Marvel issued this statement to Hitfix yesterday, "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."
Regardless of how you feel or felt about Edward Norton as the Hulk, Marvel does not care. It is over. You can always go back and re-watch The Incredible Hulk, but they are indeed going another direction. The verbiage coming from Kevin Feige also implies that Norton is not a team player and Marvel is looking for a "creative and collaborative" actor. Creative is one thing we all know damn well that Edward Norton is, collaborative on the other hand, I'm not so sure. Guy has made a career out of getting things his way, not that isn't necessarily a good thing, but unfortunately he's rubbed a few people the wrong way in the process.
Edward Norton's publicist has of course come out and given a response about Marvel's comments. Here's his explanation of what went down between Marvel and Norton recently:
"This offensive statement from Kevin Feige at Marvel is a purposefully misleading, inappropriate attempt to paint our client in a negative light. Here are the facts: two months ago, Kevin called me and said he wanted Edward to reprise the role of Bruce Banner in The Avengers. He told me it would be his fantasy to bring Edward on stage with the rest of the cast at ComiCon and make it the event of the convention. When I said that Edward was definitely open to this idea, Kevin was very excited and we agreed that Edward should meet with Joss Whedon to discuss the project. Edward and Joss had a very good meeting (confirmed by Feige to me) at which Edward said he was enthusiastic at the prospect of being a part of the ensemble cast. Marvel subsequently made him a financial offer to be in the film and both sides started negotiating in good faith. This past Wednesday, after several weeks of civil, uncontentious discussions, but before we had come to terms on a deal, a representative from Marvel called to say they had decided to go in another direction with the part. This seemed to us to be a financial decision but, whatever the case, it is completely their prerogative, and we accepted their decision with no hard feelings.
We know a lot of fans have voiced their public disappointment with this result, but this is no excuse for Feige's mean spirited, accusatory comments. Counter to what Kevin implies here, Edward was looking forward to the opportunity to work with Joss and the other actors in the Avengers cast, many of whom are personal friends of his. Feige's statement is unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory. Mr. Norton talent, tireless work ethic and professional integrity deserve more respect, and so do Marvel's fans."
Regardless of whether one side is right or not, the relationship is over and it is best to just move on instead of sitting around mulling over how perfect Norton was/is as the Hulk. Something (whatever it is) damaged their relationship, so it's time to move on.
Updated: Last night Devin Faraci over at CHUD dropped a bombshell that Marvel has already put out an offer to a certain actor who has been all but vacant from cinemas for the last year. Yes, CHUD are reporting that a source close to him has revealed that Marvel has offered Joaquin Phoenix the role of Bruce Banner/The Hulk in the upcoming "The Avengers" movie. Honestly, I think Phoenix would be a perfect replacement. He actually fits a persona of Banner we have yet to see Marvel put across on screen, the awkward, creepy, nerdy type. Something that Mark Millar hit a home run with in his The Ultimates comics. I'm not so sure how the rest of Marvel fandom will react, but I'd be pretty pleased with Phoenix as a replacement. People are expecting that Joss Whedon and Marvel may roll out the entire 'Avengers' cast at Comic Con, so there is a chance (however small) that Phoenix may just step on stage come Saturday during the panel.
Source: Hitfix | CHUD