After a weekend marked by pointed exchanges about Marvel's decision not to cast Edward Norton in The Avengers, the actor has responded with a statement thanking his fans and offering his appreciation to the studio for giving him "the chance to be a part of the Hulk's long and excellent history."
What's been dubbed as "NortonGate" began on Friday with an unflattering statement from Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige confirming that Norton would not reprise his role as Bruce Banner in The Avengers. "Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors," Feige wrote, "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.”
That drew a sharp reply from Norton's agent, who called Feige's remarks “offensive” and “a purposefully misleading, inappropriate attempt to paint our client in a negative light.”
Norton himself responded this afternoon on his Facebook page, taking the high road in a public feud that certainly could have gotten uglier:
As most of you know, I don't like to talk much about the business of making movies because it means a lot to me to protect the audience's fullest enjoyment of the 'magic' that films can have. But I am so appreciative of the outpouring of support from fans of the Hulk and the Avengers that I feel it would be rude not to respond. So here goes: It seems it won't work out for me to continue playing Bruce Banner for Marvel in The Avengers. I sincerely hoped it would happen and be great for everyone, but it hasn't turned out as we all hoped. I know this is disappointing to many people and that makes me sad. But I am very sincerely grateful to Marvel for extending the offer and even more so for giving me the chance to be a part of the Hulk's long and excellent history. And I really can't thank the fans enough for how much enthusiasm you've sent my way about what Louis [Leterrier] and I tried to do in our turn with the legend. It means a lot to me. I grew up with Banner and the Hulk and have been a fan of every incarnation. I'm really proud, and very blessed, to have been one of them and will be thrilled to see him live on through other actors. Hulk is bigger than all of us, that's why we love him, right?
Marvel is expected to announce "a name actor" to replace Norton during its July 24 panel at Comic-Con International. Directed by Joss Whedon (although the studio hasn't made that official), The Avengers stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and several others, likely including Jeremy Renner. The movie opens on May 4, 2012.