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Marvel replaces Ed Norton as the Hulk in 'The Avengers,' but will it matter?

July 11, 2010 |  9:35 pm


Our colleague Geoff Boucher at sister blog Hero Complex delves into Marvel's pointed decision to drop Edward Norton from the company's upcoming "Avengers" movie.

"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 company rebuked in a statement made to Hit Fix, which  broke the Norton story. It marks the second time that Marvel has gone "Bewitched' and replaced a well-known actor, previously swapping out Terrence Howard for Don Cheadle as War Machine after the former might have gotten a little too precious with his demands ahead of "Iron Man 2."

The Hero Complex post takes the tack that this is an understandable move for the studio given Norton's reputation as a strong personality on set and in the development process (a reputation executives came to be acquainted with firsthand after working with him, rockily, on 2008's "The Incredible Hulk.") That take stands in contrast to Hit Fix's point of view, which basically is that it could look mighty odd, both in promotional moments and on the screen, to see an unknown or lesser-name actor alongside the film's mostly A-list group.

But the truth is that it's exactly that group that probably makes this a move of less consequence than it might first appear. The entire point of the "Avengers" movie (and, to a lesser extent, Marvel's studio operation in general) is to make the ensemble greater than the individual. That's a creative and marketing rationale, since it means the studio can mix and match characters with ease, as it's already begun to do with "Iron Man 2" and other movies and which will culminate with Joss Whedon's "Avengers" in two years. But maybe just as important, it's a production and deal-making strategy, since when you're creating a slate based on ensembles, that means no single character gets too big, which means no single actor can hold a slate hostage.

Marvel might find some initial resistance to the presence of a new Hulk. But it's not like Norton, for all his acting skills, was that deeply associated with the character anyway.  And as important to the canon as the Hulk is, a lot of film-goers probably be caught up in seeing the character on screen in this context as much as they'll be scrutinizing who's playing him, especially if they're already being feted with the reassuring sight of an iconic fixture like Robert Downey Jr., as Iron Man. We're more concerned, frankly, that the Whedon film could wind up being a mythology mash-up than we are worried about any individual casting choice.

After initially absorbing the backlash that it would hire an unknown for the part, Marvel course-corrected  today, saying it would hire a "name actor" to play the Hulk. That's fine to calm the initial fan reaction, but it's probably not essential for the movie. When you're building a super-group, you can afford to replace the drummer.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk. Credit: Marvel Studios


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Comments () | Archives (15)

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Why would they do something like this?? I dont know what is going on with this company but they are starting to really alienate their fanbase and going after bigger profits instead. Kind of surprising considering the fact that many people liked him and the latest hulk was such a success. Makes you wonder who really benefits from this. Certainly not the fans or the Avengers movie

I'm not looking forward to the Avengers... or Captain America for that matter. Not only does the studio disappoint with selecting Chris Evans as Captain America (should have been Jon Hamm or Sam Worthington) but now they remove Norton, who already did a wonderful job as the Hulk?!?!?! No offense to Evans, but there is a sense of maturity and leadership that accompanies Captain America. The writers were really hoping that the studio would not choose a Hollywood pretty boy, which they did with Evans (also too young to play CA). Not to mention: Chris Evans already played the Marvel superhero, The Human Torch. Not choosing Sam Worthington for the Captain America role because he's Australian was one of many illogical decisions, including this one, on the studios part. Why have Hugh Jackman play Wolverine?? Or Ryan Reynolds play Deadpool? And on, and on....

I disagree with the remark that Norton was not, "deeply associated with the character anyway." Norton played Bruce Banner, who is not exactly a super hero on his own. The real superhero, Hulk, is actually CGI-just in case you forgot. Norton captured the complexity and ever-changing disposition of Bruce Banner-the scientist. Norton did the Hulk franchise justice, especially after the previous film w/Eric Bana.

The fact that Norton and RDJ were going to be in the Avengers together were one of the many teasers when announcing a film based on the Marvel-based super-group. I guess the studio believes the audience will forget RDJ's appearance at the end of the Incredible Hulk film. How truly disappointing that the studio continues to be so short-sighted.


They did this because Ed Norton as good an actor as he is has a terrible reputation for being difficult to work with. Like the article says you can't have a drama queen in such a big movie. Already we have Sam Jackson, RDJ, Don Cheadle, Scarlet Johansen, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans plus the potential for the support cast from each heros individual films ie Paltrow etc.

This move by Marvel is a very smart one indeed Nortons Hulk was ok but it is not essential that he returns Don Cheadle stepping in as War machine did not ruin Iron Man 2 and this will not ruin Avengers

I'm sick of this already, first a new Spiderman and now a new hulk, bad enough they changed warmachine on us. This is really turning me off of superhero movies. It's only a matter of time before they see it Hurt their profits, I think it will start with the new Spiderman movie.

It was "The Incredible Hulk" in 2008. Ang Lee's failed 2003 project was just "Hulk". And I must respectfully disagree with your assessment as him as the "drummer" of the group. War Machine, a supporting character in a supporting film, is more of a drummer. The Hulk has been a leading character in two films in the past decade, which puts him on par with Iron Man in terms of screentime (but not popularity). He was also the second Avenger in the current franchise to get his own film and the one which confirmed the "shared universe" structure set up post-credits by Iron Man.

As for Norton, I'm disappointed. Ie was the best thing about the Leterrier reboot and - quite frankly, looking at the deleted scenes - he was on the right side of that particular argument. What's more troubling though is the way that this effectively undermines the novel approach Marvel had to movie-making. Why should I care about following a particular iteration of a character into the film, if they can just be so easily replaced. Each performance is an interpretation of a character, and losing that kills character continuity (compare Keaton's Batman to Kilmer or Clooney or Bale), which is more important that nerdy easter eggs. If Marvel can dump the leads so easily, why should I care about Iron Man or Captain America or Thor, when all that a performer brings to the table could be dumped without a second thought?

I dont understand why they would remove him, is his ego really that big?

I am looking forward to Joss Whedon's view of the avengers and hope that stuff like this doesnt make people think poorly of the movie before it even comes out.


OK, they screw with Rhodey's character by replacing Howard at the last minute and lost a few fans based on their inconsistency and ill loyalty. Now they're doing the same thing with Norton. Norton made Banner believable in "Incredible" unlike the previous "Hulk." Norton brought the character to life and made it so three dimensional, that Hulk quickly grew credibility as a major player in the Marvel Movie Universe - whereas the first Hulk from Ang Lee and Bana had people leaving the theaters early. So knowing he'd return with the Avengers made me all the more impatient for the movie's approach.
So now here we are again with another example of Marvel Films backstabbing actors at the last second to replace them. So now that you've merged with Disney, you're taking on their same ideals, I see. Money first, Art second.
Well Marvel, considering how your expectations all come from your wallet, don't be surprised if you're suddenly a few ticket sales short of your expectations now.

There is a facebook group called

Attention Marvel Studios: Keep Ed Norton as the Hulk in the Avengers!!

join it !


People are still going to go see the "Avengers" movie. Edward Norton, talented though he is, is not a huge box office draw. This article nails it: the selling point of the movie is all of the characters together in one picture. Fanboys and fangirls will wax rhapsodic about the fact that Joss Whedon is supposed to write and direct (even though he's never had a mainstream theatrical box office hit), and complain that Chris Evans is a terrible choice because he's "already played Johnny Storm" and they "should have cast Sam Worthington" (who's no greater an actor nor more imposing a presence than Evans) or John Hamm (who's clearly too old for the part, unless they want to continuously recast Cap for future sequels). But the vast majority of moviegoers aren't going because of the cast. Look at how big "Avatar" and "Transformers" were. The biggest name from either of those movies was Sigourney Weaver, who is not exactly box office gold..... Marvel may be penny-pinching, but I think they saved themselves a world of headache now by dropping Norton before he derailed the project with his "creative input." It's wonderful that he and his agent can throw the spin around now, but the fact is, they don't know how those meetings they had with the producers and director went.

This is one movie I wont be paying to watch. Same with Iron Man2, I liked T Howard. People do have preferences for actors and this will affect people's decision to watch, or not watch the movie, especially having seen Norton's great take on Hulk. And so what if actors are hard to work with, some are perfectionists and want to do their best. Christian Bale's actions on set for T4, although unwarranted show is dedication and focus. I went to watch that movie and loved it because I love his acting and work. Same here! This is what happens when you sell your soul to Disney.

But not the lead singer, which is what Edward Norton is. Can someone just admit that the company is doing the film a little more cheaply so it can ramp up the CGI, which, by the way, is beginning to look all the same, no matter what the subject matter is or what the movie title is?

I don't think they made a bad decision about Ed Norton and if people have not realized he is playing Bruce Banner not hulk. I think they should save as much money as they can and make a bigger, stronger hulk; because honestly the one from the last movie sucked. Insted of wasting money on a good looking famous guy to play a scientist they should spend it on what the people really want to watch: the incredible hulk, hello!!!

Top Ten Reasons Nicholas Brendon should play Bruce Banner.

10. Nathan Fillion can’t play everything.
9. Great pecs.
8. Comes with his own stunt double.
7. No need to hire a sober companion for RDJ.
6. He’s never attempted a rap career.
5. He sold seven seasons of penis monsters, song and dance, and speeches about crayons. He can sell the Hulk.
4. All the money saved can go to making CGI Hulk look less like a rabid smurf/frog hybrid.
3. No fighting for top billing.
2. Chemically induced rage, resisting arrest, withstanding large amounts of electricity... Can this guy prepare for a role or what?
1. You’d like him even when he’s angry.

Join the fan campaign here: http://www.facebook.com/XanderSmash

I don't know why this is such a big deal, Norton was himself a replacement Hulk. He took over the role that Eric Bana did a few years before him. Maybe they just want to have a different hulk in every single movie? For this one I know who my dream Hulk would be, Nicholas Brendon. He's got the skills, he has the look and it'd be great for the Joss-nerds that will be showing up to see an old Whedonverse actor involved in some way

without Ed Norton there is no need for me to go and see the The Incredible Hulk at the movie theater. I'm very disappointed.


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