One-time Marvel star Edward Norton denies taking a shot at Marvel Studios when he poked fun at the script for The Incredible Hulk during Comedy Central’s Bruce Willis roast. Norton, who provided uncredited work on the script ultimately credited to Zak Penn, said he was famously difficult during production on Marvel’s Iron Man followup because he “wanted a better script.” Speaking to The New York Times more than a year after the roast, Norton says the joke was a dig aimed at himself — not Marvel — and the quip was willfully misinterpreted by “stupid entertainment journalism trying to get clicks.”
“I’m not going to comment on that,” Norton said when asked his opinion about the 23-movie filmography overseen by Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. “I’m saying that Kevin had an idea of a thing that you could do, and it was remarkable. Now it didn’t happen to be on a tonal, thematic level what I wanted to spend my time doing. Conflating that into a fight or a judgement is grotesque.”
“Picking fights between other people for clickbait is grotesque. I’m not being hyperbolic. It’s part of what’s problematic in our country,” added Norton, who was replaced by Mark Ruffalo from 2012’s The Avengers onwards. “We are letting ourselves be polluted by fake fights manufactured by other people for other agendas. Whether it’s Russians manipulating us into intense arguments with one another over fabricated [expletive] or stupid entertainment journalism trying to get clicks. It’s like, I did Bruce Willis’s Comedy Central roast, and I made a joke at my expense. I talked about how I tried to do what Bruce did and make a big movie but I was an idiot because I tried to make the script better.”
Norton then explained the “actual joke” and recalled telling Willis, “‘I tried to be like you. I did a big action movie called The Incredible Hulk. You know what went wrong? I wanted a better script.’”
“This is a joke making fun of myself but they’ll turn it into, like, ‘Edward takes a dig at Marvel,’” Norton continued. “No, I’m taking a dig at myself at a roast. People have to grow up.”
After Norton was ousted from The Avengers, Marvel said in a statement, “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.” Before Ruffalo was cast, Marvel said The Avengers “demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble” comprised of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson.
Norton also claimed he wanted to make a second, darker Hulk movie, but that “wasn’t what [Marvel] wanted,” Norton said. “We had positive discussions about going on with the films, and we looked at the amount of time that would’ve taken, and I wasn’t going to do that. I honestly would’ve wanted more money than they’d have wanted to pay me. But that’s not why I would’ve wanted to do another Hulk movie anyway.”