[Update - Sunday, July 11 2:10 PM PST: Edward Norton's agent responds to Kevin Feige's statement below.]
As HitFix exclusively reported yesterday, Marvel Studios has now confirmed that it is moving forward on development with their summer 2012 blockbuster "The Avengers," and they have decided not to cast Edward Norton in the key role of Bruce Banner, aka The Incredible Hulk.
In a statement sent in direct response to yesterday's story from the set of "Captain America" in London, Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige forwarded the following exclusively to HitFix:
"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 that, as they say, appears to be that.
Fan reaction regarding Norton's departure from the role has been vocal, and there has certainly been much outrage at the idea of such a major piece of the puzzle being recast. There are also fans who are so anxious to see any version of "The Avengers" onscreen that the individual casting is less important to them than the issues of villains or storyline. One thing that is interesting in the statement is the indication that they are, indeed, looking for a name to replace Norton, and not an unknown. Who they pick will ultimately determine whether this continues to be an issue for fans or not.
For now, it appears Marvel has made their choice and has no plans of reacting based on fandom's initial outcry. Earlier today, the Saturday schedule for the San Diego Comic-Con was announced, and there's a slot from 6:00 to 7:00 for a panel on "Captain America" and "Thor" in Hall H, which honestly sounds like one of the biggest events happening in the entire schedule for the five days of the convention. If Marvel's planning to pull any "Avengers"-related hijinks while they've got everyone's attention, that would be the place to do it, and announcing that, say, Sharlto Copely is the new Bruce Banner in the place where "District 9" exploded last year, would certainly be one way to defuse the response from fandom in the wake of yesterday's news. And Joss Whedon's spending a suspicious amount of time in San Diego considering he's not really hardseling "The Cabin In The Woods" at any point. He's just giving a few panels on being awesome, which would certainly seem to indicate he'd be available mid-Saturday afternoon.
Whatever the case, "The Avengers" is set to open on Friday, May 4, 2012.
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