Norton Out, Phoenix In As The New Hulk?

No matter how they try, Marvel Studios just can’t seem to get their “Hulk” films to work. Ang Lee’s 2003 film scored mixed reviews and an underwhelming $245 million worldwide, Louis Leterrier’s 2008 reboot scored reviews only a miniscule fraction more impressive and still underwhelmed with just $263 million worldwide.

On Friday HitFix broke the story that Marvel has decided not to get Edward Norton, the star of the 2008 version, to reprise the Bruce Banner/Hulk role in the upcoming “The Avengers” movie.

The article says Norton and director Joss Whedon had already met, discussed the project and “reported their enthusiasm back to Marvel… it even sounds like Norton was making serious plans with his agency to keep his dates clear.” Then Marvel apparently informed Norton that they won’t be using him in the film and the likely issue it came down to is money.

Marvel’s Kevin Feige later confirmed the news of Norton’s departure in a statement saying “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… We are looking to announce a name actor who fulfills these requirements, and is passionate about the iconic role in the coming weeks.”

Norton’s agent fired back in a fiery statement saying “This offensive statement from Kevin Feige at Marvel is a purposefully misleading, inappropriate attempt to paint our client in a negative light.” He went into a lengthy explanation confirming the HitFix story and adding that it was last Wednesday, after several weeks of discussions, a Marvel rep “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.”

On the weekend CHUD had a follow-up on the story, saying that Marvel has already put out an offer to the seemingly retired Joaquin Phoenix for the role. The site wasn’t able to get confirmations however so the report should be treated as rumor for now. In any case whomever plays the part “will be the lowest man on The Avengers pay totem pole… If Phoenix doesn’t take the part, Marvel will quickly go to someone else.”

The race is to get everything locked down for Comic Con in San Diego in two weeks. Marvel Studios has a panel planned for 6pm on the Saturday night of the convention which is where it’s expected to reveal the first footage from “Thor” and finally confirm Whedon’s involvement in an official capacity. However there’s some pretty solid talk going around that all the major cast members of ‘The Avengers’ (Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans) will appear on stage together for the first time.