When "The Avengers" assemble in theaters everywhere in 2012, the rapidly growing superhero franchise will be minus one major player: Edward Norton will not be reprising his role as Bruce Banner, better known by mainstream moviegoers as Hulk.
In response to a rumor that Norton has not been invited to reprise his role as Banner in "The Avengers," Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige released a statement to HitFix to confirm the news that the superhero team-up flick will move on without Norton's participation.
"We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in 'The Avengers,' " Feige 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, as evidenced by Robert [Downey Jr.], Chris [Hemsworth], Chris [Evans], [Samuel L. Jackson], Scarlett [Johansson] 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."
Feige's comments have prompted a pointed response from Brian Swardstrom of WME, Norton's agent.
"This offensive statement from Kevin Feige at Marvel is a purposefully misleading, inappropriate attempt to paint our client in a negative light," Swardstrom said in a statement also released to HitFix. He explained that Marvel had made Norton an offer, and there had been "several weeks of civil, uncontentious discussions" before a studio rep called to say they had changed their mind.
"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," Swardstrom continued. "Counter to what Kevin implies here, Edward was looking forward to the opportunity to work with [rumored director Joss Whedon] 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."
The absence of Norton from the final roster of "The Avengers" isn't entirely surprising, as the actor previously told MTV News that his continuing status within the Marvel Universe was far from official.
"It's purely a function of time," Norton said last September. "It's always about just working things out on the schedule."
Although Norton won't be involved in "The Avengers," Marvel's major motion picture event will involved regularly mentioned names including Downey as Iron Man, Hemsworth as Thor, Evans as Captain America and Jackson as Nick Fury. The suggestion of a "name actor" in Feige's statement seems to refute initial reports that Marvel would fill the role of Banner with an unknown name.
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