Edward Norton is widely regarded as one of the most talented actors of his generation. He has consistently reinvented himself throughout his career, delivering unforgettable performances in some of Hollywood’s most iconic films.
Norton rose to prominence in the 1990s with his role in American History X, which is widely considered to be one of his best performances to date. He continued to captivate audiences with his roles in films like 25th Hour and Rounders.
While he may have been tempted to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe in The Incredible Hulk, he ultimately decided against it, choosing instead to focus on other projects like The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fight Club, and Moonrise Kingdom. He also directed two films, Keeping The Faith and Everyone Says I Love You.
How 1996 Proved Edward Norton Was a Super Star
Despite his success, Norton’s career was often overshadowed by rumors of his difficult behavior on set. This may have contributed to his decision to leave the Marvel Cinematic Universe before it even began. However, Norton was able to turn the situation into a joke by playing a parody of himself in Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).
Norton’s career wouldn’t be what it is today without three critical films he made in 1996. Everyone Says I Love You showcased Norton’s singing abilities and his ability to play a relatable character. In Primal Fear, Norton played two completely different characters with ease, demonstrating his dramatic range. And in The People vs. Larry Flynt, Norton served as the emotional core of the film, delivering a nuanced performance that tackled complex issues of free speech and journalistic integrity.
All in all, Norton has proven himself to be a truly gifted actor who is capable of tackling a wide range of roles. He has left an indelible mark on Hollywood, and his legacy will continue to inspire future generations of actors.
Edward Norton is among the best actors of his generation, and has proven time and time again that he can continue to reinvent himself. Norton emerged in the 1990s and delivered an all-time great performance in American History Xand continued to appear in classics like 25th Hour and Rounders throughout that decade. Norton may have tempted fate by trying to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe in The Incredible Hulkbut his career has benefited from not joining a franchise for a role that would have taken up the valuable time he has spent making other great films like The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fight Club, and Moonrise Kingdom, as well as his directorial work on Keeping The Faith and Everyone Says I Love You.
Ironically, Norton’s career became dominated by some of the stories about how notoriously difficult to work with he had become. This is likely what caused him to exit the MCU before it beganas he had notoriously tried to change the tone of The Incredible Hulk in order to make it darker and more complex. Considering the decline in quality of the MCU over time, losing Norton at such an early stage seems like a major setback in hindsight.
Thankfully, it appears that Norton still has a sense of humor about the whole ordeal, as he played what essentially was a parody of himself in Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). However, Norton’s career wouldn’t be what it is today if it wasn’t for three critical films he made in 1996.
Everyone Says I Love You Proved He Could Sing
Everyone Says I Love You tends to be an overlooked film in Woody Allen’s catalog, but it may be one of the most sincere, poetic, and joyful films that he’s ever made. Allen combined his affinity for familial melodrama with musical sequences that drew from classic songs. It also featured some of the biggest stars in the industry, including Julia Roberts, Alan Alda, Drew Barrymore, and Goldie Hawn. Standing out within such a packed ensemble would have been challenging for any actor, and it certainly was for Norton. Compared to the more scene-stealing work that Barrymore and Alda were doing, he had to be the dramatic center of a film that was very silly.
The greatest revelation of the film was that Norton was actually a great singer! His rendition of “My Baby Just Cares For Me” in particular is one of the standout scenes of the film, and his role in the now iconic opening sequence is some of the purest work of the entire film. An ongoing issue with many of Allen’s films is that his characters tend to be unlikeable, in what may partially be attributed to his real life scandals. With Everyone Says I Love YouNorton was able to play a character that represented a form of youthful innocence that was very relatable. He showed that he could work alongside some of the best actors in the industry, and frankly, it’s a shame that he hasn’t done more musical work!
He Showed Dramatic Complexity in Primal Fear
While the Oscars tend to shy away from awarding younger actors with Academy Award nominations, Norton did end up receiving recognition in the Best Supporting Actor category for his work in the classic crime thriller Primal Fear. Even though it was essentially a reward for the work he did the same year in Everyone Says I Love You and The People Vs. Larry Flyntany of those performances was more worthy than Cuba Gooding Jr.’s work in Jerry Maguire that beat him. Compared to Gooding Jr.’s more over-the-top and eccentric work, the complexity that Norton brought to his roles stands out even more. Primal Fear may be the best of them because he is essentially playing two completely different characters.
Primal Fear stars Norton as a young altar boy who is accused of killing a beloved small town priest. As a seasoned lawyer (Richard Gere) begins to investigate the details of the case, he realizes two things; his young client suffers from a split personality disorder that turns him into two completely different people, and that he may have reason to kill a priest who isn’t as innocent and caring as his community may have once thought. Norton was able to elevate what may have been a simplistic understanding of mental health issues into a challenging character that invoked both the audience’s sympathy and fear. He made the most out of what could have been a relatively forgettable courtroom thriller.
He Worked with Incredible Material on the People vs. Larry Flynt
The People vs. Larry Flynt is a film that seems even more relevant now than it did at the time of its release. The real story of the infamous pornographer Larry Flynt (played in the performance of his career by Woody Harrelson) surprisingly bears a lot of similarities to the fight for journalistic integrity and free speech that we see today. The conceit of the film is that Flynt himself essentially walks into a position he was never prepared for, as he initially had only engaged in the media circus in order to generate more profits for his syndicated papers. It’s actually Norton, who plays his young lawyer, that serves as the emotional core of the film.
Norton had to address the issue that many audiences may have had going into the film itself; he even admits in a pivotal courtroom scene that he actually doesn’t like what Larry Flynt does, but that he shouldn’t have his personal freedoms infringed upon just because someone else takes issue with him. It was a nuanced point that the character himself struggles to justify, and Norton did a great job teaming up with Harrelson’s more over-the-top depiction of Flynt. The scenes between them are hilarious, as it seems like Flynt always seems to say the wrong thing when he’s in public. The look on Norton’s exasperated, if somewhat bemused face is just priceless.