Norton, Edward 1969–
NORTON, Edward 1969–
Full name, Edward James Norton, Jr.; born August 18, 1969, in Columbia, MD (some sources say Boston, MA); son of Edward James (an attorney) and Robin (a foundation executive and teacher) Norton. Education: Attended the Columbia School for Theatrical Arts; Yale University, B.A., history, 1991; studied acting with Terry Schreiber at the T. Schreiber Studio, New York.
Addresses: Agent—Endeavor, 9601 Wilshire Blvd., Third Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.
Career: Actor, director, producer, and writer. Enterprise Foundation, employee in Osaka, Japan, c. 1990s, later a member of the board of directors in New York City; Signature Theatre Company, New York City, artistic director, 2001–03, also a board member; Class 5 Films, partner; appeared in television commercials and public service announcements; worked as a musician; worked as a casting director's assistant, waiter, and proofreader in New York City; Yale University, New Haven, CT, Middle East Peacemakers Fund, founder; affiliated with charities, benefits, and fund-raising activities.
Awards, Honors: National Board of Review Award, best supporting actor, 1996, for Everyone Says I Love You; Society of Texas Film Critics Award, best supporting actor, 1996, for The People vs. Larry Flynt and Primal Fear; National Board of Review Award, best supporting actor, 1996, Golden Globe Award, best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a motion picture, Academy Award nomination, best supporting actor, Film Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a supporting role, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Saturn Award nomination, best supporting actor, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, and MTV Movie Award nomination, best villain, all 1997, for Primal Fear; Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award and Boston Society of Film Critics Award, both best supporting actor, 1996, Florida Film Critics Award and Southeastern Film Critics Association Award, both best supporting actor, 1997, and Chicago Film Critics Association Award, most promising actor, 1997, all for Everyone Says I Love You, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Primal Fear; Golden Satellite Award, best performance by an actor in a motion picture—drama, International Press Academy, 1999, Academy Award nomination, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination, Saturn Award nomination, Chlotrudis Award nomination, and Online Film Critics Society Award nomination, all best actor, 1999, all for American History X; Southeastern Film Critics Association Award, best actor, 1999, for American History X and Rounders; Online Film Critics Society Award nomination, best actor, MTV Movie Award nomination, best fight, and Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination (with Brad Pitt), favorite action team, all 2000, for Fight Club; Street Award, best feature film, Street Film Festival, Milan, Italy, 2000, and Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a motion picture, comedy or musical, 2001, both for Keeping the Faith; Obie Award, performance, Village Voice, and Lucille Lortel Award nomination, outstanding lead actor, both 2003, for Burn This; International Man of the Year Award, British edition of GQ magazine, 2003; Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a motion picture, drama, 2003, and Sant Jordi Award, best foreign actor, 2004, both for 25th Hour.
Alan Isaacman, The People vs. Larry Flint (also known as Larry Flynt), Columbia, 1996.
Holden Spence, Everyone Says I Love You (musical), Miramax, 1996.
Aaron/Roy Stampler, Primal Fear, Paramount, 1996.
Voice of Henry Gerber, Out of the Past (documentary), Unapix Entertainment, 1998.
Derek Vineyard, American History X, New Line Cinema, 1998.
Lester "Worm" Murphy, Rounders, Miramax, 1998.
Himself, Forever Hollywood (documentary), Esplanade Productions/The American Cinematheque, 1999.
Jack (narrator), Fight Club, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1999.
Father Brian Finn, Keeping the Faith, Buena Vista, 2000.
Jack Teller, The Score, Paramount, 2000.
J. D. Caulfield, Catch Her in the Eye (short film), Queer Screen, 2001.
Sheldon Mopes/Smoochy the Rhino, Death to Smoochy (also known as Toetet Smoochy), Warner Bros., 2002.
Nelson Rockefeller, Frida (also known as Frida Kahlo), Miramax, 2002.
Will Graham, Red Dragon (also known as Roter Drache), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2002.
Monty Brogan, 25th Hour, Buena Vista, 2002.
Steve, The Italian Job (also known as Braquage a l'italienne), Paramount, 2003.
(Uncredited) Himself, After the Sunset, New Line Cinema, 2004.
Harlan, Down in the Valley, Element Films, 2004.
King Baldwin, Kingdom of Heaven (also known as El reino de los cielos and Koenigreich der Himmel), Twentieth Century-Fox, 2005.
Lionel Essrog, Motherless Brooklyn, New Line Cinema, 2005.
Eisenheim, The Illusionist, Bull's Eye Entertainment/Michael London Productions/Stillking Films, 2006.
Walter Fane, The Painted Veil, Warner Independent Pictures, 2006.
Keeping the Faith, Buena Vista, 2000.
Motherless Brooklyn, New Line Cinema, 2005.
Keeping the Faith, Buena Vista, 2000.
(With others) 25th Hour, Buena Vista, 2002.
Executive producer, Dirty Work (documentary), Class 5 Films, 2004.
Down in the Valley, Element Films, 2004.
Motherless Brooklyn, New Line Cinema, 2005.
(With others) The Illusionist, Bull's Eye Entertainment/Michael London Productions/Stillking Films, 2006.
The Painted Veil, Warner Independent Pictures, 2006.
Television Appearances; Specials:
The AFI's 100 Years … 100 Stars, CBS, 1999.
Himself, The Concert for New York City, VH1, 2001.
Voice, War Letters (documentary), PBS, 2001.
2001: A Year with Cal Ripkin, Jr. (documentary), ESPN, 2001.
Himself, Hello, He Lied & Other Truths from Hollywood Trenches (documentary), American Movie Classics, 2002.
(Uncredited) Himself, Inside the Playboy Mansion (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 2002.
Himself, Who Is Alan Smithee? (documentary), American Movie Classics, 2002.
Reel Comedy: Death to Smoochy, Comedy Central, 2002.
Narrator, The Yunnan Great Rivers Expedition (documentary), 2003.
Oscar Countdown 2003, ABC, 2003.
Host and narrator, Strange Days on Planet Earth (documentary), 2005.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
The 1997 Golden Globe Awards, NBC, 1997.
The 1997 MTV Movie Awards, MTV, 1997.
The 69th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1997.
Presenter, The 55th Golden Globe Awards, 1998.
The 71st Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1999.
Presenter, The 72nd Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2000.
Himself, AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Robert De Niro, USA Network, 2003.
The 75th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2003.
The 24th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2003.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
(Uncredited) Himself, Saturday Night Live (also known as NBC's "Saturday Night," Saturday Night, and SNL), NBC, 1999, 2003.
Voice of Devon Bradley, "The Great Money Caper," The Simpsons (animated), Fox, 2000.
"Dustin Hoffman: First in His Class," Biography (also known as A&E Biography: Dustin Hoffman), Arts and Entertainment, 2001.
Himself, God kveld Norge, 2003.
Himself, Inside the Actors Studio, Bravo, 2003.
Himself, Sunday Morning Shootout, American Movie Classics, 2003.
Himself, "Richard Gere," Biography (also known as A&E Biography: Richard Gere), Arts and Entertainment, 2004.
(As Ed Norton) Himself, Larry King Live, Cable News Network, 2004.
Himself, "Cannes 2005 special," Comme au cinema, 2005.
Himself, Le grand journal de Canal+, 2005.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Himself, Stella, Comedy Central, 2005.
Television Work; Specials:
Cinematographer, The Yunnan Great Rivers Expedition (documentary), 2003.
Annie Get Your Gun (musical), Toby's Dinner Theatre, Columbia, MD, 1977.
Waiting for Lefty, 1992.
Christian Pilgrim, Bible Burlesque, 29th Street Repertory Theatre, New York City, 1994.
Fragments (A Concerto Grosso) (also known as Fragments), Signature Theatre Company, Kampo Cultural Center, New York City, 1994.
Pale, Burn This, Signature Theatre Company, Union Square Theatre, New York City, 2002.
The Nitpicker (musical; benefit production), Sin-e, New York City, 2003.
The Pleasure Man (benefit staged reading), The Culture Project, 45 Bleecker, New York City, 2003.
Also appeared in Bring Me Smiles, Italian American Reconciliation, and Lovers.
Himself, On Location: Fight Club (short documentary), Twentieth Century-Fox, 2000.
Himself, A Director's Journey: The Making of "Red Dragon" (short documentary), Universal Home Video, 2003.
Himself, Spike Lee's "25th Hour": The Evolution of an American Filmmaker (short documentary), Touchstone Home Video, 2003.
Tom Clancy, Ambush at Fort Bragg, Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1997.
Album Executive Producer:
Keeping the Faith (soundtrack), Hollywood Records, 2000.
(With Stuart Blumberg) Keeping the Faith, Buena Vista, 2000.
(With Clancy Sigal, Diane Lake, Gregory Nava, and Anna Thomas) Frida (also known as Frida Kahlo; based on the book Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera), Miramax, 2002.
(Author of adaptation) Motherless Brooklyn (based on a book by Jonathan Lethem), New Line Cinema, 2005.
Film Music; Songs:
"The Friends Song" and "My Stepdad's Not Mean," Death to Smoochy (also known as Toetet Smoochy), Warner Bros., 2002.
Cineaste, Volume 25, issue 1, 1999, pp. 6-13.
Cosmopolitan, December, 1998.
Entertainment Weekly, June 27, 1997; March 1, 1999, p. 26.
Interview, October, 1998, p. 70; November, 1999, p. 118.
Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2002, pp. E1, E6.
New Weekly, January 10, 2000.
Parade, April 9, 2000.
People Weekly, November 18, 1996, p. 73; March 3, 1997, p. 45.
Premiere, January, 1997, pp. 64-65; October, 2002, p. 104.
Total Film, October, 2000, pp. 72-75.
US Weekly, December, 1998.
Vanity Fair, August, 1999, pp. 128-34, 182-84.
Vogue, January, 1997, pp. 80-92.
Women's Wear Daily, March 13, 2000, p. 28.
Nationality: American. Born: Boston, Massachusetts, 18 August 1969; raised in Columbia, Maryland. Education: Yale University, B.A. in History, 1991. Career: Stage actor, early 1990s; appeared on Broadway in Waiting for Lefty, 1992; recorded audiotape of Tom Clancy's Ambush at Fort Bragg, 1997. Address: International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA, 90211, U.S.A.
Films as Actor:
Everyone Says I Love You (Allen) (as Holden Spence); The People vs. Larry Flynt (Forman) (as Alan Isaacman); Primal Fear (Hoblit) (as Aaron Stampler)
Out of the Past (doc) (Dupre) (as narrator); American History X (Kaye) (as Derek Vinyard); Rounders (Dahl) (as Lester "Worm" Murphy)
Fight Club (Fincher) (as Narrator/Jack); Forever Hollywood (doc) (Glassman and McCarthy) (as Himself); A Salute to Dustin Hoffman (doc) (Gowers—for TV) (guest)
Keeping the Faith (as Brian Finn, + d, pr)
By NORTON: articles—
Fuller, Graham, "The New Edwardianism," interview in Interview (New York), January 1997.
Fuller, Graham, "Fighting Talk," interview in Interview (New York), November 1999.
On NORTON: articles—
Hoban, Phoebe, "He's Hot but Cool to Lure of Fame," in New York Times, 19 January 1997.
Handelman, David, "Wanted: Edward Norton," in Vogue, January 1997.
Maslin, Janet, "Such a Very Long Way From Duvets to Danger," in New York Times, 15 October 1999.
* * *
Edward Norton is that extreme rarity among modern actors: someone who actually seems more interested in becoming an actor than becoming a star—though he seems destined for both. Having received two Academy Award nominations in his first six film roles, Norton has reason to believe that stardom can actually detract from an actor's ability to act, since the more the audience knows about an actor, the harder it is for them to suspend their disbelief.
An excellent example of this is Norton's first role, in Primal Fear (1996), where nothing stood in the way of the audience's believing in his Aaron Stampler, the mentally unbalanced Appalachian choirboy accused of killing an archbishop who is defended by a smarmy Richard Gere. Reviewers and friends always pride themselves on not giving away a film's surprise ending but, by doing so, they are giving away the fact that there is a surprise ending; it's surprising to be surprised, but it's even more surprising if you're not expecting a surprise. Norton is right in saying that the makers of Primal Fear were lucky that this was his first film; if it were his second or third role and people were aware of what a good actor he is, they might be expecting some surprising twist at the end. But because they weren't expecting anything, the ending—and Norton's performance—blew them away. "The potency of the revelation about who my character really was in that film was in part reliant on the fact that people had absolutely no prior knowledge of me," he has said. Leonardo DiCaprio was originally cast as Stampler, but he pulled out fearing the intensity of the material. Over 2,000 actors tried out for the part, and while some were fine at playing one side of the character, no one could play both sides. Director Gregory Hoblit felt the role to be so crucial he was ready to abandon the film if a suitable replacement could not be found. Finally Norton submitted a screen test that was so impressive, it circulated around town and secured him his next two roles—in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You and Milos Forman's The People vs. Larry Flynt (both 1996)—even before Primal Fear was released. The role of Stampler earned him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination.
In Everyone Says I Love You and The People vs. Larry Flynt, Norton moved effortlessly from a backwoods psycho to a singing and dancing boy-next-door, and then on to an idealistic attorney in a performance to which The New York Times said Norton brought "a Jimmy Stewart-like sincerity." In Rounders (1998), Norton reversed directions again, playing Worm, a fast-talking card shark addicted to the dangerous world of high-stakes poker. While working on his character—whom he saw to be like Bugs Bunny: a merry prankster with a chaotic impulse—he went with a friend to a Rolling Stones concert, and seeing Keith Richards on stage gave Norton that aspect of the role he had been missing: the strutting cowboy.
No role he has undertaken has caused as much controversy as the part of Derek Vinyard in American History X, in which Norton goes from a hate-mongering skinhead with a swastika tattoo to someone who has renounced his past and hopes to save his little brother (Edward Furlong). Norton realized that to be intimidating as a skinhead, he needed to be more of a physical presence, so (a la Robert De Niro) he worked out for three months, toning and sculpting his thin body and gaining 30 pounds of muscle. Meanwhile, he was reading hate literature and visiting on the Internet and in person with current and former skinheads. Most of the film's controversy centered on the fear that, by portraying a skinhead and making him seem more human, Norton would be glamorizing that lifestyle. The fears were misplaced. While his transformation, as written, may be a little too pat, there is no question that Norton's performance is frighteningly good and that the filmmakers' hearts were in the right place. For his work, Norton received a Best Actor Oscar nomination.
Fight Club also had its share of controversy, creating a generalized fear that this macho comedy was advocating anarchy. Norton plays the narrator, who is suffocating in a white-collar job until he meets his alter ego, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), and the two form a fight club where men pummel one another just so they can feel something. No longer needing his muscle mass, Norton lost half the weight he had gained for American History X. The movie received widely varying reviews; The New York Times reviewer wrote: "The teamwork of Mr. Norton and Mr. Pitt is as provocative and complex as it's meant to be. Mr. Norton, an ingenious actor, is once again trickier than he looks."
If Norton keeps playing roles extraordinarily well, he may find it harder and harder to avoid stardom, though few actors have been so eloquent in discussing its dangers. He has no interest in being fodder for the rumor mill because, on a personal level, it "can be corrosive topleading a good and happy life" and can cheapen personal moments through "the sharing of them randomly, arbitrarily, with everybody," and, as an actor, "it could corrode what I think I have to offer as an actor, who can do different parts that are as unrecognizable from one another as possible. Every little thing that people know about you as a person impedes your ability to achieve that kind of terrific suspension of disbelief that happens when an audience goes with an actor and character that they're playing." His goal is to create characters—like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver or Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy—who seem to live on in the collective unconscious entirely independent of the actors who played them. If any actor today has a shot at creating such characters, it is probably Edward Norton