Norton’s severance from Marvel hasn’t been the prettiest sight in Hollywood, though it’s not entirely surprising, either. While the actor made his desire to stick with the role of Bruce Banner known on many occasions, the writing of Norton’s Marvel exit was on the proverbial wall for several weeks, months and years leading up to this past weekend’s official announcement.
After the jump, we’ve mapped out a timeline chronicling the events leading up to Norton’s departure from the role of Bruce Banner, “The Avengers” and the Marvel movie universe at large.
September 15, 2008: Even in the months immediately following the release of “The Incredible Hulk,” Norton told MTV News that he wasn’t certain about his future with Marvel. “The minds of Marvel are sometimes opaque,” he said. “I won’t say [they’re] obtuse, but I don’t have any idea what they want to do.”
July 31, 2009: Norton was considerably more tightlipped almost a year later when asked again about his status as Bruce Banner. “I probably won’t comment on that just because [Marvel] keeps a pretty tight rein on what they are letting out,” he told reporters. “I’ll let them [address it].”
September 15, 2009: In response to rumors that Norton’s Hulk would have a cameo appearance in “Iron Man 2,” Norton told MTV: “I heard that. I don’t know where that’s coming from. I am not in ’Iron Man 2′ to my knowledge.”
September 23, 2009: Although his involvement remained unclear, Norton said that he liked the idea of playing Hulk as a villain in “The Avengers,” saying that approach would be “a fun way to go with it.”
September 28, 2009: Norton suggested that further appearances as Bruce Banner were “purely a function of time” and a matter of “working things out on the schedule,” all while maintaining his enthusiasm about Marvel’s plans to tie properties together for “The Avengers.”
November 2, 2009: Asked again if he had any further idea about his future with Marvel, Norton told MTV with a laugh: “I will probably find out after you do.”
January 29, 2010: With Norton’s involvement still uncertain, we offered up our own Secret Identity list of five actors who could potentially replace him as Bruce Banner in “The Avengers” and future “Hulk” movies.
March 14, 2010: Still unsure on his Marvel plans, Norton confirmed that he won’t be filming cameos for “Thor” or “The First Avenger: Captain America.”
March 15, 2010: Norton pointed to “The Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan’s level of creative freedom, suggesting that whoever wound up as the director of “The Avengers” should have similar control.
May 14, 2010: Finally, Norton himself spoke out on what it would take to bring him back to the role of Bruce Banner: the fans. “If people want it all to come together, they’ve got to email Marvel and say, ’This is what I want,'” he said.
July 10, 2010: After years of speculation, Marvel Studios finally confirmed that Norton will not reprise his role as Bruce Banner in “The Avengers,” with a different “name actor” being sought out for the role.
July 11, 2010: Norton’s agent responded to Marvel Studios’ statement, calling it “offensive” and “purposefully misleading.” Though the actor himself has yet to respond to the statement, the controversy has quickly escalated to Hulk-like proportions — and with Comic-Con looming, we probably haven’t heard the end of this story.
Are you disappointed with Marvel’s decision to move on without Norton? Who do you want to see as the Hulk? Tell us your opinions in the comments section and on Twitter!