Best Known For
Versatile film actor Edward Norton has starred in movies such as Primal Fear, American History X, and The Incredible Hulk.
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He garnered a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the role.
Regarding his success in the film, Norton commented that "the potency of the revelation about who my character really was in that film was, in part, reliant on the fact that people had absolutely no prior knowledge of me. They had no reason to expect a different voice or anything different from what they were initially presented with." Because of the vitality and importance of this "revelation,
" Norton has chosen to remain as reticent as possible about his personal life, so as not to pollute the freshness of his portrayals.
On the power of Hollywood word-of-mouth alone, Norton had several serious film roles lined up before Primal Fear hit theaters. He charmed audiences (and added singing and dancing to his list of talents) as Holden, a preppy youth vying for the affections of Drew Barrymore's Skylar, in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You (1996). He then played a painfully loyal attorney defending America's most notoriously crude pornographer in Milos Forman's controversial film, The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996).
Norton later began dating his other Larry Flynt co-star, rocker Courtney Love. After Love was publicly trashed in a New Yorker article, Norton exhibited his real-life loyalty by jumping to her defense. He wrote in to the magazine in his typical eloquent manner, "Her [writer Daphne Merkin's] only original contribution is her conclusion that Courtney was of more value as an icon of pain and self-destruction than she is as a complex, evolving, and healthy human being—a conclusion that is sexist, intellectually shallow, and spiritually bankrupt. In the end, Courtney's achievements will speak louder than any of her critics."
In 1996, tragedy overshadowed Norton's new-found success. His grandfather passed away, and less than a year later, his mother died following surgery to remove a brain tumor. Norton subsequently organized a screening of Everyone Says I Love You in Baltimore to benefit the research of the Johns Hopkins Hospital oncology team, who operated on his mother.
Norton's supporting turn in Rounders (1998), playing alongside fellow rising star Matt Damon, inspired yet more praise, but it was his emotionally fierce performance as a reformed neo-Nazi in American History X (1998) that earned him the second Oscar nomination—this time as Best Actor—of his relatively brief film career. Norton had again proven his ability to almost effortlessly switch psychological gears within a character. Janet Maslin wrote of his performance in The New York Times that "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."
In 1999, Norton teamed up with Brad Pitt in another intense and tumultuous role as a nameless young man in David Fincher's Fight Club, based on the debut novel by Chuck Palanhiuk. Norton plays a lonely young professional who feigns illness in order to attend disease support groups and bond with others, until he meets Tyler Durden (Pitt), the founder of Fight Club—an underground group that discovers a cathartic release of aggression through brutal fist-fights.
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