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In the early 2000s, Edward Norton was a major star. He wielded his power across much of Hollywood and enjoyed several years in the spotlight. By 2008, Norton had appeared in several celebrated films, and his star appeared to be further on the rise when he took on the starring role in The Incredible Hulk. The movie released in 2008, shortly before Marvel built out the massively popular Marvel Cinematic Universe. Initially, Norton looked like he would be a critical part of the studio’s plans, but his role was recast. Reportedly, his on-set behavior and lofty demands had a lot to do with it.

Edward Norton was passed up to appear in The Avengers because of his attitude 

Norton is an incredibly detail-oriented actor and has been highly celebrated because of it. Unfortunately for Norton, he is known to be difficult to work with, too. According to Deadline, Norton had issues on the set of multiple movies, including Red Dragon and American History X. During filming on both movies, he angered directors and producers by rewriting lines and injecting his creativity into plots. He reportedly attempted to do the same with The Incredible Hulk, much to the dismay of Kevin Feige and the team behind the film. 

When it was time to bring together a cast for The Avengers, Norton was initially considered to reprise his role, but eventually, Mark Ruffalo took over the part. When Feige was questioned about Norton’s lack of involvement, he told a panel that they decided to go with an actor who was willing to be a bit more collaborative. 

Edward Norton had a different take on the whole situation 

Norton’s view on what happened is much different than Feige’s take on the situation. Aside from insisting he wanted to play the Hulk in more films, Norton claimed he got along with Feige. In an interview with The New York Times, Norton said, “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.”

Edward Norton arrives at the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2015
Edward Norton | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

He went on to claim that the franchise decided to go in a different direction. Norton claimed he was OK that decision. Norton never addressed any of the rumors about his on-set behavior, or how it may have led to his role being recast. 

Mark Ruffalo was who the team wanted for Bruce Banner in the first place

Feige seemed adamant that Norton’s inability to be a team player was the reason his part was recast, but his on-set behavior might not be the only reason he was left out of Marvel’s future projects

Louis Leterrier, the director behind The Incredible Hulk, had always envisioned Ruffalo in the role. He told The Huffington Post, “I actually wanted to cast Mark Ruffalo as Hulk and Marvel was like, “No, you should get Edward Norton because he’s more famous.” So you see what I am saying? They are the ones who wanted Edward.” Leterrier moved on from Marvel and was not tied to The Avengers. Still, his idea about who would make the perfect Bruce Banner apparently stuck.