Thehulk_boffojpg

Following the news of Edward Norton's departure from "The Avengers," rumors have begun to fly as to whom will portray the Hulk in the upcoming superhero pic.

First up: Mark Ruffalo.

Nikki Finke is reporting that "The Kids Are All Right" thesp is in 'late talks' to play Bruce Banner (a.k.a. The Hulk) in Marvel's upcoming pic but that may be premature with no negotiations having yet taken place between Ruffalo and Marvel, sources close to the actor say.

Ruffalo_boffo The Joss Whedon-directed "The Avengers," which Paramount is distributing, unites Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Hulk characters onscreen.

The speculation arrives with Comic-Con just around the corner, where Marvel plans on presenting the cast on July 25.

Marvel topper Kevin Feige addressed Norton's departure on Monday in this statement to HitFix:

Norton_boffo

"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," Feige wrote. "'The Avengers' demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H., Chris E., Sam (Jackson), Scarlett (Johansson), 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."

Norton, who starred in 2008's "The Incredible Hulk," took to Facebook on Monday to thank his fans and confirm his exit as the green superhero:

"It seems it won't work out for me to continue playing Bruce Banner for Marvel in 'The Avengers.' … I know this is disappointing to many people and that makes me sad. But I am very sincerely grateful to Marvel for extending the offer and even more so for giving me the chance to be part of the Hulk's long and excellent history."

"The Avengers," which bows May 4, 2012, stars Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), and Chris Hemsworth (Thor).

Whedon is directing the pic and reworking a script from Zak Penn.

Whedon is repped by CAA.
 

Follow Stuart Oldham on Twitter. TwitterT_boffo

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more