In February 2015, when “Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” directed by Alejandro González Iárritu won the Academy Award for Best Picture it seemed to be a critique of current blockbuster patterns.
Michael Keaton gave a superb performance as Riggan Thompson an actor who became famous in the 1980s and 1990s for his role as Birdman a ridiculous comic book superhero. If you are interested in knowing why Edward Norton declined The Hulk Sequel? Then start reading to learn:
Since then, Riggan has been doing everything he can to prove that he is a “real actor,” including starring in the critically acclaimed Broadway production that serves as the film’s focal point. In “Birdman,” there is a lot of talk about how superhero films are a type of selling out and how the urge to star in what the film considers vacuous entertainment is counter to art and the trade of acting. Superhero movies are still the most profitable eight years after “Birdman’s” critical analysis.
Keaton’s participation in bright, high-end shlock like “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Morbius,” both of which have been released twice despite their critical acclaim, is hilarious in light of the film’s scathing criticism of superhero flicks.
Like his character in “Birdman,” Edward Norton has been torn between the success of a superhero role (in Norton’s case, “The Incredible Hulk” from director Louis Leterrier’s 2008 film “The Incredible Hulk”) and the desire to be recognized as a versatile performer capable of taking on exciting roles. Norton discussed his choice to move on from his role as the Hulk in an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross in 2014.
The Hulk’s Remarkable Appeal
It’s important to remember that Universal’s “The Incredible Hulk” was only added to Marvel’s expanding Cinematic Universe after its initial release. Disney wouldn’t buy the film rights to most Marvel Comics characters until the following year, delaying their plans for an “Avengers” feature picture and, eventually, an all-encompassing cinematic universe by a full year.
Cute Easter eggs were added as winking fan service in both “Hulk” and Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man” from the same year, but they were not intended to be read by viewers as advertisements for future works or statements of intent. Because of this, Leterrier’s film did not get the same media attention as nowadays’s standard MCU release.
I Wished For a Wider Range of Perspectives
Gross questioned Norton why he didn’t want to play Bruce Banner again, and Norton said coolly that he was done with “that kind of movie.” Actor Mark Ruffalo would play Banner in the 2012 blockbuster “The Avengers.” Not concerned about commercial success, he acted in a superhero movie. In his words, he’d instead go after “diversity”:
To what extent did he intentionally avoid further “Hulk” films to separate himself from a character that would eventually eclipse him? According to Norton, it was probably unconscious. After all, Michael Keaton is far from alone in being practically synonymous with his portrayal of Batman. Ask any of the likes of George Reeves, Adam West, Christopher Reeve, Lou Ferrigno, Lynda Carter, Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth how often they get recognized for their actions outside of their superhero gigs.
Feige vs. Norton
Norton doesn’t despise the Marvel Cinematic Universe or his time spent as the Hulk. Once upon a time, Norton did want to learn more about the Hulk in future films, but not in the way the studio preferred. Norton originally planned on doing two more Hulk movies—”character pieces” in which the actor would have more say over where Bruce Banner goes and how the movies turn out.
The studio desired a larger mass-appeal project, and Norton eventually lost interest. Norton has been vocal in his criticism of Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige for his emphasis on brand loyalty. Feige has been said to desire to find an actor with a more substantial “collaborative spirit.”
The movies have moved on from there. Although “The Incredible Hulk” is now considered an outlier in the MCU, Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of the Hulk has led to appearances in several more films and a forthcoming TV program. Norton, meanwhile, will next be seen in “Knives Out,” the sequel to his previous film, “The French Dispatch.”
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