UPDATE: Edward Norton just released a statement on Facebook.
"I am so appreciative of the outpouring of support from fans of the Hulk and The Avengers that I feel it would be rude not to respond," his statement reads in part.
"So here goes: It seems it won't work out for me to continue playing Bruce Banner for Marvel in The Avengers. I sincerely hoped it could happen and be great for everyone, but it hasn't turned out as well as we hoped. 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."
Imagine if Edward Norton really could rage like the Hulk. Let's just say Marvel Studios would have plenty to fear.
The actor's agent is fighting back after this weekend's announcement that his client will not be reprising his role as the green-skinned musclehead for Joss Whedon's upcoming superhero flick, The Avengers.
And, of course, the guessing game of who will land the role has already begun.
Marvel President of Production Kevin Feige said in a statement yesterday that the reason Norton wasn't cast is not because of financial reasons, "but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble." HitFix first reported Marvel's decision not to go with Norton.
Blasting Feige's statement as "unprofessional, disingenuous and clearly defamatory," Norton's agent Brian Swardstrom said the Oscar-nominee "was enthusiastic at the prospect of being a part of the ensemble.
"Marvel subsequently made him a financial offer to be in the film and both sides started negotiating in good faith," he continued. "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."
Norton's team assumed it was a "financial decision," Swardstrom said, "but, whatever the case, it is completely their prerogative, and we accepted their decision with no hard feelings."
Feige apparently called Swardstrom two months ago to say Marvel wanted Norton as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, even going so far as to say it was "his fantasy to bring Edward on stage with the rest of the cast at ComiCon and make it the event of the convention," according to Swardstrom's statement.
No word yet from Marvel, but if they're still looking to make a splash with a Hulk announcement at ComiCon, they better act fast. The geekapalooza festival kicks off in San Diego, California on July 22.
Reps for Marvel and Phoenix did not immediately comment.
(Originally published July 12, 2010, at 10:53 a.m. PT)
For more fantastic flickness, check out our Movie Premiere Pandemonium photo gallery.