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I didn’t like director Ang Lee’s ‘Hulk’ because it was boring and the title character should’ve never grown substantially in size the angrier it got. That was just one of many Lee mistakes, though star Eric Bana was fine as Bruce Banner. I was, however, thrilled to see Marvel take back the rights and create a better movie with Edward Norton. That’s not saying much because it still wasn’t great. Just better. But bad blood seemed to boil within the comic camp and issues concerning creativity between star and studio hit the news. Ugly words were said, Norton and Marvel would disastrously part ways. With Oscar buzz about his recent performance in ‘Birdman,’ Norton’s doing interviews and giving a very whitewashed version of why he let the MCU ship sail without him.

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Let’s backtrack a little bit. During the hurricane production of ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ Norton rewrote the draft of Zak Penn’s screenplay under the pen name Edward Harrison to suit his own creative needs. They shot the movie his way, with a lot of backstory that related to the Ang Lee film. Marvel decided they wanted a tighter story with less dialogue and more action. This pissed Norton off because he’d signed on under the agreement that his creative control was godlike. Word is, he’d felt the movie beneath him and wouldn’t do it unless they did it his way. I can understand his eventual frustration but it’s not like he’d never done a movie before. And he sure as hell didn’t forget what editing is. Personally, I feel bad for Zak Penn. Somebody’s always crapping on his scripts and re-writing them.

Nah, I don’t feel sorry for Penn. He’s rich and I’m not.

Anyway, the film’s behind-the-scenes negative publicity became too much and there were reports of Norton not wanting to publicize the film, taking very select promotional engagements. Roger Friedman of Fox News said Norton “slipped off to a desert island rather than do publicity for the movie he stars in and nominally wrote.” It wasn’t pretty, and in the end Marvel spoke out:

“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.”

That was a shocking statement. Norton’s agent came back a bit huffy but Norton’s response was classy and not very indicative of his reputation of being a jerk who’s hard to work with. But make no mistake, Marvel’s shot definitely sounded like they didn’t want anything more to do with that guy. Like he was fired. And Norton’s retort was from a man who’d gotten fired and was gracefully saving face. But in his recent conversation with NPR’s Terry Gross, he made it sound like it was all his idea.

“GROSS: You did turn down being in subsequent films. How come in subsequent Hulk films?

NORTON: I think that, you know, my feeling was that I experimented and experienced what I wanted to. I really, really enjoyed it. And yet I looked at the balance of time in life that one spends not only making those sorts of films, but then especially putting them out and obligations that rightly come with that. And there were just a lot of things that – I wanted more diversity – I sort of chose to continue on my path of having a diversity of experiences. Maybe on some unconscious level, I didn’t want to have an association with one thing in any way degrade my effectiveness as an actor in characters. I think you can sort of do anything once, but if you do it too many times it can become a suit that’s hard to take off in other people eyes. And if I had continued on with it, I wouldn’t have made “Moonrise Kingdom” or “Grand Budapest” or “Birdman” because those all overlapped with – and those were more the priority for me. But I totally, you know, I continue to be a fan. And I’m really, really happy I got to do it once. That particular character I think has a really proud tradition actually of really good actors playing him. And I think I’m really happy to be part of it.”

So, according to 2014 Ed Norton, he bolted from a future of Marvel moviemaking because it got in the way of him being able to keep his career diverse. He would’ve felt bored and stifled by the long-term contract demanding repeat appearances as Bruce Banner. He’s fine with trying anything once and skating off to the next project. That’s all fine and it makes a great deal of sense. In fact, on a certain level, I agree with his choices and understand them just as quickly as I do those of Chris Evens, Samuel Jackson or Robert Downey Jr.

But come on Ed…leaving wasn’t your choice. Marvel may have screwed you on your hand-shake agreement for creative control and were total assholes about your divorce, but none of this was your idea. You didn’t pack up and leave – you were sent packing. So just keep nuzzling up on those man boobs, bruh.

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Courtesy of NPR

Category: Film

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