You many recognize Edward Norton from such movies as Primal Fear, American History X, Fight Club, The Italian Job, The Illusionist and many others. He is an amazing, amazingly under-publicized actor. Please do not take my word for it. Take a look at some of these Internet reviews beginning with Norton’s first movie, Primal Fear, in 1996.
Primal Fear (1996) Oscar Nomination Best Supporting Actor
Amazon.com – “Making an impressive screen debut that has since led to a stellar career, Norton gives a performance that rides on a razor’s edge of schizophrenic pathology–his role is an actor’s showcase, and without crossing over the line of credibility, Norton milks it for all it’s worth.”
Variety – “What people will tend to remember most is the gripping debut of Norton, a young theater actor who, as the meek country boy who only slowly reveals that there is more to him than meets the eye, exhibits outstanding technique and range. At first exposure, he seems a potentially great chameleon actor like Dustin Hoffman.”
American History X (1998) Oscar Nomination Best Actor
Reelviews – “The chief weakness in American History X is that we’re presented with only one truly three-dimensional character. As portrayed by Edward Norton (who gained 30 pounds for the role) in one of the year’s best performances, Derek is a fully-developed individual…..but it falls on Norton’s shoulders to carry the film. Ultimately, American History X succeeds in large part because of him.”
Amazon.com – “Perhaps the highest compliment you can pay to Edward Norton is that his Oscar-nominated performance in American History X nearly convinces you that there is a shred of logic in the tenets of white supremacy. If that statement doesn’t horrify you, it should; Norton is so fully immersed in his role as a neo-Nazi skinhead that his character’s eloquent defense of racism is disturbingly persuasive–at least on the surface.”
The Illusionist (2006)
Cinematical.com by Kim Voynar – “Norton, as Eisenheim, turns in perhaps his best performance since American History X as the brooding, lovelorn magician. Norton brings to Eisenheim a crackling intensity, especially in the scenes when he is matching wits against the equally intelligent Crown Prince. He is a charismatic actor, with an uncanny ability to almost hypnotize through the screen, a skill he uses to good effect here in playing a man who makes his living manipulating reality.”
Christianity Today – “The film’s best effects, though, are Norton’s compellingly enigmatic performance and Giamatti’s considerable sympathy and charm in a somewhat compromised role. Their scenes together are the best thing about the film, which also benefits visually from sumptuous Prague locations standing in for 1900s Vienna. Burger’s direction mirrors Norton’s performance; it is calm and unrushed, but never boring.”
Notice the variety in the sources of these reviews. Of course, this is just a very small sampling. You may find many more rave reviews of Norton’s work all over the Internet and you will be hard-pressed to find a negative review.
Allow me to offer my own humble rendition of a review of Norton’s acting:
Edward Norton is a very powerful character actor. He breathes life into a character as surely as you and I are breathing right now. He initiates the birth of a persona into a character. Then, he commands and cultivates this persona infusing it with human emotions and attributes. He controls it, allowing it to unfold, naturally, in front of your eyes until it flourishes into a bona fide human being. You will not be able to help yourself. You will feel true emotion for this skillfully spawned person. As you do, you will lose sight of the fact that Edward Norton is behind it all, in command of it all. Yet, a part of Norton is always present in his characters. Call it charisma, or what you will, but Edward Norton’s presence is always present on the screen. This is one true sign of a great actor. To watch Edward Norton act is to have the rare pleasure of watching a form of pure creation.
Given all of this, Edward Norton should have reached the celebrity status of having his name be a household word like Madonna or Tom Cruise by now, should he not? After all, he has been acting in major motion pictures for a good eleven years. So why isn’t his name quite a household word yet? Why is he under-publicized by the media?
Norton does not do things in his personal life that are outrageous or over-the-top to cause the media to bombard you with his name. You do not see Norton proposing at the Eiffel Tower. You do not hear wild tales about his secret love child, legal problems, or sexcapades. Norton does not exploit or allow his personal life to be exploited for the sake of publicity. You never see Edward Norton pull any cheap publicity stunts. He keeps it clean. He keeps it real and he keeps it about the work. He prefers to keep his private life just that, private!
Do Norton and other celebrities who desire privacy pay a price for it? Are they deprived of publicity they deserve and have earned through their work? Do the media give actors and celebrities more credit for their personal shenanigans than their talent?
Who cares, right? These celebrities make so much frigging money they get paid to be harassed and have their personal lives torn to shreds for the entire world to see, right?
Wrong! The way I see it, an actor is paid to entertain us on the screen. When we pay $11.00 for a movie ticket it entitles us to see the character the actor portrays, that’s it, nothing more. $11.00 barely buys anything nowadays, never mind carte blanche admission into a person’s private life. When I pay my dentist or cat sitter for their services, which is much more than $11.00 by the way, it does not make me privy to all of their personal business. It is a good thing, too, because I do not want to know, just like I do not want to know about actors. I never could understand the morbid fascination John and Jane Q Public have with actors’ private lives.
Now, I hear some people say that actors put themselves in public life, in the spotlight, and that they know what they are getting into when they enter the acting profession. They claim that huge paychecks are grounds for actors to put up with the paparazzi and all of the bull. I say, “Bull!” The public puts actors in the spotlight because they are so insatiably nosy. Celebrity rags and hound dog reporters put actors in the spotlight because they are so desperately greedy to make a buck. The celebrity gossip industry is a multi-gazillion dollar industry and that is why actors’ private lives are splattered all over the world. If there was no money in it, you can bet your bananas it would not happen. Of course, some actors are guilty of trying to suck every ounce of publicity out of the celebrity gossip circuit cow’s teat until they gag on globs of guzzled money.
So, when you think about it, you really have to admire an actor like Edward Norton who does not resort to cheap publicity stunts.
We, unfortunately, live in a world where many people have sharp, vile tongues that aim poison barbs at unwary souls with every loaded thrust. For a celebrity such as Edward Norton to avoid negative publicity and gossipmongers’ probes into his personal life while still reaping positive reviews of his work is utter testament to what an amazing actor he truly is. So, whether the publicity game is fair or not, whether Norton actually wants to play or not, whether the media ever makes his name a household word or not, does not change the fact that Norton is ultimately winning in more ways than one.
So, my fellow movie-goers, here’s some publicity you can trust just like customers’ opinions of products because it is completely without ulterior motive:
Do you want to see a really good movie? Do you want to be enthralled? Do you want to see a movie that makes you think and feel? Do you want to do more than merely watch a movie; do you want to be moved by it? Do you want to see a movie that is a sure bet NOT to be a waste of your time and money? If so, then you want to see an Edward Norton movie.
Filmography – Taken from IMDb (American Titles Only):
1. Motherless Brooklyn (2007) (announced)…Lionel Essrog
2. Pride and Glory (2007) (post-production)…Ray Tierney
3. The Painted Veil (2006)…Walter Fane
4. The Illusionist (2006)…Eisenheim
5. Down in the Valley (2005)…Harlan
6. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)…King Baldwin
7. The Italian Job (2003)…Steve
8. 25th Hour (2002)…Monty Brogan
9. Red Dragon (2002)…Will Graham
10. Frida (2002) Nelson Rockefeller
11. Death to Smoochy (2002)….Sheldon Mopes/Smoochy the Rhino
12. The Score (2001)…Jack Teller
13. Catch Her in the Eye (2001)…J>D> Caulfield
14. “The Simpsons”…Devon Bradley (1 episode, 2000)
–The Great Money Caper (2000) TV Episode (voice)…Devon Bradley
15. Keeping the Faith (2000)….Father Brian Finn
16. Fight Club (1999)…The Narrator
17. American History X (1998)…Derek Vinyard
18. Rounders (1998)…Lester “Worm” Murphy
19. Everyone Says I Love You (1996)….Holden Spence
20. The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)…Alan Isaacman
21. Primal Fear (1996)…Aaron Stampler