A not-so-incredible development for comics fans: Actor Edward Norton, who starred in 2008's The Incredible Hulk, will not reprise his role as Dr. Bruce Banner in the much-anticipated The Avengers in 2012, after a public falling-out with Marvel Studios.
The dispute, initially reported by HitFix's Drew McWeeny (formerly Moriarty of Ain't It Cool News), comes after months of speculation and occasional negotiation. The reports say that, according to Marvel, money wasn't an issue, and a subsequent statement from Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige strongly implies that Marvel felt that Norton would not be a team player in the production of The Avengers. That film will be directed by Joss Whedon and will presumably star the lead actors of Marvel's current and forthcoming superhero films: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), and Chris Evans (Captain America).
During the filming of The Incredible Hulk, there were reports on creative conflicts between Marvel Studios and Norton. However, considering the years of preparation that have gone into its current cinematic superhero campaign, Marvel Studios' inability to strike a deal with Norton -- and to even go so far as to portray him as a disruptive force on set -- is perplexing. Norton's agent has since responded forcefully to Marvel's statement, saying that Norton had met with Whedon and was looking forward to working with him, but that Marvel Studios ultimately announced that they were going to hire an unknown actor for the part instead.
If true, that would seem to make this a cost-cutting maneuver by Marvel, despite the studio's claim to the contrary. Considering the amount of money that Marvel's movies have made and the marketing and financial bonanza that The Avengers promises to be, penny-pinching by Marvel at this stage doesn't seem wise.
Expect more news about this casting drama to come out during the San Diego Comic-Con later this month.