So the big news all over the web is that Ed Norton, who starred as Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, will no longer be playing the Hulk.  First, Marvel said it wasn’t a monetary decision, but instead because Norton wasn’t someone who “embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members.”

Norton’s agent got pissed, saying that Marvel’s remarks were “offensive” and “a purposefully misleading, inappropriate attempt to paint our client in a negative light.” (more info here)

Norton finally chimed in, deciding to play the bigger man in the situation, saying, “I know this is disappointing to many people and that makes me sad. But I am very sincerely grateful to Marvel for extending the offer and even more so for giving me the chance to be a part of the Hulk’s long and excellent history.”

Marvel’s expected to announce a “name” actor at San Diego Comic Con, with Joaquin Phoenix’s name being thrown around as if he’s supposed to be easier to deal with than Ed Norton.

Now, Norton, despite trying to be Mr. Nice Guy during public appearances, had some major difficulties with Marvel during the making of The Incredible Hulk.  Despite working on the script, he was denied a writer’s credit on the film, and there was a well-publicized bickering between him, the director, and Marvel on final cut for the film, with the final cut ultimately being one which emphasized action, removing some of the more “talky” bits in between set pieces.

After that debacle, I think many people were surprised that conversations were even occurring between Marvel and Norton about him starring in the Avengers.  Still, despite not being the best film, I think everyone can agree that Norton was the strength of Incredible Hulk, especially after you watch the Blu-Ray bonus features.  He put A LOT into that role, even modeling for the CG-Hulk.  He wasn’t just Bruce Banner; he really did play both parts.  Plus, he worked hard to get the role, and to make it something that revitalized the franchise (which it wasn’t successful in, obviously).

He certainly was a hell of a lot better than Eric Bana, who I can’t really fault that much.  I’ve seen him do good work – that first Hulk movie was just an awful, awful mess.

Ed Norton as Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk.

I think it’s a bummer that Norton isn’t playing the Hulk.  He was a damn good Bruce Banner, and the fact that his Incredible Hulk movie already tied into Iron Man, with the appearance of Tony Stark in the movie, it’s a shame that the actor isn’t being asked to return.  Re-casting hurts the feel of the ongoing universe, I think.

Still, if not Ed Norton, then who should play the Green Goliath?

As for the aforementioned Joaquin Phoenix rumor, even if his current “stunt” (retiring from Hollywood to be a rap artist) is a fake, I’m not entirely sure he’s the kind of actor they want.  He’s obviously a little…tricky….and though he won’t try to exert the kind of creative control over a project that Norton usually does, is this really any less hassle?  Not only that…he doesn’t really look like Bruce Banner to me.

I’ve heard Sharlto Copley’s name thrown around, and, while I liked him in both The A-Team and District 9, he doesn’t exactly seem right for the part either.  Better than Phoenix, though.

So who would work as Bruce Banner?  Of course, the fan boy in me likes Alexis Denisof for the role, but what the hell ever happened to that guy?  Plus, I think they’re looking for a bigger name (not like the guy playing Thor is really a name actor, though).

What about Zachary Quinto?  He’s a weird dude, who can play calm and collected, as well as angry.  I think he’s make a pretty decent banner, even if he is a bit tall.  I’ve heard Adrien Brody tossed around, but if he still looks like he did in Predators, he’s a bit too buff for Banner.  John Cusack would be an interesting choice – he’s no older than Downey, Jr., and he’s certainly got the acting chops to pull off the role.  I also wouldn’t mind Casey Affleck, now that he’s older.  He’s got the right look for the part.

What do you guys say?