We Now Know Why People Don't Want To Work With Edward Norton

Hey, wasn't Edward Norton the Incredible Hulk?

That was a question many Marvel fans were asking when it was announced in July 2010 that Mark Ruffalo was cast as Bruce Banner in The Avengers. Norton had played the comic-book scientist with a bad temper in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk, but he was replaced with another actor two years after its release.

Norton, a three-time Academy Award nominee, made a name for himself in breakthrough roles like American History X and Fight Club. From the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, Norton was considered a top rising talent, winning a Golden Globe for his film debut in the 1996 thriller Primal Fear. But when that era was over, the actor was pushed into supporting roles while his peers, like Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, were becoming starring leads.

What could be the reason for Norton's fading star power? The actor's reputed behavior behind the scenes may have something to do with it.

Norton likes to be in control

Edward Norton is more than an actor; he also directs and produces films. He is known for wearing all these hats at once, even when they fall outside of his job duties. Sometimes his overzealous demands conflict with directors and movie studios.

One of Norton's biggest blow-ups with a director was linked to 1998's American History X. Norton played a reformed skinhead who was just released from jail, with Edward Furlong as his young brother. According to IFC, director Tony Kaye did not approve of casting Norton in the film. Joaquin Phoenix was first considered for the role, but the Joker star turned it down. Norton stepped in just in time for production to start, taking a pay cut and saying no to a role in Saving Private Ryan.

When the film was in post-production, Norton edited his own version of the movie after the movie studio rejected two of Kaye's earlier cuts. The studio would later release Norton's version without Kaye's approval. Kaye denounced the film, asking that his name be replaced with Humpty Dumpty and suing the studio for $200 million. Norton would eventually receive an Oscar nomination for the film.

Kaye told Entertainment Weekly that Norton was "a narcissistic dilettante" who ruined the film with his unauthorized cut. "It's good enough to fool New Line. And it's certainly fooling Edward Norton. But it doesn't fool me. My standards are a lot higher," Kaye said.

Norton butted heads with Marvel

Ten years later, Edward Norton would be in the middle of another creative tug-of-war. The actor was cast as Bruce Banner in director Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk. The 2008 reincarnation was the second movie in Marvel's Phase One of its cinematic universe that would produce Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr. and Captain America: The First Avenger with Chris Evans.

Norton was hired to play the title role and to rewrite parts of the script written by Zak Penn. Slash Film reported that Norton's additions to the script included "a lot of dialogue and character motivation." After filming was complete, Marvel was unhappy and wanted the movie to be shorter and filled with action. The feud between Norton and Marvel went public just before The Incredible Hulk's first trailer debuted in 2008.

"It's as much Marvel's fault as it is Edward's," Leterrier told Entertainment Weekly. "And my fault. It's everybody's fault! Or no one's fault, in a way. I regret that [Marvel and Norton] didn't come to an agreement where we could've all worked together."

In a statement, Norton accused the media of sensationalizing the matter, writing on Facebook: "Regrettably, our healthy process, which is and should be a private matter, was misrepresented publicly as a 'dispute,' seized on by people looking for a good story, and has been distorted to such a degree that it risks distracting from the film itself, which Marvel, Universal and I refuse to let happen."

Norton fought over Fight Club

The first rule of Fight Club is to not talk about Fight Club. However, those involved with the 1999 film have talked about their experience. Director David Fincher adapted the Chuck Palahniuk novel starring Edward Norton alongside Brad Pitt and Jared Leto.

According to Indiewire, Fincher clashed with Norton over how much humor there could be in the movie.

"I think Edward had this idea of, 'Let's make sure people realize that this is a comedy,'" Fincher told Indiewire in 2019. "He and I talked about this ad nauseum. There's humor that's obsequious, that's saying, 'Wink-wink, don't worry, it's all in good fun.' And my whole thing was to not wink."

Norton later said Fincher had the final word on all decisions for the film. "The one suggestion I made, he shot down," Norton told CNN in January 2020.

Actor Janeane Garofalo alleged that Norton cost her the role of Marla in the film. Helena Bonham Carter would eventually take the part. In an interview with BUILD by Yahoo! in January 2020, Garofalo said that she met with Fincher about the role, but was later told that it was going to Norton's then-girlfriend Courtney Love. "Edward Norton ... felt I didn't have the chops to do it but nobody kind of told me," Garofalo told BUILD.

Norton denied that allegation, calling Garofolo "really mistaken," according to CNN

These days, Norton is taking a break from Hollywood — and can you blame him?