. As Marvel found out with the Hulk movie, Norton is rather picky about his scripts, his directors, and apparently even what happens in the edit bay. The part we don’t know is whether or not Ed Norton and Marvel have a good working relationship. They may not like each other anymore. And then when it comes time to negotiate, Marvel turns into a well-scorned soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend.

Just ask Terrence Howard.

In fact, the thought of Terrence Howard brings up an interesting point. Marvel doesn’t seem to care as much about continuity as they do about business. We know this to be true. They cut Howard out of the Iron Man franchise at the drop of a hat and replaced him, for better or worse, with Don Cheadle. What that proved is that no actor is irreplaceable in the eyes of Marvel. And while we will fight it here in the blogosphere, led passionately by the likes of Drew McWeeney, we can’t stop it. We may even go along with it. Why? Because even if there are bumps in the road to The Avengers, it’s a road we want to be on. Marvel has fandom caught. Hook, line and sinker. No matter how angry this makes us now (and it does), they will do something to help us forget. And the face in the crowd who steps forward to become The Hulk won’t make any difference – we’ll just be glad to finally have that Avengers movie.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)