Back in 2010 when Marvel reported that Edward Norton would be replaced as the Hulk for The Avengers, tensions seemed pretty high. Only two years after Norton's iteration of the green giant in The Incredible Hulk, Marvel claimed that negotiations with Norton soured when they realized he wouldn't work as well in a team production like Avengers. On the other side of the table, Noton's people stated that Marvel tried low-balling the actor and retracted their offer to use the script that Norton had written himself. Sounds pretty intense.
Fast forward four years and, in a recent interview with NPR Fresh Air, Norton seems to be telling a very different story about the whole thing and chalks it up to a creative decision.
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 Grand Budapest, or Birdman, because those all overlapped with [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.
Yup, I like this version of the story much more. But...it kind of contradicts what we have all understood about the situation in the past, like we wrote about a few months ago:
The movie largely got a bad rap due to the enormously publicized falling-out Bruce Banner/Hulk actor Edward Norton had with Marvel Studios. Norton was painted as the bad guy, but the blame was really on both sides. See, when Norton was cast as Bruce Banner, it was with the promise that he could have a lot of creative control over the project. He even went so far as to completely rewrite the script, which, as you might understand, was a lot of work. But the head honchos didn't like Norton's darker story and ultimately decided to work with Zak Penn's original script. Tempers flared, and unfortunately, the media caught wind of it and turned it into a much bigger deal than it actually had been at the time, fuelling the rift between Norton and Marvel. In the end, it was decided it was better for both parties that the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk be recast, leading to Mark Ruffalo putting on the shredded pants of the big, green rage-monster and Marvel denying the existence of The Incredible Hulk for a decade, much like the rest of us try to pretend Spider-Man 3 never happened.
So...what really happened? Was it really just a simple matter of Norton wanting to try different things? Or was there really a nasty falling out? Fans still wonder about this, but it appears we'll never know.
In the end, it really worked out for both parties. Marvel was able to cast Mark Ruffalo, who makes an incredible Bruce Banner/Hulk. And Norton has been able to work with directors like Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, Grand Budapest Hotel) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, Birdman) to create some of the best and most dynamic characters in modern cinema.
I think many of us will agree that while Norton's performance was admirable, his talents are much better suited for other films. His skill set would have likely been wasted, or at least limited, by getting tied into a multi-film contract for [The Avengers](movie:9040) franchise.
[Birdman](movie:780317) is currently in theaters and has been recieving rave reviews, complimented by a lot of Oscar buzz. Meanwhile, [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](movie:293035) (which had a major trailer leak, if you've been living under a rock or something since yesterday) is set to hit theaters on May 1, 2015.