Tag Archives: Edward Norton

Edward Norton: Stone-Cold Criminal

Talking in late September at Austin’s Fantastic Fest about his new crime drama “Stone,” where he plays a convict trying to get through — and get through to — Robert De Niro’s hardened parole officer standing between him and freedom, Edward Norton was relaxed and agreeably shaggy in a leather coat. You could feel Austin’s relaxed vibe working on the actor in a way that the celeb-starved howling hordes of Toronto or Tribeca don’t. “This year in Toronto, I felt like the paparazzi were a little aggressive,” he said. “Like, you go to so many (festivals) where the madness has overtaken the idea of people in a community rallying around films and discussion and all of that … and Austin is still pretty down in its boots, literally. When you bump into people on the street, I don’t know — I love for people to love a movie, I love for people to be excited when you’re there, but it’s so much nicer when people still just want to talk, where somehow you can just rap about films instead of having people freak out.”

I had to note that “Stone” wasn’t exactly the first time Norton’s played a character outside the law or in jail, from “Primal Fear” to glossy entertainments like ‘The Italian Job” and “The Score.” He didn’t think it was a factor that spoke to his tastes, but, rather, the wants of the film industry: “I can’t ascribe it to anything more than coincidence except for the fact that maybe prison is an intense environment. It’s a dramatic environment. Maybe it’s not me who’s pulled toward it but writers. It’s like Elmore Leonard. I think writers get drawn toward prison, because there’s something very allegorical about it, and we talked about it when we talked about this movie. But in this movie there’s different types of imprisonment. It’s about spiritual imprisonment, and I think maybe prison lends itself to thematic things.”

It’s also a hothouse environment, according to Norton — shooting in a real Michigan prison opposite Robert De Niro. “I liked the containment of this a lot,” he said. “I liked the confinement of this film, I liked the idea that we were going to make something dramatic out of what are, in essence, a series of conversations.” Conversations with, it should be noted, Robert De Niro. Is it, I asked, fun to sit down and go head-to-head with one of America’s greatest actors? “Very fun,” he said. “The essence of what acting challenges you to do, and actually one of the things I’ve always admired enormously about (De Niro) as an actor is how much he does off of words, off of the lines. And I’ve always said to people that I think he’s one of the greatest listening actors of all time. I think if you watch this film, it’s him at his best. So much is transpiring in the way he simply takes in this other guy, and there are shifts even in that.”

From my full article at The Rundown

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Stone and the Art of the Sell

“Stone” doesn’t unfold like a traditional crime drama as Edward Norton and Robert De Niro face off — which is why it’s a little jarring to compare the rock-‘em-sock-‘em trailer with the film. It’s a dislocation Norton sums up as politely as possible. “I concur with your observation that the marketing materials maybe make it look a little more plot-driven, noir-ish than it is. I’m hopeful that, giving credit to our partners in this, they’ve noted — and I don’t disagree — that in some ways you need the voices of writers and critics and things to start to flesh out what you’re communicating about it, and I do think they intend to use what we’re getting back off this film to let that sell of it bloom into a little more, so that they can let people know that it’s also a little more serious.”

Playing devil’s advocate, I offered that you can’t really do marketing for “Stone” cut from its quieter moments, a trailer of Terrence Malick-styled shots of wheat fields with the radio playing a pastor reading scripture. Norton laughed: “No. Or you could, but no one would go. It’s really interesting, isn’t it? I always try to be accommodating or remember that we are people who say — you, me and everybody who thinks they love films, who does love films — we say things, we say we want complexity, and we say that we want the unexpected and stuff like that, but there’s something in us as well that responds to certain things in very visceral ways. There’s something in us that, we want the unexpected, yet that means that we have expectations.”

Norton related a conversation he had with director David Fincher right after “Fight Club’s release, when initial critical and audience consensus was torn. “I said, ‘Are you getting this thing where you’re getting some people saying, ‘I think it’s brilliant, I think it’s complex, but I don’t know if people are going to be able to handle this, this and that about it’?’ And Fincher goes, ‘Yeah, it’s a very particular phenomenon: It’s called ‘I loved it, but I’m the smartest person in my peer group.’ Phenomenal. Now every time I go through any kind of thing with a film, and people say, ‘I just wonder if people are going to be able to go with it,’ in my mind I hear, ‘I loved it, but I’m the smartest person in my peer group.'”

And yet, Norton has high expectations for “Stone,” even in the face of the challenges facing a smaller, smarter and decidedly different film in today’s multiplex-driven marketplace. “I hope, all joking aside, I really, really encourage and hope that people will seek out a film like that that gives them a complex experience,” he said. “I really, genuinely think John (Curran, director) has crafted a very, very complex rumination on things that are in the nervous system of our country right now. You know what? People still come up to me all the time, and if it’s ‘Fight Club’ that’s their film that they like, or if it’s ’25th Hour’ or whatever, I really, really like it when people come up going, ‘That ending still — I’m still trying to get my mind around that.’ Because that means it’s gone in them in a way that they’re puzzling over, and I think that’s way better than getting a better review where the critic can tell you what the film’s about in one viewing and then wave it off. Good to see a movie out, right now, that you can’t wave off. I think that’s the way to do it.” “Stone” is currently playing in limited release.

From my full article at The Rundown

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Toronto Notebook: Edward Norton Rolls North to Promote His Cornrow Con Role in Stone

Wearing a black leather jacket and somehow looking both relaxed and alert, Edward Norton is taking on press duties in Toronto for his much-buzzed new drama Stone. Norton’s trying to explain that despite being here last year with the comedy Leaves of Grass and the year before opposite Colin Farrell in Pride and Glory, he doesn’t necessarily try to have a film ready for the Toronto International Film Festival every year.

But his answer says a lot about why the stars love coming to Toronto…

“It sort of depends—it has to land at the right moment. But I seem to be on a cycle where we’re always kind of ready with the film late spring and then Toronto’s the perfect place to bump it out. I’m always happy about that because I really like Toronto and I love coming up to this festival. I live in New York so it’s easy, and I’ve always had a great time here, always.”

Stone finds Norton acting opposite Robert De Niro, reuniting them nine years after they last clashed in the heist thriller The Score. But where The Score was a breezy caper, Stone is grim and gritty—a difference that excites Norton. “It’s definitely a different kind of movie-making. Let me put it this way: (The Score) was a lot of fun, and I think if 15 years ago someone had said to me, ‘You get to make a film with Robert De Niro someday,’ I would say [Stone] was very close to the kind of thing I would have dreamed of doing back then. (The script) was very rich and very, very challenging, and it is a dream come true to sit across and play out very, very complex, long scenes with someone as great as him.”

Norton was also reuniting with The Painted Veil director John Curran—which let Norton feel like he could take some acting chances, especially with the convict-inspired cornrows. “I felt it was really important with this character to have the initial view of him, the initial presentation be very, very, very, very unsettling and strange and I made a couple of choices. He [Curran] wanted to set the film in Detroit and I said, ‘If we’re going to do Detroit, I want to go where that takes us.’ I said things to him like ‘I’m seeing a lot of these [convicts] in cornrows and things.’ I think he was like, ‘What?’

“One of the big thrills to me was the first day we really started working on it, he came around the corner from the camera and his eyes were really wide and he just came over and went, ‘I just love this. I love where you’re going with this.’ And I went, ‘Ah, great…'”
From my full article at E! Online

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The Perfectly Adeqate Hulk

“Lee’s version of The Hulk was, in his words, an attempt to turn American fast food into a gourmet meal; The Incredible Hulk is more like a satisfying, really well-made burger, with a thick topping of computer-graphics. The Hulk isn’t a superhero defined by costume or a mask or a power-suit; he’s a man transformed into a beast. As much as that effects-driven transformation looks cool — and goes back, culturally, to Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — it also means that, when the Hulk is on-screen, Ed Norton isn’t, which is a bit of a shame. (Contrast and compare the end of Iron Man, where Robert Downey, Jr. and Jeff Bridges show their faces from behind their power armor suits as they battle, against the finale of The Incredible Hulk, where computer-generated monstrous muscled stand-ins for Norton and Tim Roth slug it out. One looks like special effects and actors; the other looks like special effects instead of actors.)”

— From the Redbox review of The Incredible Hulk

Does anyone else wish they kept the Hulk origin as it was, where he’s sprayed with Gamma Rays by a new type of A-bomb he invented? I think that’s a much cooler arc for the character — Hoist on his own petard! Made into a force of destruction as horrible as his own inventions! — but, then again, people don’t like to think about how their tax dollars fund overkill.

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Rocchi’s Retro Rental: Rounders (1998)

Topping the box office this week is 21, a based-on-real-life drama about a crew of college kids whose card-counting ring took several casinos for a fairly large chunk of money. The film’s okay in some spots and a bit dull in others — but, for me, watching the ring of big-brained youths run the system of counts and codes and protocols that helped them run roughshod over the house didn’t actually feel like gambling; it had the sure-thing, return-on-investment tedium of watching someone change the plan distributions in their 401(k). I’m no Dostoyevsky-style degenerate — I’ve gambled just enough to know exactly why I shouldn’t and don’t — but watching 21, as lead Jim Sturgess’s narration droned on, I found myself missing the energy of gambling in the movie — the sweat-slick calculations of risk versus reward, the exhilarating possibility of losing everything, the grim possibility of success. 21 doesn’t have that. But Rounders does.

Starring Matt Damon, Rounders is one of those movies where the immediate pleasures of the piece distract you from noticing the underlying quality until much later. Directed by the under-appreciated (and, frankly, under-employed) John Dahl, Rounders sees our hero Mike (Damon) risk his entire bankroll in a high-stakes quasi-legal game so he might raise the stake for the World Series of Poker. He’s studied. He’s trained. He’s tested himself. And someone forgot to tell the cards that, because Mike gets busted — cleaned out — and soon after transforms his life in penitence: No poker. No gambling. Just menial labor and law school, just the love of his lady (Gretchen Mol) and the pleasures of the straight-and-narrow. He’s doing the right thing. And it’s Hell.

And after a few months of this, when Mike’s lifelong pal Worm (Edward Norton) gets out of prison — in trouble, in debt, incapable of realizing those things are his fault — the twosome have only a few days to scrape up several thousand dollars, or Russian gangster Teddy KGB (John Malkovich, with a Boris-and-Natasha accent so blunt and brutish you could use it to cut sheet metal) starts breaking things. No, it’s not good. But, to Mike, it’s a reason to do what he wants to anyhow. They don’t have a lot of options: they figure they can play (and win) until they can pay (and escape). Mike’s an excellent player; Worm’s an excellent cheat, and the movie clearly delineates the difference between those two things. Of course, nothing’s that easy. …

And Rounders is impressively realistic about the nature of poker, and gambling, and putting all your chips in to the middle of the table. As Roger Ebert pointed out in his excellent review at the time of the film’s release, “If this movie were about alcoholism, the hero would regain consciousness after the DTs and order another double. Most gambling movies are dire warnings; this one is a recruiting poster.” And, like all recruiting posters, it looks great — the film nails the frozen-grey look of a New York winter, as Mike and Worm hunch in their jackets and conspire in the cold before heading in to play in dim, smoke-filled rooms. Damon’s a great lead — unlike Sturgess in 21, you actually care about what happens to him — but Norton steals every scene he’s in, capturing a hard-bitten amoral streak in Worm that, demonstrating the curious physics of well-captured roguishness in film, renders him so repellent it’s magnetic.

Rounders is a fairly modest film, but it absolutely delivers what it promises; the poker mechanics and minutiae are depicted with swift, sure strokes — we get a sense of what’s going on, but also get the sense that the filmmakers (especially screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien) don’t feel a need to explain and elaborate on every trick of the trade as if we were slow children. In the film’s climax, Mike has to make a choice: Stop when he’s worked his way back to nothing, or push his luck and try to get ahead? As Damon notes in the film’s perfectly-pitched narration, “You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. But you can’t win much either.” 21 wants to be a gambling movie — glitz and glam and action and excitement — but it’s about safe bets in more ways than one, from the card-counting performed by the group to the familiar curve of the lead character’s arc of self-discovery. Rounders is unashamedly, unabashedly excited about the nature of gambling — about how even when you know (or think you know) what you’re doing while you do it, anything can still happen. If you want sure returns, buy bonds; if you want to find out what you’re made of (and find out the hard way), now and then, you have to go all in.

Rocchi’s Retro Rental, SFgate.com.

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