Edward Norton's rep has blasted movie bosses for publicly ruling out the actor from playing THE Incredible Hulk in upcoming comic book film The Avengers - branding their official statement "offensive" and "purposefully misleading".
Norton was expected to reprise the role for the star-studded superhero blockbuster, due in theatres in 2012, after playing the hot-headed green monster in 2008's The Incredible Hulk.
Executives at Marvel Studios announced on Sunday (11Jun10) that Norton was out of the running and would not join Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson in the Avengers cast.
President of Production Kevin Feige said, "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."
But Norton's rep has condemned the official statement from the studio, insisting Norton was looking forward to taking on the role and working with his fellow Hollywood stars before negotiations were suddenly halted on Wednesday (07Jul10).
He tells HitFix.com, "This offensive statement from Kevin Feige at Marvel is a purposefully misleading, inappropriate attempt to paint our client in a negative light.
"Here are the facts: two months ago, Kevin called me and said he wanted Edward to reprise the role of Bruce Banner in The Avengers. He told me it would be his fantasy to bring Edward on stage with the rest of the cast at (Comic-Con) and make it the event of the convention. When I said that Edward was definitely open to this idea, Kevin was very excited and we agreed that Edward should meet with (director) Joss Whedon to discuss the project. Edward and Joss had a very good meeting (confirmed by Feige to me) at which Edward said he was enthusiastic at the prospect of being a part of the ensemble cast.
"Marvel subsequently made him a financial offer to be in the film and both sides started negotiating in good faith. This past Wednesday, after several weeks of civil, uncontentious discussions, but before we had come to terms on a deal, a representative from Marvel called to say they had decided to go in another direction with the part. This seemed to us to be a financial decision but, whatever the case, it is completely their prerogative, and we accepted their decision with no hard feelings.
"We know a lot of fans have voiced their public disappointment with this result, but this is no excuse for Feige's mean spirited, accusatory comments. Counter to what Kevin implies here, Edward was looking forward to the opportunity to work with Joss and the other actors in the Avengers cast, many of whom are personal friends of his. Feige's statement is unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory. Mr. Norton (sic) talent, tireless work ethic and professional integrity deserve more respect, and so do Marvel's fans."