What Happened to Edward Norton?

hulk faceI have been a comic book fan ever since I read my first Spiderman comic book in 1968. Each year, I look forward to the first weekend in May when Marvel typically releases their first big movie of the summer.

I usually rent the private suite for the midnight showing at the AMC Theatre in Arbor Lakes. It’s something we do as a family every year. I’m hoping it makes my adult children think I am still cool.

This year I was looking forward to seeing, “The Avengers” on the big screen, but I was wondering if Marvel could pull it off. After all, they were bringing together four lead actors from four individual blockbuster movies. (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America).

In addition they were adding two new characters Hawkeye and The Black Widow. A tall order for any director – to manage all of that star power and create the character development for six individual characters.

As May 4th approached I was wondering, “What happened to Edward Norton?” Edward Norton, one of the best actors of this generation played Bruce Banner, the lead character of the Hulk movie. Everyone loved Edward Norton’s portrayal of the Hulk, so why was Edward not part of the Avengers movie?

I decided to Google it. (I love Google. It’s kind of like a super power.) I typed in “Why was Edward Norton not in the Avengers movie?”

This is what I found:

“We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in the Avengers. 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 Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H, Chris E, Sam, Scarlett, and all of our talented casts. We are looking to announce a name actor who fulfills these requirements, and is passionate about the iconic role in the coming weeks.”

Kevin Feige, President of Production, Marvel Studios

July 9, 2010 (read the full article here)

I would have guessed that Marvel had offered the role to Edward Norton, and that he turned it down, however Marvel didn’t even offer him the job because he didn’t embody the “creativity and collaborative spirit of the other cast members.” That is a strong statement to make about arguably one Hollywood’s most talented actors.

On Friday May 4th, I found this quote in an article by Brian Alexander in the USA Today.

“Q: With all the star power on set, how do you keep the egos in check? Was there a team-unity pep talk needed?

Chris Evans: There doesn’t need to be a pep talk. My opinion is fact. These movies wouldn’t have happened if Iron Man hadn’t been a big success. This guy (Downey) was like the dad. His attitude was so fantastic. So there was this instant unity.

Robert Downey: This was a very controlled shoot because it was a complicated pregnancy. It needed to be managed so that we made sure the mom was OK, and that we got the kid to the incubator…. It’s that thing where how can the highest good be done? It’s to make compromises that are really uncomfortable in the short term. And have faith.”

(full article)

I know I am reading between the lines a little bit here, but this is my read on it.

Director Josh Whedon had the challenge of directing four lead actors. He had two veteran actors in Edward Norton and Robert Downy Jr. and two up and coming actors in Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth. Whedon knew he needed one of the four to be the peer leader. This “leader on the set” could not just be focused on his own performance but willing to let the others guys shine and it had to be somebody that the other guys would want to follow. In Josh Whedon’s opinion Robert Downy Jr. was the man for the job so he cut one of the best actors in Hollywood – Edward Norton.

Did Josh Whedon make the right call? It would say yes. Avengers raked in $200 million on opening weekend, smashing the old record of $169 Million.

What kind of leadership lessons can we learn from the Avengers?

  1. Sometimes, as a leader you have to make hard decisions for the good of the team.
  2. You will not be able to take everyone with you on your journey.
  3. Leadership is a two way street. It’s about challenging yourself and making other people look good at the same time.
  4. It’s easier to beat the bad guys if you have the giant green monster on your team.

This is one of my favorite leadership quotes:

“You see, when there is danger, a good leader takes the front line. But when there is celebration, a good leader stays in the back of the room. If you want the cooperation of human beings around you, make them feel they are important.” Nelson Mendala

A secure leader is one that can lead from the back of the room and lets his or her followers be the hero. Here is my question for you. How do you feel when one of your mentees gets promoted? Are you able to let them be the hero?

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