The majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a pretty smooth process to this point, a well-oiled machine piloted by Kevin Feige that continues to print money for Disney. However, there have been a couple of hiccups between the conception of the franchise and Avengers: Endgame, one of the most notable being the swap of Hulk stars. Edward Norton starred as Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, the second film in the MCU following Iron Man, but when the cast of The Avengers was announced not long after that, it was Mark Ruffalo who was introduced as the character. The picture was eventually painted that Norton was difficult to work with and had problems with Marvel, but the actor is now painting a much different set of circumstances, saying that the split simply stemmed from creative differences.
In a New York Times profile of Norton, the director and star of Motherless Brooklyn reveals that he and Marvel had plans for two solo Hulk films. The second movie was initially pitched to be a much darker, more serious look at a version of Bruce Banner that new how to control his powers and Marvel was apparently on board for the idea. But things changed, according to Norton, and the studio suddenly changed its plans entirely.
"I laid out a two-film thing: The origin and then the idea of Hulk as the conscious dreamer, the guy who can handle the trip," Norton said. "And they were like, 'That’s what we want!' As it turned out, that wasn’t what they wanted."
Norton went on to talk about the way Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige addressed the departure, saying that it felt cheap. In the 2010 statement that announced Norton would not be moving forward with the franchise, Fevie said, "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 castmembers."
"Yeah, which was cheap," said Norton. "It was brand defensiveness or something. Ultimately they weren’t going for long, dark and serious. But it doesn’t matter.
"We had positive discussions about going on with the films, and we looked at the amount of time that would’ve taken, and I wasn’t going to do that. I honestly would’ve wanted more money than they’d have wanted to pay me. But that’s not why I would’ve wanted to do another Hulk movie anyway."
Norton also insisted that there was no fight of any kind between him and Feige during the creative process. "I'm saying that Kevin had an idea of a thing that you could do, and it was remarkable. Now it didn't happen to be on a tonal, thematic level what I wanted to spend my time doing."
The rest, as they say, is history. No matter how amicable the split between Norton and Marvel, Mark Ruffalo was brought in to take over as Bruce Banner in The Avengers and he has never looked back. Sadly, we never got to see the second Hulk film with either actor.
Would you have wanted to see Edward Norton stay on as Hulk throughout the MCU? Let us know in the comments!