Reel Corner - December 2019

The Reel Corner Highlight: Edward Norton

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The Reel Corner Highlight: Edward Norton
Actor  •  Producer  •  Director
Screenwriter  •  Activist  •  Entrepreneur

December 2019 IssueReelCorner 1219
by Donne Paine

Edward Harrison Norton is an American actor known for his intense performances and uncompromising approach to his work. He has received multiple awards and nominations. Raised in Columbia, Maryland, Norton was drawn to theatrical productions at local venues as a child. After graduating from Yale College in 1991, he worked for a few months in Japan as a consultant for his grandfather’s company before moving to New York City to pursue an acting career. He gained immediate recognition for his debut in Primal Fear (1996), which earned him the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and an Academy Award nomination. His role as a reformed neo-Nazi in 1998’s American History X earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

He is discreet about his personal life and expresses no interest in overt stardom. Alongside his work in cinema, Edward is an environmental activist and social entrepreneur. He is a trustee of Enterprise Community Partners (started by his grandfather), a non-profit organization for affordable housing. He serves as president of the American branch of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust and is the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. Edward is married to Canadian film producer Shauna Robertson, with whom he has one child. He speaks Japanese and is skilled in Aikido.

I have followed Edward Norton’s film career since Primal Fear, and loved him in his more offbeat films Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel. And I couldn’t wait to see Motherless Brooklyn.

Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw,
Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Leslie Mann and Cherry Jones.
Directed and Screenplay: Edward Norton
(Based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem)

In his adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn, Edward Norton plays Lionel Essrog, an lonely detective with Tourette’s syndrome, who wanders the streets of New York City attempting to solve the murder of his mentor and father figure. Norton, also the film’s director and screenplay writer, changed a few key elements of Lethem’s novel, transplanting the neo-noir from its original setting in the late 1990s to the 1950s. But something Norton did not lose was its singular fascination with music and pop culture. Enter Thom Yorke with his ballad “Daily Battles”, written to feel like it was out of the past for this movie.

To make the film even more authentic, the art direction, cinematography, use of lighting, smoke from the sidewalk grates in the dark alleys and Harlem jazz clubs all make this film’s shady dealings, greed and deception neo noir at its best.

Regarding playing a man with Tourette’s Syndrome: “There are really two challenges going on with the representation of someone with a condition, whether it’s cerebral palsy or cancer or Tourette’s syndrome. You’ve got to do the basic groundwork to understand the nature of the thing,” Edward explained.

The other main challenge came from keeping the portrayal from falling into “the Hallmark version of the thing,” which he said occurs when “…all you’re doing is the nobility of the person living through the diagnosis.”

“The portrayals that are good are the ones that deal with the complex humanity of the person apart from the condition,” he said, “It doesn’t make him a hero because he had the condition, it makes him a hero because he refused to be defined by the condition.”

If you’ve been looking for a reason to go to the theater, Motherless Brooklyn is a must see!

References:; Norton

Merry Christmas to all Reel Corner & Pink readers.
May you have a Happy Healthy and Prosperous Holiday!

ReelCorner 1219 Donne
Donne Paine, film enthusiast, once lived around the corner from the Orson Wells Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts where her strong interest in films, especially independent ones, began. Supporter of the arts­—especially films—she travels to local and national film festivals including Sundance, Toronto and Tribeca. There is nothing like seeing a film on the big screen. She encourages film goers to support Hilton Head local theaters—Coligny, Park Plaza and Northridge theaters. To support her habit of frequent movie going Donne is a retired executive recruiter and staff development consultant. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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