Following a remarkable statement by Marvel Studios executive Kevin Feige that Edward Norton would not be reprising his "Incredible Hulk" role in the upcoming Marvel-superteam movie "The Avengers" - basically saying he doesn't play well with others - a war of words broke out over the weekend, with Norton's agent calling Feige's comments "unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory."
The news had originally leaked to HitFix.com, which opined that salary was the issue. Feige denied that in a statement, saying, "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," he continued, referring to Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow in the comics), Chris Evans as Captain America and Chris Hemsworth as Thor.
Norton's agent, Brian Swardstrom, rebutted at HitFix that Feige had told him two months ago the studio wanted Norton, and that Feige subsequently confirmed the actor and director Joss Whedon "had a very good meeting." But salary negotiations abruptly ended Wednesday when Marvel, Swardstrom said, told him "they had decided to go in another direction" for what "seemed to us to be a financial decision."
Norton, an Oscar nominee for "Primal Fear" and "American History X," was more magnanimous, writing on Facebook yesterday, "I sincerely hoped it could happen and be great for everyone, but it hasn't turned out as we all hoped."