Edward Norton's agent has responded in what's shaping up to be a public feud over Marvel's decision not to cast the Oscar-nominated actor in The Avengers.
As we reported yesterday, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige released a statement confirming that Norton won't reprise his role as Bruce Banner, citing the need for "an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members" and "players who thrive working as part of an ensemble." Neither remark is flattering to Norton, who was widely rumored to have feuded with studio executives about the final edits to The Incredible Hulk.
Now in an email to HitFix, which broke the original story, Brian Swardstrom of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment calls Fiege's statement "offensive" and "a purposefully misleading, inappropriate attempt to paint our client in a negative light."
Swardstrom lays out a sequence of events that began two months ago, when Feige reportedly called to see whether Norton would be interested in playing Banner and continued with "a very good meeting" between the actor and still-unannounced director Joss Whedon. That led to an offer from Marvel, followed by contract negotiations. However, on Wednesday, the agent writes, "after several weeks of civil, uncontentious discussions," they were told the studio "had decided to go in another direction with the part."
"We know a lot of fans have voiced their public disappointment with this result," Swardstrom writes, "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."
Norton's replacement is expected to be announced on July 24 at Comic-Con International, when Marvel presumably will introduce the full cast and confirm Whedon as director, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and finally put an end to those incessant Ant-Man and Wasp rumors.
So who will play Bruce Banner in The Avengers? Feige clearly states it will be "a name actor," but beyond that it's anybody's guess. Geoff Boucher of Hero Complex has his own theory: "Adrien Brody, who just went into action-hero mode in Predators, is mentioned a lot. And he did attend the premiere of Iron Man 2, as did Renner, who at that time had not been announced as an Avengers cast member. Someone very close to the situation tells me that Brody is not getting the job, but that could be a smoke screen. (I have a pet theory, by the way, that Brody is locked in for the role of Ant-Man, but that's more hunch than anything else. Nathan Fillion is getting a lot of attention from the rumor mill, though, for the Hank Pym role, so I could be wrong. ...)"
Whomever the actor is, he'll have to be secure enough to share a crowded screen with actors like Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans -- as well as the Hulk himself. Between the sprawling cast and the CGI monster, it's difficult to imagine the Banner role will amount to much more than a cameo. However, that may hold a lot of appeal to an actor with limited time in his schedule -- or one with an eye toward another run at a Hulk movie ... or, perhaps, a television series.
The Avengers opens on May 4, 2012.