Without getting into too much detail, the actor got involved in the creative process during production, extending his role beyond just playing Bruce Banner, and wanted to have a say in the final cut. Ultimately, the studio overrode him and what they put out was something that Norton felt lacked character development. Then again, given that this is the MCU we’re talking about, it’s not exactly the place for auteurs to be requesting carte blanche.
Of course, the actor would go on to be replaced by Mark Ruffalo, who’s been the franchise’s Hulk ever since. And though he’s arguably a much better Bruce Banner than what we got with Edward Norton’s take on the role, it’s still hard to not sympathize with the Fight Club star.
He’s spoken out about his experience many times before, and now, he’s done so once again, expressing disappointment over how Marvel essentially “neutered” his vision for the movie.
“The Hulk was… I felt sad that what [director] Louis [Leterrier] and I set out to do, in terms of taking more of a Chris Nolan approach to making something that was a little more dark and serious, they ended up sort of neutering.”
While it may sound like Norton’s bitter over the whole thing, and he definitely was at the time, he’s actually said recently that he’d be open to returning to the MCU at some point in a different role. And while fans would probably be alright with that, it’s unlikely Marvel would want him back. After all, the headaches he gave the studio in 2008 might’ve been enough to scare them away.
Then again, who knows? Stranger things have happened and we wouldn’t completely rule out an MCU return for Norton at some point in the future. Regardless of if it actually materializes though, we’ll always wonder what his version of The Incredible Hulk would’ve been like.