Edward Norton is just one of those actors who can connect with people. When people talk about their favorite actors of the last 20 years, he’s a name that comes up extremely often. Yeah, I’ve heard the stories about in-fighting and rogue edits, but let’s be honest here: most of the time one of those stories pops up it’s about a movie that’s good. So as a consumer of movies, why on Earth should I care about creative differences as long as the product I paid for delivers? And, way more often than not, Edward Norton delivers.
Though what is odd is just how long it’s been since Norton has directed, the last being Keeping the Faith way back in 2000. When you talk to Norton, he’s so meticulous about what he wants out of a film (which, frankly, comes as no surprise) it’s shocking that it’s been 19 years since his last and only other directing gig. Though, Norton has been trying, on and off, to get Motherless Brooklyn (based on the book by Jonathan Lethem, with the setting shifted from the 1990s to the 1950s) made for over 20 years. Yes, by definition it’s his passion project and, yes, Norton is an extremely passionate guy. When I met Norton at a hotel in Midtown Manhattan, he was brimming with excitement. This thing, this project, he’s been working on for 20 years, is finally a reality.
When I met Norton, he was quite friendly, but had a look of slight skepticism on his face. Basically a, “What’s your deal?” look. And, frankly, I found myself appreciating that because, if I were in his position, I’m fairly sure I’d be the same way. But the interesting thing about Norton is as he talks, he riffs on his past filmograpgy and any topic he might be thinking about that day, so one second we were talking about Fight Club, then The Incredible Hulk, then commenting on Martin Scorsese’s opinion of Marvel movies.
Edward Norton: What’s going on?
I don’t know why I still have this almost empty cup of iced coffee…
Because on your own recording, you want the sound of of you drinking it.
Yes, I do.
It’s all such a blur. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Who you write for…
Yeah, I don’t know much about it.
Last time I interviewed Christian Bale he asked if it was a drug site.
“Yeah, we’re Silk Road.”
I know how much you’ve struggled to make this movie.
Yeah, there’s a coexisting sensation of satisfaction and just the settling contentment of a thing that had been rattling in your head a long time. Like having been not just resolved, but I watch it, and it’s as close to the movie as I had in my head as I could hope. And in some ways, I’m pretty delighted by the ways it transcended what I ever had. Like the music, which always comes in very late phase, you know?
I had some weird ideas about a mashup of things I love, between Radiohead and jazz. If the film is working, it really works when the music comes in. And then suddenly, you’re like, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”