Today we are starting something new on the website called ‘In The Spotlight’. Me (Paul) as well as other contributors who are willing to do so, will take an actor that has inspired them and mark out why they love him or her and pick out a few highlights. Nothing is set in stone yet, but I am kicking things off today with an actor that I have loved for years now: Mr. Edward Norton.
This is not going to be the next Wikipedia article detailing his date of birth, or his entire slate of movies, Im diving right into the why and how of my appreciation for him and I’m doing so by giving you my personal top 3 performances of Norton as well as a little background on why I love the guy!
Aaron (Primal Fear)
It’s January of the year 1997 when the academy announces the nominations for the best supporting actor Oscar, and a 27 year old Edward Norton sees his name on the list.
In his first movie role, Edward Norton manages to make a huge impact on the crowds. His turn as Aaron in Primal Fear, a choir boy with multiple personalities, is breathtaking. What could have easily became a by the numbers courtroom thriller was elevated into awards territory.
What makes this performance so great, besides from the fact that it’s his first, is the fact that he manages to take everyone for a loop including his viewing audience. It’s hard to pull off a schizophrenic convincingly and that’s exactly what he did. Over the years, people have remembered Norton for bigger roles like his turn in Fight Club or The Incredible Hulk, yet it’s here in Primal Fear where we already see how big of an acting force he is.
If you haven’t seen this movie you owe it to yourself to rent it and check it out immediately, it put Edward on the map in Hollywood and it’s still one of my favorite performances of all time.
Derek Vinyard (American History X)
After making his mark in Primal Fear, Ed went on to star in a Woody Allen movie titled ‘Everyone says I love you’ and ‘The People vs. Larry Flynt’. Some people, like they always do, started wondering if his initial breakthrough on the big screen was incidental. Even though he had garnered solid reviews for his turn in ‘The People vs. Larry Flynt’ many were still left unconvinced about his career. And then came ‘American History X’.
The story about a former neo nazi skinhead (Norton) that is trying to prevent his little brother from walking the same path is heartbreaking and an unbelievably powerful movie.
Once more, he tackled a role which could have easily been made into a caricature and infuses him with power.
Norton amazed people, and myself, when he walked out of his home in the black and white opening of the movie, completely buffed up and hardly reminiscent of his look in Primal Fear. His character Derek Vinyard is seen being thrown into jail and coming out a changed man. Some argue that the script and the eventual movie in itself is so good that it elevates his performance even more, but I believe the power of this movie can only be contributed to his role as Derek.
In the years since it’s 1998 release it’s become a must watch in classrooms all over the world and deservedly so. If Primal Fear had you wondering if I was right about his abilities as an actor, watch this back to back.
Monty Brogan (25th Hour)
Right after the 9/11 disaster in the USA, much pressure was put on using either the image of ‘ground zero’ or even plot devices involving plane hijacking in a movie. Spider-Man had to remove his trailer featuring the Twin towers quite prominently and plans were already in motion by Oliver Stone to make a movie about the entire drama. Spike Lee, a true Brooklyn based New Yorker, was the first to use the image of ground zero in his movie ’25th Hour’. Edward Norton plays the title character of Monty, a drugs dealer who is convicted to a 7 year sentence in prison. In the movie we watch him in his final 24 hours before heading off to jail and witness a truely iconic performance of a man reflecting on his life.
A specific standout scene is the one where he is confronting himself in the mirror, angry at each and every single thing in his life, ending with him facing his own ego and accepting his impending fate.
I know those reading this will wonder why I chose this one over his role of Narrator in Fight Club.
And even though I love that movie and his role in it, I think it’s Brad Pitt who really took the spotlight in terms of performance. Fight Club benefitted from it’s clever premise and able director, on top of the performances by Norton and Pitt.
Many of you haven’t seen ’25th Hour’ im sure, make it a night of Norton, and finish up your look into his highlights with this movie, you won’t regret it.
So there you have it, three performances, all worthy of your time.
Make sure to drop a comment on your thoughts regarding Norton and his career up until now, and leave a suggestion for the next actor/actress/director to feature in the spotlight!