[UPDATE: Edward Norton has posted his own statement on Facebook.]

In what is turning out to be a dramatic parting of the ways, Edward Norton's agent has issued a statement to HitFix after Marvel Studios confirmed the Academy Award nominee would not return as Bruce Banner in "The Avengers."

As HitFix broke exclusively on Friday, Marvel Studios is going in a new direction for the Hulk, replacing Norton who starred in 2008's "The Incredible Hulk" as a scientist who transforms into a monstrous, but heroic Hulk after a massive exposure to gamma radiation. Marvel indicated their decision was not about salary, as sources had indicated to HitFix originally,, but "instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members."

Brian Swardstrom of WME responds with the following:

"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 talent, tireless work ethic and professional integrity deserve more respect, and so do Marvel's fans.

Brian Swardstrom
WME"

There is no official statement from Edward Norton at this time, but he is expected to comment on the matter eventually.

"The Incredible Hulk" was directed by Louis Letterier and grossed $267 million worldwide.  That was on par with Ang Lee's "Hulk" which starred Eric Bana and found $245 million globally in 2003.

Joss Whedon will direct "The Avengers" which is rumored to be introducing the entire cast, without Norton, at the 2010 Comic-Con International convention in San Diego later this month.  "The Avengers" will be released May 4, 2012 and begin production sometime early next year.

More updates on this story as they become available on HitFix.