Renowned for his exceptional performances in acclaimed films such as the cult-classic Fight Club and American History X, Edward Norton has garnered praise and recognition throughout his career.
With three Academy Award nominations and a Golden Globe win for his supporting role in Primal Fear, Norton has showcased his versatility by portraying a diverse range of characters.
In 2008, he took on the iconic role of Bruce Banner, aka Hulk, in The Incredible Hulk. And despite the film’s moderate success, grossing $265 million worldwide against a budget of $150 million, Norton would be replaced in the role when the Hulk returned to the big screen in 2012’s The Avengers. So what happened? Why was Edward Norton replaced as The Hulk by Mark Ruffalo?
Why was Edward Norton Replaced as The Hulk?
Following the transition, Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios, shed light on the reasoning behind the decision. He emphasized that financial considerations did not drive their choice. However, they were spurred by the desire for an actor who could bring a fresh perspective to the role.
Feige stated, “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.”
Marvel Studios sought to maintain a cohesive and harmonious ensemble, with each actor contributing to the collective creativity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Following these remarks, Edward Norton’s agent expressed disappointment and defended the actor’s professional reputation. In response to Marvel’s comments, Norton’s agent strongly criticized their remarks as “offensive” and deemed them as a deliberate attempt to portray Norton in a negative manner.
However, Norton himself remained amicable while firmly asserting his decision to part ways with Marvel. He highlighted that his upcoming roles in films like Birdman and Moonrise Kingdom presented a contrasting style to the loud and extravagant nature of the MCU.
Ultimately, Marvel Studios expressed a desire for a different type of actor to shape the future of Hulk and the Avengers as a whole, signaling their creative direction and vision for the franchise.
Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk
In 2012, The Avengers hit the big screen. The film brought together Marvel’s most iconic superheroes, such as Iron Man, Thor, and The Hulk. Directed by Joss Whedon, the movie was an incredible success. The film grossed over $1.5 billion worldwide against a budget of $220 million.
Mark Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton in the film. And interestingly enough, this recasting decision was made despite the appearance of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in the end credits scene of The Incredible Hulk. The appearance in the film hinted at potential plans for Norton to continue as Bruce Banner in subsequent movies.
During a The Jimmy Fallon Show appearance, Ruffalo expressed his deep humility upon being cast as the Hulk. He shared that he felt a mixture of excitement and nerves when he received the call to join the cast.
“I didn’t know what I could add to what I already thought had been done so well before me. And I had only been doing indie movies up to that point. So I was like, I don’t know if I am the right person for this role.” Ruffalo said during the appearance.
Ruffalo’s genuine appreciation for the opportunity to portray the iconic character was evident. And the responsibility he felt in taking on such a beloved role in the MCU was clear.
Robert Downey Jr. Calls Ruffalo’s Hulk His Favorite
During an interview on The Joe Rogan Podcast, Robert Downey Jr. praised Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of the Hulk. Robert Downey Jr. stated that Ruffalo was born for the role and had delivered an outstanding performance.
“Three ‘Hulks’ not counting the TV show… Eric Bana, (Edward) Norton, and Mark Ruffalo, who I think he’s my favorite…Yeah, it’s perfect. You believe him,” Downey Jr. said. “He [Ruffalo] was just born for it…”
Later, it was revealed that Ruffalo was the initial choice of The Incredible Hulk director. Louis Leterrier. However, Edward Norton held a more prominent presence in Hollywood at the time. Norton’s fame led Marvel to pick him for the role.
When Will Fans See the Hulk on the Big Screen Again?
Nevertheless, with the tremendous success of the Avengers franchise, Ruffalo has become synonymous with the character of Bruce Banner in the hearts of many fans. While fans eagerly await a solo Hulk movie featuring Ruffalo, his memorable portrayal continues to captivate audiences within the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Fans can look forward to seeing Ruffalo returning as the Hulk in 2027’s Avengers: Secret Wars. The film was initially set to release six months after Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, which was scheduled for November 7, 2025. However, that film has been pushed until May 1, 2026.
What’s Next for Edward Norton?
Edward Norton has had no shortage of successful following his time as The Hulk. Fans can catch him next in Wes Anderson’s delightfully quirky summer flick, Asteroid City, which releases in theaters on June 23, 2023.