Why Edward Norton Said No To Avatar 2 But Yes To Alita: Battle Angel

Motherless Brooklyn Edward Norton pulling a concerned face

Academy Award nominee Edward Norton isn’t the type of actor you would have expected to be in a film like Alita: Battle Angel; and yet when the last act of director Robert Rodriguez’s film revealed him to be the actor playing big bad Nova, audience members were treated to a gasp-worthy twist. As it turns out, that role came out of Norton rejecting a part in director James Cameron’s Avatar 2, which happened for one very specific reason: Edward Norton really, really wants to be a Na’vi.

In a recent interview, Norton explained himself as follows:

I am friends with Jim [Cameron], and actually enormously admire and kind of adore him... So when he wanted me to do something in Avatar 2, I basically told him, 'If I’m not a Na’vi, I’m not doing it. I’m not being part of the industrial world, coming in to destroy Pandora. I’m either a Na’vi or nothing.' He was like, 'OK, maybe in 3, 4 or 5, then.' In the meantime, he asked, 'Well, do you know Robert [Rodriguez]?' I was like, 'Whatever. Let’s do something. I want to do something with him.'

Two pretty big things to take away here: first, holy crap Edward Norton and James Cameron are friends, and somehow this is the first most people are hearing about it. But second, and most importantly, Norton’s reasoning for rejecting a role in Avatar 2 was pretty solid. Throughout his career, the actor has sometimes been used a kind of shorthand for an officious villain, with films like The Italian Job, and more applicably The Bourne Legacy painting him as the creep that wants to crash the party.

Make no mistake, Edward Norton is really good at playing a multi-faceted villain, but after so many times in that sort of role, any sane actor would want the challenge of playing one of Pandora’s indigenous peoples. And in the case of Avatar 2, that challenge ideally would have involved motion capture and some really cool CGI augmentations. Something that there was undoubtedly a little of both of when Norton signed onto his small, but crucial role in Robert Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel.

Perhaps the coolest side effect of his choice to bypass the proposed Avatar 2 role that GamesRadar just uncovered is the fact that not only could Edward Norton show up in a future movie in the franchise, alongside other luminaries like Sigourney Weaver and Kate Winslet, but should the Alita: Battle Angel sequel ever get off the ground, Norton would more than likely get a chance to dive deeper into his character of Nova. That’s a pretty impressive sci-fi double play, should it be in the offing.

For now though, we’ll have to temper any hopes of seeing Edward Norton as either a Na’vi, or Nova, until the movie gods smile upon us all and allow either really cool possibility to occur. But should the day come that the actor’s dream comes true, you can bet we’ll want to see it for ourselves.

In the meantime, you can catch Edward Norton’s long awaited return to directing with Motherless Brooklyn, which will be in theaters on November 1st. Should you want to find something a little more sci-fi, like say the James Cameron-produced Terminator: Dark Fate, then head over to our 2019 release schedule, and see what’s in store for the rest of this year’s cinematic calendar.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.