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Edward Norton’s Hulking absence will be felt in “The Avengers.”

Edward Norton’s Hulking absence will be felt in “The Avengers.” (photo)

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It doesn’t exactly come as a shock that Edward Norton won’t be Hulking out in “The Avengers,” given his famous disagreements with Marvel over the final cut of 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” (in which he backed the film’s director), due to which he declined to do press for the film. If there was any surprise at all, it was that Norton apparently was open to returning to the role.

Unfortunately, Marvel’s move to replace Norton, which was exhaustively reported by HitFix‘s Drew McWeeny over the weekend, further cements his reputation as a difficult collaborator rather than the brilliant actor who lit up screens in “Fight Club” and “The 25th Hour.” And that is a shame.

Perhaps emboldened by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s recent incendiary send-off letter to Miami-bound LeBron James, Marvel’s Kevin Feige broke free of the usual platitudes when dismissing Norton in his bridge-burning 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.”

The strange thing is I can’t think of too many actors more creative or collaborative than Norton, who displayed such skills when he was brought on board “The Incredible Hulk” not only to star, but rewrite the script and “function as an uncredited producer,” according to an Entertainment Weekly report at the time.

07122010_EdwardNortonKingdomofHeaven.jpgNo disrespect to Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and all of the talented ensemble who will be a part of Joss Whedon’s superhero extravaganza in 2012, but none of them have been asked to handle the same workload, though Downey and “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau improv-ed their way to a hit. And if you’ll notice, Marvel’s films haven’t seemed as fresh since that success.

But what’s really troubling is Norton once again being tarred as some power-driven egotist when clearly that’s not who he is. Not the guy who rewrote “Frida” for then-girlfriend Salma Hayek for no money or credit when the film went over budget or sweating out two weeks in Morocco, unrecognizable under a mask just so he could work with Ridley Scott on “Kingdom of Heaven.”

I wouldn’t claim to know him well after spending a few minutes with him at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, but what I did gather from how willing he was to promote “Leaves of Grass” was his desire to be the consummate team player — someone who was involved in every aspect of the creative process because he genuinely cared about its outcome and supported his fellow cast and crew.

I regretted using some of my time with him to ask about his reputation since Norton’s unique kind of passion and intelligence is wasted on defending himself, but he nonetheless took the time to explain in the same sensible, reasoned, meticulous manner I imagine he discusses most matters, whether he’s being interviewed or not.

03122010_leavesofgrass.jpgNorton wasn’t being defensive, but direct when he said, “I don’t think people outside the process really genuinely have very much understanding of the process,” before going on to say:

The difference is I think the people who actually understand the process and are confident in their own contributions to it ultimately are the ones who walk out of that and say that’s what it takes to make it good. And these people went through it with me, so now we’re a team. The ones I find who are the most insecure and generally have the least, what I would call real rigor or thought are the ones who get the most defensive about that.

While Norton was only speaking generally, he was referring to a type of commitment that Marvel simply isn’t capable of, if you are to judge them by their actions here, which is ironic considering all that has gone into making a project as ambitious as “The Avengers” into a reality.

If Marvel wants to recast the Hulk, fine — it’s been done before and it’s their film, but at least do it for the right reasons. Fans of Norton can take solace in the fact that maybe we can finally get his adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” Marvel can get Joaquin Phoenix to play Bruce Banner, and everyone will get what they deserve. All I know for sure is Norton himself deserves better.

[Photos: “The Incredible Hulk,” Universal/Marvel, 2008; “Kingdom of Heaven,” 20th Century Fox, 2005]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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