In 1998, Norton cut his own version of Tony Kaye's American History X after battling with the eccentric director. ''Edward is very bright, charismatic, articulate, and aggressive,'' says Steve Tisch, an exec producer of that film. Kaye was taking a long time cutting the film, to everyone's frustration, Tisch says, and Norton simply took matters into his own hands. A decade has since gone by, and Norton has made more than a dozen films without incident. More to the point, Marvel seemed eager for the actor's input. They hired him not only to act but also to rewrite sections of the script, and they let him function as an uncredited producer. Still, Leterrier was nervous. ''The stories I heard about Edward they scared the bejesus out of me,'' he says. ''I was scared the guy would come in and say, 'All right, you're a little French director who's just done action movies, so you stick to the action and I'll do the drama.''' Did that happen? ''Not at all!'' he says warmly. ''I love the guy. He has a voice; he just wants to be heard. And he hates lip service.''
According to Leterrier, he and his star hit it off beautifully, and there were no issues with Marvel while the movie was being shot. During post-production, though, the relationship with Marvel hit a snag. The company wanted to release the most commercial film possible: lots of action and a running time under two hours. Norton and Leterrier, however, lobbied for a more meditative cut of the film that ran about two hours and 15 minutes. Tempers flared between Norton and Marvel. ''Everyone was exhausted; it was like a little burst,'' Leterrier says. '''I'm angry with you!' 'No, I'm angry with you!' And me in the center saying 'Boys, calm down.' It didn't come to blows. It was just a remark here and there.'' And it would have ended there. But, Leterrier says, ''then it became public.''
On March 11, Nikki Finke's industry blog, Deadline Hollywood Daily, broke news of the scuffle between Marvel and Norton, declaring it a ''feud.'' And suddenly it was. Communication between Norton and Marvel seems to have stopped. ''The press is what kept Edward and Marvel from talking to each other,'' Leterrier says. ''[The argument] was nothing, but then it became something big.'' Norton is honest and forthright, say those who've worked with him, so why hasn't he defused the situation by speaking up? Sources say the actor is worried about being unfairly branded ''a pain in the ass'' by the press. They say he wants The Incredible Hulk to be a hit and concedes that Marvel's cut, though not what he wanted, is more commercial than his. ''He's very Zen about it,'' says a source.
NEXT: Norton himself weighs in read his full statement to EW