Marvel Studios' The Avengers is easily one of the most anticipated superhero movie releases of all time, with the studio laying groundwork for the major motion picture event in films like Iron Man, Thor and The First Avenger: Captain America. There was also a memorable cameo appearance by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark at the end of 2008's The Incredible Hulk, but according to a new report, The Avengers will make one very significant departure from the Jade Giant's most recent appearance — Edward Norton won't be reprising his role as Bruce Banner, with the part going to an unknown actor.
The lack of Norton in The Avengers is reportedly not because the actor doesn't want to be a part of the film. According to Drew McWeeny at HitFix, Marvel will announce the full lineup of Avengers at Comic-Con in a couple of short weeks, with an unknown actor filling the role of Bruce Banner. McWeeny reports that Norton's interest in The Avengers went so far as the actor taking a meeting with not-confirmed-but-come-on-really director Joss Whedon about the project. Although Norton wants to be a part of the film, McWeeny indicates that Marvel has moved on, presumably for financial reasons.
I've got calls in to sources on both ends of the story to try to figure out exactly how far apart the Marvel offer and the Norton camp are in terms of money, but even in early conversations, it sounds like a deal could be made here, and simply wasn't. Norton's desire to return to the role was so palpable at SXSW, and that was before he met with Whedon, that I can't imagine he would refuse to negotiate or find some way to satisfy Marvel. so the question is really why won't Marvel try to make Norton happy at all when he obviously brings so much weight to the team?
Right now, Marvel appears to have moved on. I'm hoping it's not too late for them to go back to Norton and make things right. I hope that after whatever he discussed with Whedon, his enthusiasm wouldn't be dampened by a business hiccup. Fingers crossed, there's still time to fix this before Comic-Con. Prove to us in San Diego that you're doing "The Avengers" right. Show us that it matters to you. Tell us that continuity does matter, and that you're prepared to make one of the biggest movies of all time.
Or cheap out. It's your call.
But I promise you... fandom is paying attention. And your next move will say volumes about which way "The Avengers" is heading.
"Avengers assemble" is more than just a nifty slogan for a ball cap. It's a call to arms for a one-of-a-kind movie event. Please... treat it that way. The rewards will be worth the effort.
Do you agree with McWeeny here? Is Marvel making a grave mistake if Norton isn't hired to play Bruce Banner in The Avengers, or are you fine with an unknown actor stepping into the Hulk's oversized purple pants?