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Marvel Boots Norton, Eyes Phoenix for Hulk Role

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The folks at Marvel had some unkind things to say about Ed Norton in confirming rumors that he would not be reprising his role as the Hulk in the upcoming Avengers movie. It took Norton's agent no time at all to respond.

    Word that Norton, star of 2008's "The Incredible Hulk," wouldn't be part of "The Avengers" was broken by HitFix on Friday. This report drew the attention of Kevin Feige, the top movie guy at Marvel, who sent in a rather nasty confirmation:

    "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 Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H, Chris E, Sam, Scarlett, and all of our talented casts. We are looking to announce a name actor who fulfills these requirements, and is passionate about the iconic role in the coming weeks."

    And as sure as day follows night, Norton's agent, Brian Swardstrom of William Morris Endeavor, responded in kind:

    This offensive statement from Kevin Feige at Marvel is a purposefully misleading, inappropriate attempt to paint our client in a negative light.  Here are the facts:  two months ago, Kevin called me and said he wanted Edward to reprise the role of Bruce Banner in The Avengers.  He told me it would be his fantasy to bring Edward on stage with the rest of the cast at ComiCon and make it the event of the convention.  When I said that Edward was definitely open to this idea, Kevin was very excited and we agreed that Edward should meet with Joss Whedon to discuss the project.  Edward and Joss had a very good meeting (confirmed by Feige to me) at which Edward said he was enthusiastic at the prospect of being a part of the ensemble cast.  Marvel subsequently made him a financial offer to be in the film and both sides started negotiating in good faith.  This past Wednesday, after several weeks of civil, uncontentious discussions, but before we had come to terms on a deal, a representative from Marvel 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.

    We know a lot of fans have voiced their public disappointment with this result, but this is no excuse for Feige's mean spirited, accusatory comments.  Counter to what Kevin implies here, Edward was looking forward to the opportunity to work with Joss and the other actors in the Avengers cast, many of whom are personal friends of his.  Feige's statement is unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory.  Mr. Norton's talent, tireless work ethic and professional integrity deserve more respect, and so do Marvel's fans.

    Throughout the filming and promotion for "The Incredible Hulk," there were constant rumors of Norton and the studio being at odds. It would appear there was something to such talk. Suffice to say, they shan't be working again.

    So now comes word that Marvel has offered the role to Joaquin Phoenix, according to CHUD. Seriously? You fire Norton 'cuz he's a pain in the rear and then start courting the guy who announced his retirement from acting nearly two years ago so he could focus on his "rap career"?

    He's spent the last 18 months traveling the country, rapping on most any stage that will have him while Casey Affleck stands in the wings with a camera. The resulting documentary, "I'm Still Here," "overflowed with Hollywood debauchery, including more male frontal nudity than you’d find in some gay porn films and a stomach-turning sequence in which someone feuding with Phoenix defecates on the actor while he’s asleep, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

    Maybe the whole thing's been a put on -- even Phoenix said so at one point -- but either way, is this the kind of nonsense you want on the set of a big-budget film that's being counted on to launch a few more franchises?