The Marvel Cinematic Universe is like a well-oiled machine at this point, but in its early days it broke a few cogs getting to where it needed to be. Case in point is “The Incredible Hulk,” the Ed Norton-led second feature of the MCU and a title often included down the bottom of many best of lists of Marvel Studios titles.
A promising first act falls apart in a CG-fuelled and tedious monster vs. monster second half and in its wake, Norton walked away from the role with Mark Ruffalo taking over the part where he has now become synonymous with it.
In a new interview for The New York Times, Norton spoke about his departure saying it was more of a creative than a monetary issue. Norton wanted to go a very Nolan-esque dark, serious and mythic route with the film. Marvel did not:
“I loved the ‘Hulk’ comics. I believed they were very mythic. And what Chris Nolan had done with Batman was going down a path that I aligned with: long, dark and serious. If there was ever a thing that I thought had that in it, it was the Hulk. It’s literally the Promethean myth. 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.”
When announcing Norton’s departure, Feige essentially seemed to dismiss the actor saying the decision to recast was “rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.” Asked about that statement, Norton said it was a cheap shot but suggests it was merely Feige engaging in some damage control:
“It was brand defensiveness or something. 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.
But that’s not why I would’ve wanted to do another ‘Hulk’ movie anyway. I went and did all the other things I wanted to do, and what Kevin Feige has done is probably one of the best executions of a business plan in the history of the entertainment industry. As a Disney shareholder, you should be on your feet for what they pulled off.”
Norton added he won’t talk about the slate of Marvel Studios films that followed because of the inevitable clickbait articles that will follow: “Kevin had an idea of a thing that you could do, and it was remarkable. Now it didn’t happen to be on a tonal, thematic level what I wanted to spend my time doing. Conflating that into a fight or a judgement is grotesque.”
The actor both stars in and directs the new period drama “Motherless Brooklyn” which will hit cinemas on November 1st.