American History X
“I’m an actor and each time out, I’m trying to convince the audience that I’m this character. Every little thing that people know about you as a person impedes your ability to achieve that kind of terrific suspension of disbelief that happens when an audience goes with an actor and character (he’s) playing.” Edward Norton
Two-time Academy Award nominee Edward Norton was launched to stardom for his bravura, scene-stealing, young sociopathic villain Aaron Stamplerin in Gregory Hoblit’s Primal Fear (1996), for which he nabbed a Golden Globe Award and received nominations at the Oscars and MTV Movie Awards. United with his notable supporting turns as Drew Barrymore’s prepster love interest in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You (1996) and lawyer Alan Isaacman in Milos Forman’s The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), Norton was garnered even more recognition as he took home several awards like a Chicago Film Critics Association Award, a Society of Texas Film Critics Award, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award and a National Board of Review Award.
In 1998, the Hollywood actor won a Golden Satellite Award and a Southeastern Film Critics Association Award, as well as earned an Oscar nomination, for his eye-caching, starring role of a brilliant and startlingly violent white supremacist in the controversy plagued American History X. Norton also can be seen playing roles in John Dahl’s Rounders (1998), the critically acclaimed Fight Club (1999), Keeping the Faith (2000), The Score (2001), Death to Smoochy (2002), Red Dragon (2002), The 25th Hour (2002), The Italian Job (2003), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Down in the Valley (2005), The Illusionist (2006), The Painted Veil (2006), Pride and Glory (2007) and Motherless Brooklyn (2005).
Off screen, Norton, who was paid $1,000,000 for The Italian Job (2003), $500,000 for 25th Hour (2002), $8,000,000 for Red Dragon (2002), $8,000,000 for Death to Smoochy (2002), $6,500,000 for The Score (2001) and $50,000 for Primal Fear (1996), is a dedicated social and environmental activist. He serves on the Board of Trustees for the Enterprise Foundation, a company aiming to move families up and out of poverty and transform low-income communities through the development of decent, affordable housing and social service networks. He also regarded and negotiated a groundbreaking arrangement with a solar energy company to provide solar power technology to low-income homeowners in Los Angeles and supported the Peacemakers Fund at Yale University. Norton also became a major financial supporter of the Nature Conservancy’s Yunnan Great Rivers conservation project, the Grand Canyon Trust, EarthJustice, the Wilderness Society, the Southern Center for Human Rights, American Museum of Natural History, Credit Where Credit is Due, the American Visionary Arts Museum and the Johns Hopkins Neuro-oncology Research Lab. As for his private life, the British GQ Magazine’s “International Man of the Year” (2003) was linked to Everyone Says I Love You co-star Drew Barrymore, musician/actress Courtney Love (together from 1996-1998), with whom he toured as a temporary guitarist for alternative band Hole, and actress Salma Hayek (dated 1999-2003).
Annie Get Your Gun
Childhood and Family:
In Boston, Massachusetts, Edward James Norton Jr. was born on August 18, 1969, to parents Edward Norton Sr., an attorney and former federal prosecutor under the Carter administration who now works for National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Robin Norton, an ex-foundation executive and English teacher who died of brain cancer in 1997. Along with his two younger siblings, Molly Norton and James Norton, Edward was raised in Columbia, Maryland, which was founded by his late grandfather James Rouse (who also designed Boston’s Fanueil Hall and Baltimore's Inner Harbor).
A tremendously brilliant and serious young boy, Edward was inspired to become an actor at age 5 after watching a babysitter appear in a play titled “If I Were a Princess.” Three years later, Edward made his professional stage debut in “Annie Get Your Gun” at Orenstein’s Columbia School for Theatrical Arts. During his days in Wilde Lake High School, in Columbia, Maryland, Edward continued to act and managed to get roles in theater schools. Upon graduation and despite majoring in drama, he pursued studies in history, astronomy and Japanese at the Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. It was there that Edward became heavily involved in theater and took as many acting classes as he could, in addition to performing in the university’s productions. After earning a BA degree in history in 1991, he briefly relocated to Japan and worked with his grandfather’s company called Enterprise Foundation. After returning to New York, Edward decided to give acting a serious try.
Boston, Massachusetts-born, Columbia, Maryland-raised Edward Norton started acting early when at age 8 he made a professional stage debut in the musical “ Annie Get Your Gun” at Toby’s Dinner Theater in Columbia. Motivated to pursue acting after seeing a babysitter perform in a play at age 5, Edward next dotted his resume with such productions as “Pippin,” “Peter Pan” and “Godspell” and became seriously bit by the acting bug while attending Yale. After a brief stint in Japan, working as a consultant for his grandfather’s company Enterprise Foundation, Norton decided to leave the desk job grind, moved back to New York City and tried to break into acting.
A move to New York led to some off-Broadway work and later his potential caught the attention of Edward Albee, one of the most renowned playwrights of the 20th century, who soon landed Norton an adored role in the world premiere of his play “Fragments” (1994) at the Signature Theater. Two years later, his career skyrocketed when Norton won the supporting role of Aaron Stamplerin his film debut Primal Fear (1996). Under the direction of Gregory Hoblit, Norton was perfectly cast as a young sociopathic crook, a role that brought him a wealth of recognition. Due to his outstanding performance, he picked up a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, as well as earned an Oscar nomination and was nominated for Best Villain at the MTV Movie Awards.
He followed the much-talk-about performance with two high-profile scene-stealing roles. He was seen as Holden, a preppy youth struggling for the affections of Drew Barrymore’s Skylar, in Woody Allen’s inquiring musical Everyone Says I Love You (1996) and attorney Alan Isaacman in Milos Forman’s biopic The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996). Those notable performances, combined with his Oscar-nominated portrayal in Primal Fear, garnered the significant newcomer several awards, including a Chicago Film Critics Association, a Society of Texas Film Critics, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association and a National Board of Review for Best Supporting Actor.
After a 1998 admirable turn in John Dahl’s Rounders, where he costarred as Worm, the fittingly-named slimy poker ace, Norton once more turned film critics’ heads with his first film lead in the controversial American History X (1998), a crime-drama feature directed by Tony Kaye. Gaining 30 pounds of muscle and altering his boy next door look into that of a gruesome skinhead for his role as a violent white supremacist, the reformed neo-Nazi Derek Vinyard, Norton was honored with a Golden Satellite and a Southeastern Film Critics Association for Best Actor, in addition to an Academy Award nomination for his spectacular work in the film.
“Having made his electrifying screen debut with an essentially dual role in Primal Fear, Norton now plays a two-faceted character with even more fury.” Janet Maslin on Norton’s performance in American History X
In 1999, Norton starred opposite Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter in the Street Film Festival Award-winning film for Best Feature Film, Fight Club, which was helmed by David Fincher. The critically acclaimed drama saw the actor brightly play a lonesome young professional who pretends illness to attend disease support groups and bond with others, until he meets Tyler Durden (Pitt), the founder of Fight Club. The following year, Norton received his first credit as a film director with the comedy-romance Keeping the Faith (2000), wherein he also costarred alongside fellow actor-director Ben Stiller. In the film, Norton and Stiller respectively portray a Catholic priest and a rabbi who falls for the same woman (Jenna Elfman).
A short, Catch Her In the Eye (2001), was followed by the crime-thriller The Score (2001), where Norton costarred with Robert De Niro and the late Marlon Brando as young con man, Jack Teller. He was then seen as Smoochy the Rhino, opposite Robin Williams, in Danny Devito’s comedy Death to Smoochy (2002) and Nelson Rockefeller in Frida (2002, appeared with girlfriend Salma Hayek). Also in 2002, Norton was hired to star as FBI agent Will Graham in Red Dragon, the prequel to the 1991 Silence of The Lambs, and Monty Brogan in Spike Lee’s crime drama The 25th Hour. In 2003, he appeared in the crime film The Italian Job, which starred Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron. The same year, Norton was discovered returning to his theatrical roots with the Off-Broadway production of “Show Burn This,” in which he netted a Village Voice Obie.
Back to filmmaking after a two-year hiatus, Norton portrayed the leper King Baldwin in Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Ridley Scott’s historical epic taking place in the relative calm between the 2nd and 3rd Crusades of the 12th century. He starred with Evan Rcahel Wood in David Jacobson’s Down in the Valley (2005) and will soon star in the fantasy The Illusionist (2006) and the drama-romance film The Painted Veil (2006, opposite Naomi Watts). Norton is also set to play Ray, opposite Noah Emmerich, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton and Nick Nolte, in the upcoming Pride and Glory (2007). In the announced project Motherless Brooklyn (2005), Norton will serve as a script writer, a director and an actor.