Ed Norton was set to make two Hulk films, reflects on his departure from role

Podcast The Incredible Hulk (2008)
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Edward Norton has been chatting about leaving the role of the Hulk early.

Back when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was very much in its infancy, it signed up Ed Norton to take on the role of the Hulk, in a movie take on the character it made in partnership with Universal Pictures (that holds some take on the character’s standalone screen rights to this day).

Things did not go very well. Even before The Incredible Hulk made it into cinemas, there was chatter of behind the scenes problems.

Now, while promoting his new movie as director – Motherless Brooklyn – he’s been chatting to The New York Times. And the subject of his Hulk inevitably came up.

He explained that he left the role because he had originally thought that the plan was to follow the kind of path Christopher Nolan had set out with his Batman movies. “I laid out a two-film thing: The origin and then the idea of Hulk as the conscious dreamer, the guy who can handle the trip. And they were like, ‘that’s what we want!’ As it turned out, that wasn’t what they wanted. But I had a great time doing it. I got on great with Kevin Feige”.

Norton, on the Comedy Central roast of Bruce Willis last year, would make a similar point that they were trying to be as good as at least the worst Christopher Nolan film. Norton notes that said joke – which was aimed at himself – was taken as an attack on Marvel, which he’s clear it wasn’t.

When Norton left the Hulk role after one film – and with a DVD full of deleted scenes suggesting what the film could have been – Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige put out a statement. It read:

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.

Norton, reflecting on the statement, described it in the New York Times interview as “cheap”.

“It was brand defensiveness or something”, he reconciled. “Ultimately they weren’t going for long, dark and serious. But it doesn’t matter. We had positive discussions about going on with the films, and we looked at the amount of time that would’ve taken, and I wasn’t going to do that. I honestly would’ve wanted more money than they’d have wanted to pay me”.

The full interview with Norton, and it’s well worth a read, can be found here.

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