Interview By: Rocco Passafuime
There aren’t many actors out there who have played as wide a range of characters throughout their careers as Edward Norton has. Whether it’s his Oscar-nominated role as a sociopath murder suspect in Primal Fear or his Oscar-winning role as a neo-Nazi skinhead in American History X or as hustling poker player in Rounders or as the title character in The Incredible Hulk, Norton imbues every fiber of himself into the most challenging and complex of characters.
Now, Edward’s latest role is as New York Police Department officer Ray Tierney having to investigate fellow cops in his own family in the crime drama Pride and Glory. The 39 year-old actor first shared with us what compelled him to do the film.
“I liked [director]Gavin [O'Connor's] previous films,” Norton replies, “I thought Tumbleweeds was nuanced, a lovely piece of work. And Miracle, the hockey movie, I thought was so different, but I thought it also had this great performance from Kurt Russell and had a lot of truth to the character.”
“So I thought since this script had such a family and character-driven drama, I thought that was interesting to me,” he continues, “And I think I like always working home when I can and so, there was that.”
However, the road to Pride and Glory release has been long one. Studio politics and the events of 9/11 caused the film’s purchase, production, and release to be delayed over an eight-year period. However, Norton believes the time past only has strengthened the resonance of the film’s story of police corruption versus family loyalty with him.
“I think I felt there was a number of years where this was in play where Gavin was trying to get it done,” he recalls, “And over the course of time, a lot of things happened in the United States with the whole torture scandals and discussions, all kinds of things. Without in anyway saying
“Because it’s on some level about the difficulty of speaking truth to power and the tension between our loyalties to the people who do this service for us and the need to hold them to a high standard in terms of the principles we’re defending,” Edward adds, “Then, all of a sudden, this cop drama, I felt, had the potential to resonate sort of on the things that were going on and the zeitgeist. And that’s something that always makes me happy.”
All in all, Edward says the film’s long delay also ended up paying off as the country is now in the midst of cultural introspection between a heated presidential election and economic uncertainty.
“I think the timing of the film is great,” Norton believes, “I actually thing the best possible thing has happened which is, in some ways, the film coming out this fall is perfect. Our whole country is engaged right now and a large national conversation about the issues of our country leading up to the election.”
“And people are discussing all kinds of issues, but I think people are in a very thoughtful frame of mind right now,” he continues, “People are doing a lot of thinking about where our priorities are, where are ethics are, and sometimes you get what you need. I think it’s a perfect moment for the film to come out.”
Edward has played officers of the law once before, like FBI professor Will Graham in the film adaptation of Red Dragon. However, the actor says his enthusiasm only increased when he discovered Pride and Glory was more than just your ordinary cop drama.
“If I like doing genre films, sometimes it’s just fun, if you can do a
“So that was all very appealing and that’s why I did it,” he adds, “Sometimes, people talk about genre as if it’s a simplistic thing or bad thing,” he adds, “But the flip of that is genre is something we go back to again and again because there’s something in it that we’re fascinated by.
With that, Norton explained for us just what makes Pride and Glory more worthwhile than your typical cop drama film.
“I think that the trick with genre, say with the cop corruption genre, is that, at best, not to do it with quality, but just to find an aesthetic quality to it that I think Gavin did, but also to maybe look for it in a way to make it reflect your generation’s version of that genre,” he says, “In part, it’s about saying, well, what is our generation experiencing that can refract through this and make this something that’s not just a cop corruption drama, but that’s sort of like ends up echoing that cultural moment. And whether on a local level like in New York, things like the Abner Louima scandal, where there was a torture incident at play, or on a broader level like in terms of what’s going on nationally, globally.
“I felt like the way Gavin had structured this, Gavin and Joe Carnahan in the script, like I said, I felt like, well, this has questions in it,” Edward continues, “This is questioning dynamics that our whole country is sorting through right now and maybe that makes it
Edward also says what fascinated him about this particular cop drama was the script and how it projects Ray Tierney’s persona.
“Gavin and Joe’s script is really interesting, because the characters, he doesn’t actually really say a lot in the beginning,” Norton notes, “He’s referred to a lot. One thing that I noted when I read it was like you learn more from other people talking about him than the things he says for a long time. And it’s just very mysterious like I found myself reading along and going, ‘Huh,’ like I wonder what the deal is with this guy.”
“And that’s unusual sometimes in a script because a lot of times people will telegraph and make sure you understand the character,” he adds, “And I think to leave a lot of empty space in a character is interesting on a writing level because you end up reading and you say, oh, you’re going to end up having to end up communicating a lot without words and that’s a particular thing that interested me on this one.”
With that in mind, we asked the actor to share with us what has driven him to play so many characters that are, to put it mildly, multifaceted.
“Obviously, you’ve seen Death To Smoochy,” he replies, “I think it’s fair to say that every actor likes the idea of complexity in a character. I think we’re all trying to find something meaty to work with or frankly that’s hard. It’s like you get into this because you want to sort of try to pin down things that are complicated or hard about people.”
“So, on some level, I think people are all paradoxical,” Edward continues, “I think everybody is gray.
Pride and Glory is not without its share of brutality. One scene in particular involves a brutal scene where a fellow cop, Ray’s own brother-in-law Jimmy Egan, played by Colin Farrell, threatens a baby with a hot iron during a very coercive interrogation. While Norton notes the scene was very tough on O’Connor and the rest of the crew, it was essential to the underlying theme of the film.
“You know that Checkov thing about how there’s a rifle over the fireplace in the first act, it has to be fired by the fifth act?” Edward believes, “Gavin’s kind of like if there’s an iron in the room, it’s going to get used.”
Edward says, however, that the intensity that Farrell brings to his role as Jimmy made his co-star a delight to work with.
“He’s great,” he enthuses, “Colin’s a consummate professional, everything you want, he’s tireless. He’s got an amazing work ethic, he’s funny, just a terrific person to work with. I wish I had more to do with him, actually.”
As we wrapped up, we discovered Edward Norton has plenty more up his sleeve, not only as actor, producer, and director on Motherless Brooklyn scheduled for release sometime at the end of the year and as both actor and producer on Leaves Of Grass scheduled for release next year, but as the producer of a yet untitled documentary on Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. We asked the actor to share with us what kind of a documentary will it be and what it will entail.
“It’s something we can’t talk about that much, because we have a relationship with them,” Norton replies, “We’re making a historical record, not something to play a role in the election. So we have an agreement that this is something that we
“So I can’t really comment on our access because that’s part of our arrangement with the campaign, but it’s a fascinating thing to be able to be documenting,” he adds, “I think we’ll definitely have opportunity to talk about that process and how it unfolded when it’s all over, but we have to kind of have to stay off the record about it until it’s all resolved.”