When thinking about Edward Norton I wanted to be clear in explaining who I think he is as a dominant figure in Hollywood. But the folks at Filmreference put it best.
Edward Norton is that extreme rarity among modern actors: someone whoactually seems more interested in becoming an actor than becoming a star—though he seems destined for both. Having received two Academy Award nominations in his first six film roles, Norton has reason to believe that stardom can actually detract from an actor’s ability to act, since the more the audience knows about an actor, the harder it is for them to suspend their disbelief.
While Norton is erring on the side of blockbusters lately he’s still the man. Every actor does films for money so I can’t blame Norton for doing The Incredible Hulk and now The Avengers. The bottom line is that he’s a phenomenal actor who ranks up there with the DiCaprio’s of the world.
And in his honor I decided to come up with his six best movie roles
Aaron in Primal Fear
There was a rumor going around Hollywood (which is apparently true) that Norton completely fooled everyone in his screen test. Over 2,000 actors tried out for the part, and while some were fine at playing one side of the character, no one could play both sides. Director Gregory Hoblit felt the role to be so crucial he was ready to abandon the film if a suitable replacement could not be found (it was originally Leonardo DiCaprio). Finally Norton submitted a screen test that was so impressive, it circulated around town and secured him his next two roles (Everyone Says I love you and The People Vs. Larry Flynt)
Eisenheim in The Illusionist
While this is probably his least cool performance of the six you have to admit his portrayal as Eisenheim is pretty awesome. Norton doesn’t really use an accent all that often and for American actors it’s pretty risky. However, as usual, Norton nailed his role. Personally I liked The Prestige way better than this movie but Norton can certainly carry a film when he needs to.
Derek Vinyard in American History X
Arguably his best performance, Norton plays a conflicted youth Nazi named Derek Vinyard. You can truly see how sick and brainwashed he is in the first half of the film. First of all, Norton seriously jacked himself up for this role. Second, why the hell didn’t he win the Oscar for this? I still don’t understand this.
Monty Brogan in 25th Hour
This is one of the few Spike Lee movies that’s extremely cool and has minimal “messages” with the exception of that one scene in the bathroom. Norton plays a badass drug dealer who is in his last day before going to jail for the next seven years. It all comes crumbling down for him towards the end and you can really empathize with his character. Classic Norton awesomeness.
Narrator in Fight Club
Brad Pitt probably stole the show in this one but let’s give some credit to Norton here. He had to contend with Pitt’s good looks and chiseled chest. Not easy to do but we certainly don’t forget about Norton in this film so kudos to Ed for that. Nicely done!
Lester “Worm” Murphy in Rounders
“Geev dees man hees mahny.” Clearly John Malkovich is the memorable line guy from this movie but let’s not count out Ed Norton’s sleaze. He was pretty damned good at playing an ex con loser gambler.
*Let’s not forget Izzy LaFontaine in Modern Family – I know it’s TV but he was incredible in this. Excellent British accent too.