2008’s ‘The Incredible Hulk’ is definitely the forgotten Marvel Studios movie. Directed by Louis Leterrier (‘The Transporter’ 1 and 2), the film starred Edward Norton, who at that time had been nominated for two Academy Awards (for ‘Primal Fear’ and ‘American History X’) as Bruce Banner, and retold the origin of his monstrous alter ego, the Hulk. It was the second Marvel Studios film, opening the same year as the massive breakout hit ‘Iron Man’. But ‘Incredible Hulk’ was not as well-received, and Norton was replaced by Mark Ruffalo for 2012’s ‘Avengers’. This was all well before Disney bought Marvel.
Norton’s career hasn’t suffered. He has a new film, ‘Motherless Brooklyn’, which he directed and starred in, coming out in November. While promoting his new picture, he spoke to the New York Times, and during the interview, he discussed his time as ‘The Incredible Hulk’, and its ending. Specifically, he wanted to set the record straight about rumors of friction between him and the studio.
“I loved the ‘Hulk’ comics. I believed they were very mythic. And what Chris Nolan had done with Batman was going down a path that I aligned with: long, dark and serious. If there was ever a thing that I thought had that in it, it was the Hulk. It’s literally the Promethean myth. 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. And they were like,’That’s what we want!’ As it turned out, that wasn’t what they wanted. But I had a great time doing it. I got on great with Kevin Feige.”
Despite him getting along with Feige, he didn’t like the fact that Feige announced via a statement that Norton had been replaced. Norton did not care for that.
“Yeah, which was cheap. 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. I went and did all the other things I wanted to do, and what Kevin Feige has done is probably one of the best executions of a business plan in the history of the entertainment industry. As a Disney shareholder, you should be on your feet for what they pulled off.”
Norton has never come across as an actor that was dying to break into the mainstream or to become the next action star. He went on to receive a third oscar nomination for ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)‘. And Marvel, well, Marvel is Marvel. Things look to have worked out for the best.
As if to reinforce that Norton’s vision for The Hulk wasn’t meant to be, Universal Studios took legal action. It seems that Marvel Studios didn’t have the rights to make solo ‘Hulk’ movies, at least not without Universal’s involvement. (They were the studio responsible for Ang Lee’s 2003 ‘Hulk’ with Eric Bana.) So Norton’s desire to see a second dark ‘Hulk’ movie was never going to happen. This is also why Ruffalo’s Hulk has never gotten his own movie, and has instead had his story unfold in other movies.
Were you a fan of ‘The Incredible Hulk’? Would you have liked to have seen more of what Norton has in store for his take?