Edward Norton Will Not Be Reprising His Role As The Hulk For The Avengers

What had once seemed like an innovative master plan by Marvel is now proving to be more of the same Hollywood indifference. The realization that Iron Man was to be the first entry in a collective, fully consistent franchise that would eventually culminate with The Avengers—featuring all pre-established characters, presumably to be played by the same actors—was almost too good to be true. And as expected, it was. The first sign of trouble was about two years ago, when Marvel had Terrence Howard replaced by Don Cheadle on Iron Man 2. If they were willing to let an actor playing as prominent a returning character as War Machine be swapped out, who else would they be willing to let go?

Well, now we know.

Edward Norton will not be playing The Hulk in The Avengers. Oh, the character will return all right, but he will be played by "an unknown". More about this development after the break.Hitfix is reporting the news, and claims that it's been confirmed by Marvel sources. According to them, Marvel has already informed Norton that they won't be using him in the film. This is despite his interest in returning to the role—a prospect that apparently both he and (all-but-confirmed) director Joss Whedon were very enthusiastic about.

Given both Marvel's and Norton's history, there seems like three potential explanations behind this.

The first is money. Marvel has been notoriously stingy when it comes to paying their cast and crew, so it's possible that they simply weren't willing to offer a high enough amount to cover Norton's salary. The Incredible Hulk wasn't exactly a huge moneymaker; it makes sense that they wouldn't want to shell out several millions of dollars for a character that audiences weren't terribly interested in watching to begin with. Add to that, Norton's screen time in The Avengers would be limited—not just because the film is an ensemble piece, but because his character is largely created through CGI.

Another theory is that dealing with Norton on The Incredible Hulk was too big of a hassle, and they didn't want a repeat of events with The Avengers.

And lastly, there's the possibility that Marvel just doesn't really care. Maybe they think continuity isn't too big of a deal, so long as it doesn't affect their box office intake. Maybe they're already satisfied with the actor roster they've set in place (Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner), and don't see why it would be important to maintain the consistency of the world they've established by also hiring on Norton.

Maybe—just maybe—it's a combination of all three. That's all we have right now though: Maybe's. Until we know for sure, I hope there's at least one thing we can agree in the midst of all this: This news blows.