The big story of the weekend was Edward Norton's removal from The Avengers. Initially reported as a rumor, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige confirmed the report but denied implications that Norton's departure was a financially motivated decision, instead suggesting that Norton wasn't the type of creative team player that Marvel required for the role of Bruce Banner. Norton's representatives took severe issue with the implication, firing back with their version of the story. Needless to say, the situation isn't pretty and Norton is most assuredly off the gamma-irradiated playing field.
But that doesn't mean the Hulk is out of the picture. In fact, rumors are already circulating as to who could play the big green meanie in the upcoming superhero team-up flick. In the initial report of Norton's removal from Marvel's lineup, it was stated that he would be replaced by an unknown actor. Feige denied this by saying that "a name actor" would occupy the role of Banner, though he didn't offer any further names in his statement released to HitFix. But the website itself offhandedly offered Sharlto Copley's name once rumors of Norton's departure were confirmed, leading some to wonder whether or not Copley is just a suggestion or if he's actually in the running for the part.
Whether or not Copley really is a Hulk contender, he's certainly not the only one in the mix. Devin Faraci at CHUD reports the interesting rumor that Joaquin Phoenix is Marvel's pick for the Jade Giant, though even he warns that the potential casting should be taken as rumor for now. Given Phoenix's high profile fall from grace in recent years — what with the crazy David Letterman appearance, among other things — it would certainly be interesting seeing him come back with such a major role. But if Robert Downey Jr. could do it with Iron Man, who's to say that the troubled Phoenix couldn't manage a similar career revival?
For now, both the Phoenix and Copley reports should be taken as rumors — interesting rumors, but rumors nonetheless. Assuming things play out according to plan — no longer a certainty given the high profile spat between Norton and Marvel — fans should know their new Hulk once Comic-Con rolls around.