Ed Norton and His Split Personality Complex

The Hulk

This one really shocked me. Up to this point, besides a few contractual obligations (Italian Job, I am looking at you), Edward Norton kept a streak of choosing films that seemed to focus more on character development and existential crisis then big budget summer movies, so when I heard he had signed on to play The Hulk in a reboot of the Ang Lee bore-sterpiece that came out just a few years before, I thought someone was pulling my leg.

Than it hit me that this makes sense as the next step in the progression of his split personality association disorder. Though he had dealt with the two extremes in personality before, he had never done it in a full “Jekyll and Hyde” type of transformation into that second part of himself.

So ofcourse,  he just threw any subtle jabs he was making at a personality disorder and just went all in, teabag to the face style.

Why would his eyes turn green, too? That would be like a werewolves eyes turning brown. Wait, why am I rationalizing The Hulk?

So if the last three movies on this list where the cinematic equivalent of an emo person cutting their finger as a cry for help, this was a straight up slashing of an artery and painting “help me” in their blood. This was the first film on the list, and the second film on the list, multiplied by the third film on the list. And this is when the split personality thing stopped being coincidental. Right? When do things officially stop being an “odd coincidence”?

It was as if writers and directors were like ” What, our character has a split personality or some aspect of that? Get Ed Norton on the phone. He has a two for one performance contract. Hire him for one movie, he will give you two performances.”

Now I feel the need to tell you all that this is by no means me condemning him. I actually think some of his earlier performances are some of my favorite films ever.  This is simply me noticing  something and instantly thinking: I need to share this with as many people as possible.

And anyway, by The Hulk, I felt like the world was staring to catch on. As evidenced by:

Leaves of Grass

Wait, Ed Norton plays two people in this, literally?

Yes, he finally reached the apex. It was all building to this. Playing twin brothers. One who is a professor and one who is a weed dealer. And not only that, it was the city mouse/ country mouse ideal broken down to its most basic. I know that, unlike the other films on this list, not many people have seen Leaves Of Grass, so here is the trailer:

They even do the obligatory: One has long hair, one has short hair aesthetic. 

Now I will say, this is not Norton’s best work. But, also, more people should have atleast HEARD of it. And it is easy to see that Norton has a blast playing the pothead, and in contrast to the regular roles he chooses, you can see why. It is just much lighter material.

The movie seems to have all the trappings of a potential cult movie. I say give it time.

But what you all need to understand at this point is, this is it. All the stages were set in each film. It all lead up to this. Let me explain a little further.

In Primal Fear he showed he had the capacity to be two people, one good and one evil, but it was all pretend. The setup.

In American History X he was the evolution of the good person from evil. Yet he was still one person, ultimately.

In Fight Club, he finally had the second personality within the first, but was mostly unaware of it and had no control over it.

In Hulk, we was aware of the second personality, but tried to contain it because he knew how destructive it could be.

By Leaves Of Grass, he was finally two separate entities. From a zygote, all the way to life.

In Conclusion:

In conclusion, I know this  theory is batshit insane, but I am also really proud of it.

Why? Because the internet is littered with “theories”. Any writer or website worth a lick has some oddly interesting  and undeniably insane theory about something. And when more and more people see those theories, and spread those theories, they become even more ingrained in popular culture. If I can spew out just one theory that ends up getting some legs on its own, then there is my legacy.

That is the disapproving look Ed Norton gives you when he doesn’t approve of your legacy and his unofficial involvement in it.

So maybe I can tell my grandkids I will never have about that one time I misdiagnosed a major movie star on a pop culture website.

Wow, I wonder if I still have time to rethink my legacy.

  • mjlaxnmd

    You forgot The Score where he plays a con man/thief who spends half the movie pretending to be “mentally challenged” so he and Robert DeNiro can rob a warehouse.

    I don’t blame you for forgetting it… a movie with DeNiro, Brando, AND Norton should have been much, much better than it was.

  • ^ Good call!

  • dolaction

    What we forget to realize, is that acting is his craft, and he is a master of it. Suggesting he has multiple personality disorder is an interesting theory, and one that holds water with me, if only because i love a good conspiracy. I thought he was merely typecast as a tragically flawed character, but i can see the duality that inspires him in everyday life. If anything, bipolar is a better term. Bipolar people are among the most creative and philosophical people, if also not some of the most troubled. There arent many actors with mpd, but there are an unusually large amount of bipolar and depressed people acting.

  • João

    I just believe he’s a great actor just like Christian Bale, ho transforms into his characters,
    and in those character, Norton finds more depth than the regular ones.

  • camden

    Absolutely true. People say he’s good only because he ‘typecasts’ himself.

  • “I caption so many Brad Pitt pictures, that I am technically “under’ him more than Angelina at this point.” Sorry… well written piece… but this made me laugh out loud!

  • ^So glad someone appreciated that line, I made myself laugh when I typed it, and that concerned me about my own mental state.

  • RaFF

    great article, interesting theory

  • bobafett

    The guy above beat me to it on “The Score”.

    The “Nice Shoes, Brian”, “Thank You, I know” line cracks me up every time I watch that movie.

    But you’ve also forgotten Death to Smoochy, as he plays both Smoochy and his alter ego Sheldon.

    You could also argue that the Italian Job was a dual performance as he turned on his colleagues.

    Edward definitely likes his performances complicated. I for one want to see him and Charlie Hunnam in a Face/Off type movie.

  • ^Great examples, guys. Giving this insane theory of mine some legs, thanks you!

  • David Merchant

    I enjoyed this piece, but it left out Norton’s “split” role in “The Score”! In it (spoiler alert), he plays a gifted thief named Jack who pretends to be a mentally and physically disabled janitor named Brian in order to infiltrate the Customs House he wants to rob. To pull this off, he stays in his “Brian” character all day, every day while at work. (Like the moment when we see Kevin Spacey’s Verbal Kint transform into Kyser Soze, we are shocked the first time we see Norton as Jack, having met him as Brian.)

  • whydowehavetosignin

    This is great, I love Edward Norton haha I like the film The painted veil 😉