Timekeeper allows you to keep articles so you can read them when you have the time.

Edward Norton: “It’s about balance”

August 1, 2012

Mr. Norton, when did you realize that you’re a good actor?

When I was younger I had these moments where I realized that I was relaxed enough that I was surprising myself with my spontaneity, especially when it wasn’t all managed, and I thought, “This is what you should be chasing, this feeling of spontaneity.” I can remember when I worked in the theater for a few years there were moments when I was thinking, “This is good, this is rich, we’re finding a lot in it, I can feel that it is having an impact.”

Are there times when you struggle to achieve that?

Yes, other times I start on something new and feel very cold, very like I’m faking it and very lost. So it’s not that you get to some spot and every day after that you feel strong in what you’re doing. You know, I went through many times when I started to ask myself, “What am I doing?” And I had no idea.

But ultimately acting makes you happy?

Yeah, I think. It is also about balance and finding the balance between the very cerebral part of your brain and the much more impulsive creativity that can come from chaos. So for me it is very much about that balance. The cerebral part of acting and the perfectionism can be exhausting, but the spontaneity can be very joyful. So it’s about managing these two sides of the experience. But yes it’s fun. I mean, there is no point in doing a movie if you’re not having fun.

Has it ever gotten to be too much for you?

Yes, for sure.

When does that moment arrive?

It can come at many different times. I know I am working too much if I’m sort of sagging and there are other things I want to be doing. There is no reason to do this work if you don’t feel inspired by it. For me part of the solution is working less. Just not doing one after the other after the other…

Is working less why you still look so young?

I’m actually one of those rare actors who lie about their age in the other direction. I am actually 27, but I keep wanting to get cast in more mature parts so I lie upward.

Do you do a lot of preparation before each project?

Preparation is very important. I start by looking at many things, from clothes to music to voice. I know it sounds weird, but sometimes figuring out the clothes can really start to help you inhabit a character. It’s different every time. Sometimes it’s music, sometimes the voice is important first.

The voice?

Yeah, for one film I spent quite a bit of time talking to inmates of this prison near Detroit where I met with one guy who had this incredible voice; it sounded like sandpaper and glass. I got close to replicating it, but his was even more intense.

How does that work? You just call up a prison, tell them who you are – and then you are allowed to meet with the inmates?

No, in that environment everything is controlled. The prison facilities have public relation channels and they set everything up in meeting rooms. It is not loose at all. I am not stepping into their cells; they bring the prisoners to you in a conference room.

Does keeping a low public profile help your work on screen to shine?

Yes, I always felt that that stuff is very corrosive, not just to your quality of life, but to what people see on screen. To me, all that is baggage that gets between the audience and the character that you’re trying to make come to life. There shouldn’t be all this pollution in between. I think it becomes more and more difficult to break free of that once it starts to happen so I always felt very defensive about that.

Some people say you can’t control how much the media wants to participate in your life.

I think it’s very much in your control. You learn to navigate. It takes some time but you learn to navigate those different things and try to keep doing the thing you originally set out to do as much as possible and minimize the way that those other things distract from it.

Do you ever get concerned when your films don’t get as widely distributed as you’d like?

No, no. I have always made films out of the same impulses. In the past couple years I have made a few more that were in a more independent model. But, for example, The Illusionist never got any distribution and it did really, really well. If you let that be your yardstick you can get wound very, very tight. I have had enough experiences.

What do you mean?

You go through the experience of the initial release and the way people assess that, but then so many films these days form their own relationship with people over time and you begin to have a bit more faith in the longevity. In a way it’s a relief to find out that films will find their own measure.

That’s all well and good until the film can’t get made in the first place.

True, I don’t even know if Fight Club would be made now. But there is always something coming out that defies that gloomy prognosis and you realize that they do get made.

Return to Top
Read this interview later
Read this interview later Read this interview later

Short Profile

Name: Edward Harrison Norton
DOB: 18 August 1969
Place of Birth: Columbia, Maryland, USA
Occupation: Actor

Audio Sample



write a comment, read comments

24 Responses to this Interview

  1. Keep rocking Edward!

  2. Edward Norton is one of the best actors. You can tell by the choice of words, the complexity and deepness of his answers to relatively simple questions – just like his acting – he brings deepness to sometimes simple stories.

  3. i love youre work EDWARD NORTON in special The Silence of the Lambs

    • It wasn’t silence of the lambs it was Red Dragon know your movies people if you are going to be talking and comparing to a great actor, that’s an insult if not to Edward Norton at least his fans.

    • Edward Norton was Not in ” Silence of the Lambs ”.

      He was in ” Red Dragon ‘.
      The story of how ” Hannibal Lecter ” was imprisoned and started to collaborate with the ” F.B.I ” in the first place.


  5. E.N Un gran actor! u rock!

  6. you are a good actor… good person… but, very important… an actor very happy, because he does something that he likes and loves… act!!!… many blessings for you!!!!

  7. I am really amazed at mr Nortons achievements as actor. In the first few films released he played some really meek characters (Everybody says I love you) and the all of a sudden there was Fight Club and American History X. The Illusionist have I seen on YouTube – great. To me, Edward Norton is the leading actor in American movie today. He is just 45 (not 27, even if he can choose to look like that when he likes!), so there is a lot left for him!

  8. I like Edward Norton. But Brad Pitt was the badass in Fight Club. I would also like to hear how much Edward Norton learned working with Marlon Brandoin the film The Score… Brando being the best actor of all time.

  9. The personal, public and philosophical intelligence reflect in your acting, in whatever you do.

  10. he is the best..

  11. Mr. Norton is an individual who has the ability to articulate he process without the esoteric hyperbole. I appreciate as looks at his craft as a craftsman. There have been many “Methods” named or not going way back to The Greeks when Thespis stepped out of the Chorus. Acting as the Director Jed Harris said that the genius in great performers is not an intellectual talent so much as the soul of sensitive with specialized antenna. E.N. displays it on both planes goes without saying a solid work ethic with his feet on terrafirma and head not always in the clouds (a pitfall of many a celebrity for one I feel he shall be with us G-d willing for a long time.

  12. When I saw Primal Fear, I knew I was seeing a great actor surpassing the bar of creativity. I have NEVER been so spellbound.

  13. Splendid and chameleon actor – very charismatic and indeed spontaneous.

  14. I love u Edward, you’re fantastic and awesome. You’re my favorite actor, you rules!

  15. I want to pick his brain regarding what it’s like to be engaged to courtney love, lol

  16. Edward Norton is my favourite actor, exactly because of his commitment to always deliver his roles truthfully. He makes you believe in his character, and that is the purpose of the actor.

  17. I loved you during the shower scene in American History X. Mmm mmmm mmmm

  18. I am Jack’s awe of Edward’s acting skills.

  19. Interesting article,, a shining example of an actor that studies every script he has handed to him. You can see he doesn’t let himself become a part of the Hollywood machine or a puppet of the studios like a lot of actors do.. Many of whom just go for a script with the highest pay. The fact that he scouts for voices in jails! Brilliant

  20. You are an Inspiration Ed, you are a perfect blend of Art, Talent, Intelligence and perfection. You have no Idea how much you inspire me. Thanks Eisenheim !

  21. One of the best actors of this generation.

  22. “Does keeping a low public profile help your work on screen to shine?

    – Yes, I always felt that that stuff is very corrosive, not just to your quality of life, but to what people see on screen. To me, all that is baggage that gets between the audience and the character that you’re trying to make come to life.”

    This was such an amazing response for me, I couldn’t agree more!

Leave a Comment

Latest Interviews