Edward Norton has been all over the place of late in promotion of Motherless Brooklyn, a film he wrote, directed, and stars in. It’s a project he’s longed to make for two decades, and he’s finally done it. The movie is in theaters now, and it’s got Norton up to his old tricks, playing a private eye afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome. However, it’s the films Norton did early in his career that have touched the borders of classic cinema.
Recently the actor sat down with GQ to reflect on the roles that made him a superstar. It’s fascinating to hear someone as thoughtful as Norton describe the experience of making a film, versus the experience of those who enjoy it. For the latter, it’s a present tense sort of relationship, he says. It’s simply not that way for those involved.
From 1996 to about 2002, few screen actors were better than he was. He made a regular practice of playing dual roles in the same movie, stretching his abilities to their limits each time he stepped in front of the camera. Consider his performance in American History X. He’s a vicious neo-Nazi the first half, a rehabilitated and repentant soul the second. In Primal Fear he’s a murder suspect with multiple personality disorder. In The Score, he’s a character pretending to have cerebral palsy. And then there’s Fight Club.
After 25th Hour, it was rare to find Norton playing a standout role in a must-see film. His Academy Award-nominated turn in Birdman was a welcome reminder of his great talent.
Watching him reminisce here about the movies of his youth is like a trip down memory lane for those of us who became cinephiles during that era.
Fight Club is undoubtedly the one remembered most fondly by fans. Of it, Norton says, “My abiding memory of the whole thing, whatever was quote-unquote ‘art’ about it, is that we were just having a ball.” And David Fincher, Norton claims, calls the film “a serious subject made by deeply unserious people.”
Check out the video below and remember how much you miss the late ‘90s.