Rumor: Joaquin Phoenix to play Hulk in The Avengers?

Hot on the news that Edward Norton has had his Avengers membership card revoked, Devin Faraci from CHUD claims reliable sources have told him that Marvel has put out an offer to Joaquin Phoenix for the role of Bruce Banner, the Incredible Hulk’s puny human alter ego.

Phoenix, who has been nominated twice for Oscars (Gladiator, Walk the Line), had quit acting recently to concentrate on a rap career that may or may not have been a practical joke undertaken for the purposes of a documentary filmed by Casey Affleck. Spending the last few years dressed like an angry homeless man and in a constant state of drugged out haze, Phoenix may be looking for a career comeback and movies won’t get much bigger than The Avengers. Marvel’s upcoming superhero team-up will combine the stars from its Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and Thor franchises; Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon is all but confirmed to direct.

Word on the web is that Marvel is looking to formally announce Whedon as the film’s director at this month’s Comic-Con — letting the man introduce the cast of the film. The studio, then, is in a hurry to get a star lined up to replace Norton as the Incredible Hulk’s alter ego Bruce Banner. If Phoenix passes on a role, another offer to another star may go out immediately.

The Buzz: While Joaquin Phoenix may not be my first choice, I have little hopes that Marvel will be considering Steve Buscemi anytime soon. In that case, Phoenix may make a fine addition to the long line of actors who you wouldn’t like when they’re angry.

Over his career, Phoenix has played a variety of character types — showing he has the range to pull off a role normally not associated with his wheel basket. His recognizable name and award-winning pedigree could also help balance the film’s cast out nicely — joining Robert Downey Jr. as the senior statesman in a cast that would have otherwise been leaning a bit too much toward the up-and-coming talent section of Hollywood.

Faraci warns readers to treat this as a rumor — so members of the Joaquin Phoenix Fan Club shouldn’t get too excited just yet. The reason it seems Norton was axed from the project to begin with seems to stem from the troubles associated with his historically hard-to-work-with attitude. Phoenix hasn’t exactly been Mr. Congeniality of late either. Even if an offer was put out to Phoenix, Marvel might wise up and decide to go with somebody a little less difficult.

Until the moment Whedon calls out Phoenix’s name, though, I’ll still be rooting for Buscemi to walk away with the role he was born to play.

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