Marvel Studios has confirmed earlier reports that Edward Norton will not reprise his role as Bruce Banner in The Avengers. Instead, another actor is being sought to join the ensemble cast.
In a statement sent to HitFix from the London set of Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige wrote:
"We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in the Avengers. 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, Chris H, Chris E, Sam, Scarlett, 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."
Presumably that announcement will be made July 24 during the Marvel Studios panel at Comic-Con International.
The earlier story by HitFix had suggested the decision to replace Norton was a financial one. However, it's clear from Feige's statement that Marvel is looking for a "team player," so to speak. That perhaps lends credence to widely circulated, but frequently denied, reports that Norton had fought with studio executives over the final edits to 2008's The Incredible Hulk.
Judging from the comments on our earlier post, this news won't sit well with a number of fans.
The Avengers, which presumably is directed by Joss Whedon, stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson ... plus a handful of others we'll learn for certain in two weeks. The movie opens on May 4, 2012.
UPDATE (Sunday, July 11): Norton's agent has responded to Feige's comments.