The real reason Marvel fired Edward Norton from Avengers, replaced him with Mark Ruffalo as Hulk
One of the few blindspots of the record-breaking Marvel Cinematic Universe is 2008’s The Incredible Hulk -- the second film of the series, and also its lowest grossing. If all had gone as planned, Edward Norton would still be playing Hulk in the Avengers movies, but because of behind-the-scenes flare-ups, he was replaced by Mark Ruffalo.
After the release of the film, it was widely reported that Edward Norton was difficult to work with on set, and that he insisted on rewriting the script himself. This piece of information was corroborated recently by Norton himself, when during the roast of Bruce Willis he said, “I tried to be like you. I did a big action movie called The Incredible Hulk. You know what went wrong? I wanted a better script.” According to Deadline, one Marvel insider described Norton as a “wolf in the hen house.”
In 2010, shortly before announcing The Avengers at the San Diego Comic Con, Feige released a statement clarifying why Norton was let go. “Our decision is definitely not based on monetary factors,” Feige said, “but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.”
In response, Norton’s agent said in a statement that Feige initially wanted the actor to continue playing the Hulk, and that the decision to let him go “seemed to us to be a financial decision.” He called Feige’s comments “mean-spirited, unprofessional, disingenuous, and clearly defamatory.”
Norton released the following statement to Entertainment Weekly: “Like so many people, I’ve loved the story of The Hulk since I was a kid, so it was thrilling when Marvel asked me to write and help produce an altogether new screen incarnation, as well as play Bruce Banner. I grew up reading Marvel Comics and always loved the mythic dimension and contemporary themes in the stories, and I’m proud of the script I wrote. In every phase of production, including the editing, working with Louis Leterrier has been wonderful…I’ve never had a better partner, and the collaboration with all the rest of the creative team has been terrific. Every good movie gets forged through collaboration, and different ideas among people who are all committed and respect the validity of each other’s opinions is the heart of filmmaking. Regrettably, our healthy process, which is and should be a private matter, was misrepresented publicly as a ‘dispute,’ seized on by people looking for a good story, and has been distorted to such a degree that it risks distracting from the film itself, which Marvel, Universal and I refuse to let happen. It has always been my firm conviction that films should speak for themselves and that knowing too much about how they are made diminishes the magic of watching them. All of us believe The Incredible Hulk will excite old fans and create new ones and be a huge hit…our focus has always been to deliver the Hulk that people have been waiting for and keep the worldwide love affair with the big green guy going strong.”
Ruffalo explained the experience of taking over as the character in an interview to The Marvelists podcast. “I was just kinda’ like, ‘Is this okay?’” Ruffalo explained, “’and he was all like, ‘Man, all’s fair in love and war.’”
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