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Morning briefing: You wouldn’t like Ed Norton when he’s angry

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While IRON MAN has been everywhere, this summer’s upcoming HULK movie has been a little publicity shy. A few stills have been released, a very brief teaser trailer is up on YouTube, with the full one debuting TONIGHT on MTV. However, Nikki Finke has a juicy rumor about star Edward Norton’s meddling delaying final cut of the picture. Norton (who has written two films and directed another) is known for wanting to get a lot of input into the movies he stars in, and, according to Finke, Marvel apparently had to promise him a lot of say in the final cut in order to get him to sign on board for the movie.

Says one insider, “There’s a lot of posturing going on between Edward’s camp and Marvel over how you edit the final version.” Sources also tell me that, starting last night and continuing at least throughout today, the actor will be holed up with Marvel Studios chairman David Maisel, Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige, and director Louis Leterrier to try to “reach an amicable resolution” to this $150+ million film feud.

Some insiders blame Marvel for not accepting Norton’s POV about the movie. “There’s a problem. Marvel won’t listen to Norton about the cut,” one source claims. Some blame Norton, known to be prickly. (Remember his problems with Paramount over The Italian Job and with director Tony Kaye over American History X?) “Never let an actor write a script,” one insider commented. “Marvel made a mistake letting the wolf into the hen house.”


If Norton were to refuse to promote the movie it would be seen as a crushing blow to “street cred.” While things are quite testy, apparently healthy discussions are going on. As Finke’s item alludes to, it seems The Hulk is the Marvel franchise with the most problems — first Ang Lee’s widely disliked film, and now this. Of course, Marvel should have known better. On American History X, Norton was given final cut of the film, to director Tony Kaye’s chagrin:

Last fall, New Line test-screened Kaye’s first cut of the movie, which earned surprisingly good numbers for such a hard-edged drama. But then New Line made an unusual move; it agreed to have Nortn edit a cut of the film himself. Kaye contends Norton broached the idea; De Luca says he approached Norton, although he acknowledges the actor gave him an incentive, threatening not to do press if he couldn’t “stand behind the movie.” Norton has repeatedly refused to discuss his involvement in rewriting or editing the film.

However, veteran studio hands say that having an actor spend nearly two months in the editing room is a situation fraught with peril – most established directors would never allow it. Although Norton was there with Kaye’s knowledge, the director couldn’t contain his anger about having to step aside. One day Kaye stormed out of the editing room and punched a nearby wall, cutting his hand to the bone. “My hand must’ve hit a hidden nail, because I had blood gushing everywhere,” he recalls. “I had to go to the hospital to have stitches. I still have the scar.”


Later on, Norton rewrote FRIDA, in which he played a bit part, but then girlfriend (and Beat sweetheart) Salma Hayek starred. The WGA denied him writing credit after a battle.

Looks like someone has always got to be Thunderbolt Ross for this Hollywood auteur!

  1. When you hire Norton, you hire more than an actor…that’s been firmly established and Marvel knew that from the outset. And he rewrote the script from the ground up, so he has more creative investment in the movie than simply his performance. Personally, I’m okay with this. Norton is smart, and most tentpole superhero movies would have come out better if someone had stood up and said “Hey wait, this part sucks.”

  2. Why hire Norton? He does have name recognition, but not enough to headline a movie, ESPECIALLY with all the headaches mentioned above. Let him make his own movie…
    The Empire link from the Superman item also mentions that Norton’s company is producing a pro-Obama documentary, for completion in 2009.

  3. Though I’ve seen quite a few sucky Marvel movies, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad Ed Norton flick. Maybe there’s one I’m not thinking of, but he seems to always be involved in movies worth seeing.

  4. > I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad Ed Norton flick. Maybe there’s
    > one I’m not thinking of…

    How do you feel about DEATH TO SMOOCHY?

    (But, yes, Norton does seem to have a higher good-movies-to-bad-movies ratio of many working actors today…)

  5. Given that Ed Norton is probably one of the best actors and most consistently excellent people in film today, having him give a lot of input seems like the kind of burden more films should put up with.

  6. And my mind boggles at the kind of person in the film business who would say “gosh, we’d hate to have our film turn out to be as well-edited as American History X!”

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