News broke at Comic-Con 2007 that actor Edward Norton wrote the script for The Incredible Hulk. It was an announcement that virtually shocked everyone. The production had announced that X3 screenwriter Zak Penn had written a script long ago. Thankfully now the Los Angeles Times has connected the dots. The newspaper explains that Penn had been working on the script for a year before Norton even became involved. He wrote three drafts over that period, but left the project unfinished when he left to promote his movie The Grand.
When Norton came in to meet about starring as Banner in April, the film had already been greenlighted and there were just three months before shooting was scheduled to begin, just after Independence Day. But Norton had well-established (if underground) writing experience and strong ideas about how to separate the film from any confusion over its connection to the 2003 Ang Lee version by casting it in a more distinct, starting-over vein like “Batman Begins” or “Casino Royale.”
So Norton’s initial deal included payment not just for his acting services but for his writing talents too, with his draft contractually stipulated to be turned around in less than a month. As it turned out, Norton delayed work on another screenplay job to do “Hulk,” and he continues to tweak the script as principal photography hits its halfway point outside Toronto.
Norton has done a lot of uncredited writing work over the last few years, for movies including Frida and Red Dragon. The Times claims that Norton actually showed up on set “with new script pages not only for his character but for Dr. Hannibal Lecter as well.” Rumor has it that director Brett Ratner fought with Norton over the issue.
I have heard that many directors (especially writer/directors) are reluctant to work with the Academy Award nominated actor. But who really knows the extent of Norton’s writing abilities? He did seem to have a good enough grasp over the Hulk comic book and the resulting tv and movie adaptations. Norton showed an incredible certainty which could infused confidence in the crowd of Hall-H. But last minute rewrites never usually turn out well.