Actor of the Week: Edward Norton
Edward Norton is very much like Marmite, you either love him or you hate him. I fall into the camp of love, when it comes to this extremely successful actor, which is why I have chose him as our Actor of the Week. Even if you fall on the side of not being particularly keen on the actor, one thing is for sure; he has had an incredible career and starred in some iconic films…
The first film that properly introduced Norton to the world was his role in The People vs Larry Flynt, which saw Norton star alongside former Actor of the Week, Woody Harrelson. Norton played Alan Isaacman, a lawyer tasked to defend Larry Flynt, played by Harrelson. The People vs Larry Flynt, sees Flynt create a pornographic magazine which touches on things that, in the day, were somewhat frowned upon. With his attorney Isaacman, Flynt goes on a mission to fight for the power of free speech, and the ability to express themselves wherever they see fit, which is not exactly how the rest of America see it. This film saw itself be nominated for 2 Academy Awards, automatically putting Norton in the limelight…
The film which Edward Norton went onto after The People vs Larry Flynt is a film that is a landmark in Norton’s career and one many people remember him for; that being the role of the neo-nazi Derek Vinyard, in American History X. American History X is a film that really highlights the brutality of American racism, having you at the edge of your seat, worried about what Norton’s character will do next, to someone he feels unworthy of their place on American soil. Many people will remember the the iconic but awful scene where Vinyard makes an intruder of his home bite a curb, only for the neo-nazi to stomp on his head. This scene has many people struggle to watch, with it being so brutal. With Vinyard sent to prison for this crime, he finds himself learning that the way he has been living his life is wrong, and has something of an epiphany, only to find that when he is released from jail, his younger brother has followed in his footsteps, seeing us watch Vinyard attempt to show his brother the error of his ways, and stop him from making the same mistakes he once did. Norton’s powerful performance in this film lead him to an Oscar nomination, but sadly he did not win.
With Norton on an incredible high, he managed to keep up the momentum, with his next film being a favourite of mine, and one of the most iconic films ever made, Fight Club. Fight Club sees Edward Norton play an unnamed character who loses everything he has worked hard for in a fire, leaving him with no belongings and nowhere to go, but to the house of a guy he met on the plane when on a business trip, the legendary character Tyler Durden, played by another former Actor of the Week - Brad Pitt. With Tyler being a protester of mainstream society, his ways rub off on Norton’s character, leading them to open up a club where guys go to fight and let out any of life’s frustration they have on each other. This club is formally known as Fight Club. As Fight Club becomes more and more popular, it expands and becomes something more than just a way to let out frustration, it becomes an army of men dedicated to cause anarchy in America to shake up the established system. With Norton and Pitt’s characters being the leaders of this organisation, it unravels secrets about them both, leading to one of the biggest twists in cinema history. I cannot speak highly enough about this film, as it really opens up your eyes on how you live your life and how we prioritise things.
After Fight Club, Norton had officially made it as one of Hollywood’s A-listers, seeing him star in some high profile film’s such as Red Dragon, where he starred alongside acting legend Anthony Hopkins. He also went on to play the villain in the Italian Job remake, as well as a magician in the underrated The Illusionist.
There is one film I wanted to write about as soon as I decided that Norton was going to be our Actor of the Week, and it is one of my favorite superhero films, The Incredible Hulk. I know many people reading this will be shocked by what I have just said, as most people actually find this film to be one of the worst hero films within the MCU. Norton plays Bruce Banner, a scientist who is part of an experiment that goes wrong which gives him the power of turning into a huge green rage monster called the Hulk. Banner can only transform into the Hulk when he is angry, and when he turns he loses all control, with the rage monster in the driver's seat. Not only do I feel that the Hulk we got in this film felt more raw and darker than the superheroes we have seen before, I felt the love story between Norton’s character and scientist Betty Ross, played by Liv Tyler, was one that had real depth to it, unlike anything we have seen before within the superhero genre. A great story of a couple destined to not be together, but through all odds manages to, making complete sense on why she is the only one to get through to the Hulk when Bruce turns. The score, by Craig Armstrong, is one of the best scores in the MCU as well, only adding to my enjoyment of this film. I was gutted when Norton was axed from this role, due to them wanting to change the style of the Hulk, making him a lot more comic book like and less raw.
There are plenty more films I could talk about when it comes to Norton, such as his role in the Oscar award winning Birdman, or his role in The Grand Budapest Hotel, but I think you get the idea. Norton is a great talent, and even if you feel you don’t connect with him and his performances, you cannot doubt that he has SMASHED Hollywood.