Born: August 18, 1969
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Edward Harrison Norton (born August 18, 1969) is an American actor and filmmaker. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards for his work in the films Primal Fear (1996), American History X (1998) and Birdman (2014). He also starred in other roles, such as The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), Fight Club (1999), Red Dragon (2002), 25th Hour (2002), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), The Illusionist (2006), Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). He has also directed and co-written films, including his directorial debut, Keeping the Faith (2000). He has done uncredited work on several scripts, including The Score (2001), Frida (2002) and The Incredible Hulk (2008).
Alongside his work in cinema, Norton is an environmental and social activist, and is a member of the board of trustees of Enterprise Community Partners, a non-profit organization for developing affordable housing founded by his grandfather James Rouse. Norton is president of the American branch of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. He ran in the 2009 New York City Marathon to raise money for the Trust. He also raises money for charity through Crowdrise, a social networking community for volunteers and a micro-donations fundraising platform. In July 2010, Norton was designated as the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. On July 2, 2014, Norton was elected chairman of the board of trustees to Signature Theatre, a not-for-profit theater company in New York. Norton has been on Signature's board since 1996 and served as the co-chair of the Capital Campaign during the building of the Pershing Square Signature Center.
Norton was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in Columbia, Maryland. His father, Edward Mower Norton Jr., served in Vietnam as a Marine lieutenant and was later an environmental lawyer and conservation advocate working in Asia, as well as a federal prosecutor in the Carter administration. His mother, Lydia Robinson "Robin" (née Rouse), a teacher of English, died of a brain tumor in 1997. His maternal grandfather, James Rouse, was the founder of The Rouse Company, who developed the city of Columbia, Maryland (where Norton grew up), helped develop Baltimore's Inner Harbor, Norfolk's Waterside Festival Marketplace and Boston's Quincy Market, as well as co-founded Enterprise Community Partners with Norton's maternal step-grandmother, Patty Rouse. Norton has two younger siblings, Molly and Jim, with whom he has professionally collaborated. Norton saw his first performance as a child with his parents at the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts (CCTA) where he would later act in several productions with CCTA and the Young Columbians under the direction of Toby Orenstein.
From 1981 to 1985, along with his brother, Norton attended Camp Pasquaney on the shores of Newfound Lake in Bristol, New Hampshire, where he won the acting cup in 1984; he returned to the camp's council for two years by directing theater, and maintains close connections with the camp. Norton was raised Episcopalian. He graduated in 1987 from Columbia's Wilde Lake High School, where his classmates included New York City Council member Mark Levine and best-selling author Robert Kolker. He attended Yale University, where he was a competitive rower and acted in university productions alongside Ron Livingston and Paul Giamatti, graduating in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. After graduation, Norton worked in Osaka, Japan, consulting for his grandfather's company, Enterprise Community Partners, and speaks some Japanese. He appeared in an EFL textbook, Only in America, used by Nova, a formerly major English language school in Japan. He moved to New York City to star in the Off-Broadway theater, breaking through with his 1993 involvement in Edward Albee's Fragments, at the Signature Theatre Company.
In his film debut Primal Fear (1996), Norton played Aaron Stampler, an altar boy who is charged with the murder of a Roman Catholic archbishop and is defended by Martin Vail (Richard Gere). The film is an adaptation of William Diehl's novel. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly wrote: "Norton gives a performance that's fully the equal of Gere's - he's as slyly self-effacing as Gere is slyly ostentatious." Alison Macor of The Austin Chronicle, in review of the film, wrote, "Norton's performance and the well-paced tension preceding the movie's climactic sequence provide an entertaining if slightly predictable thriller." Despite the mixed reviews, Norton won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. That same year, Norton played lawyer Alan Isaacman in The People vs. Larry Flynt. In 1998, he played Derek Vinyard, a reformed neo-Nazi, in the film American History X, David Denby of The New Yorker noted that he gives Derek "ambiguous erotic allure; he's almost appealing". The film received positive reviews and grossed over $23 million worldwide at the box office. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Later, Norton starred with Matt Damon in Rounders, which follows two friends who urgently need to earn enough cash playing poker to pay off a huge debt.
In David Fincher's 1999 film Fight Club, Norton played an unreliable narrator who feels trapped in his white-collar position. It is based on Chuck Palahniuk's novel of the same name. To prepare for the role, Norton took lessons in boxing, taekwondo and grappling. Fight Club premiered at the 1999 Venice International Film Festival. During promotion for the film, he said, "I feel that Fight Club really, in a way ... probed into the despair and paralysis that people feel in the face of having inherited this value system out of advertising." The film failed to meet expectations at the box office, and received polarized reactions from film critics. However, it became a cult classic after its DVD release. Norton made his directorial debut with romantic comedy Keeping the Faith in 2000, in which he starred opposite Ben Stiller and Jenna Elfman.
In 2002, Norton starred in Brett Ratner's Red Dragon as FBI profiler Will Graham and in Spike Lee's 25th Hour. While Red Dragon received mixed reviews, it was commercially successful. 25th Hour was about post-9/11 New York City. In 2003, Paramount Studios forced Norton to star in The Italian Job (2003) by threatening to sue him under the terms of a three-film contract he had signed. Norton accordingly refused to promote the film's release. Norton won critical praise for his role as Baldwin IV, the leper king of Jerusalem, in Kingdom of Heaven. Norton portrayed Marvel Comics character Bruce Banner / The Hulk in the Marvel Studios film The Incredible Hulk, released in 2008. Norton's attempt to rewrite the film along lines of his own choosing was unsuccessful; consequently, Norton refused to promote the film. He was expected to reprise his role in the 2012 film The Avengers, but was replaced by Mark Ruffalo due to Norton's disagreements with Marvel on salary issues and with the character, as well as their lack of collaboration and teamwork.
In 2006, Norton starred in three films: Down in the Valley, as a dangerous drifter purporting to be a cowpoke; The Illusionist, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and later became a sleeper hit when it went into general release; and The Painted Veil. Norton gave award-winning performances in each one. In 2010, Norton appeared in two films again: in Leaves of Grass, as estranged identical twins (one a small-time drug dealer and the other a Brown professor); and in Stone, which reunited Norton with his The Score castmate Robert De Niro, and in which Norton plays a convict trying to con his parole officer (De Niro) into an early release.
In 2008, Norton starred in New Line Cinema's Pride and Glory, as an honest detective assigned to investigate the precinct run by his older brother. The film was neither well received by critics nor strongly supported by the studio, and, despite also starring Colin Farrell and Jon Voight, grossed a worldwide total of only $31.1 million against a production budget of $30 million. Norton played himself in a cameo role in the experimental comedy show Stella, and made another comedic television appearance on the Emmy award-winning ABC show Modern Family in 2010, playing a fictional member of real life '80s new wave band Spandau Ballet. In The Bourne Legacy, he played the antagonist, Eric Byer. Norton has also done uncredited script work on some of the films in which he has appeared, including The Score and Frida. In 2013, Norton starred in The Lonely Island's music video, "Spring Break Anthem," alongside Andy Samberg, Zach Galifianakis, James Franco, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. The video premiered on Funny or Die's Between Two Ferns during a segment between Galifianakis and Franco.
In 2014, Norton played Mike Shiner, a prickly Broadway actor in the black comedy film Birdman and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role. On February 20, 2014, it was announced that Norton was directing Motherless Brooklyn. In June 2014, Norton's Class 5 Films and RatPac Entertainment acquired the film rights to the non-fiction article American Hippopotamus, by Jon Mooallem, about the meat shortage in the U.S. in 1910 and the attempts made by Major Frederick Russell Burnham, Captain Fritz Joubert Duquesne and Congressman Robert Broussard to import hippopotami into the Louisiana bayous and persuade Americans to eat them. The film highlights the rivalry between Burnham and Duquesne, two famous spies who had been under orders to assassinate each other. Norton, William Migliore and Brett Ratner were to produce this feature film. During the production of the Edward Norton-directed Motherless Brooklyn, a New York City firefighter died on the set while attending to a fire in the basement of a Harlem apartment. A $7 million suit was filed against Class 5 Inc., his production company, which alleged it acted with "recklessness, carelessness and negligence".
Norton gained a reputation for being a perfectionist and managed to receive the final cut of American History X. Director Tony Kaye took over a year editing the film, during which Norton provided notes. Eventually, Norton submitted his own edit of the film, which is twenty minutes longer. Kaye disowned Norton's version as the final cut of the film, as he did not approve of its quality. The director tried and failed to have his name removed from the credits, openly telling some interviewers he tried to invoke the Alan Smithee pseudonym which the Directors Guild of America used to reserve for such cases.
Norton clashed with director Brett Ratner while shooting Red Dragon. Norton arrived on set with rewritten script pages, demanding the new scenes be filmed, leading to disputes with Ratner and the film's producers.
During the shooting of The Incredible Hulk, Norton rewrote scenes every day. Ultimately, the Writers Guild of America decided to credit the script solely to screenwriter Zak Penn, who argued Norton had not significantly changed his script. Penn stated in 2008, "I wasn't happy with Norton coming to Comic-Con saying that he wrote the script." After shooting finished, Norton subsequently refused to do promotion for the film.
Some fans and critics have interpreted Norton's performance in Birdman as a self-referential nod to his perfectionist reputation.
Norton dated Salma Hayek for a few years. After six years of dating, Norton proposed to Canadian film producer Shauna Robertson in 2011 and they married in 2012. They have one son (born 2013).
Norton is generally known for his reluctance to embrace his celebrity status and says, "If I ever have to stop taking the subway, I'm gonna have a heart attack."
Norton is a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, and was involved in Cal Ripken Jr.'s retirement activities in 2001 when he was asked to be a part of Ripken's biography for Major League Baseball (MLB). He attended Ripken's ceremony at the Hall of Fame in July 2007.
Norton is an honorary board member on the Board of Directors for the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts, a non-profit theater school in Columbia, Maryland.
Norton has a private pilot license and discussed his flight training when interviewed on episodes of the Late Show with David Letterman and Inside the Actor's Studio. One of his personal aircraft was a Cessna 206 substantially modified by the AOPA.
Norton was a supporter of former New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer. Norton is a member of the board of trustees of Enterprise Community Partners, a non-profit developer of affordable housing based in his hometown. He is also well known for his support for environmental causes and renewable energy projects, such as Enterprise's Green Communities Initiative and BP's Solar Neighbors program. He also put time and money toward social activist causes, including improving the quality of living in low-income communities.
Norton's work with the HBO documentary By the People: The Election of Barack Obama led to a soundtrack, with proceeds going to Enterprise Community Partners and United Way. Norton also participated in a 2008 Fast Company story about Enterprise's green affordable housing. Norton is the president of the American branch of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. To raise money for the trust, Norton fielded a team of thirty runners in the New York City Marathon on November 1, 2009. The team included Alanis Morissette and David Blaine. Norton finished the event first among celebrities with a time of 3 hours, 48 minutes. Norton and his team raised over $1 million for the Trust.
In addition to his involvement with the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, Norton supports African Wildlife Foundation, appearing in a public awareness ad about the dangers of buying elephant ivory as part of the "Say No" campaign. He is also a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, as well as a spokesperson for the Convention on Biological Diversity. In May 2010, Norton launched a website called Crowdrise, which uses a social networking platform to help raise funds for charity. In May 2012, Norton played football for an 'England vs. The Rest of the World' match/charity event called Soccer Aid, along with James McAvoy and Woody Harrelson. The event eventually raised over £4,000,000 for UNICEF UK.
|1996||Primal Fear||Aaron Stampler / Roy||Gregory Hoblit||Film debut|
|Everyone Says I Love You||Holden Spence||Woody Allen|
|The People vs. Larry Flynt||Alan Isaacman||Miloš Forman|
|1998||Rounders||Lester "Worm" Murphy||John Dahl|
|American History X||Derek Vinyard||Tony Kaye|
|1999||Fight Club||The Narrator||David Fincher|
|2000||Keeping the Faith||Father Brian Finn||Himself||Directorial debut|
|2001||The Score||Jack Teller||Frank Oz|
|2002||Death to Smoochy||Sheldon Mopes / Smoochy the Rhino||Danny DeVito|
|Frida||Nelson Rockefeller||Julie Taymor||Also re-wrote the script (Uncredited)|
|Red Dragon||Will Graham||Brett Ratner|
|25th Hour||Monty Brogan||Spike Lee||Also producer|
|2003||The Italian Job||Steve Frazelli||F. Gary Gray|
|2005||Kingdom of Heaven||King Baldwin IV||Ridley Scott|
|Down in the Valley||Harlan Fairfax Carruthers||David Jacobson||Also producer|
|2006||The Illusionist||Eisenheim||Neil Burger|
|The Painted Veil||Walter Fane||John Curran||Also producer|
|2008||The Incredible Hulk||Bruce Banner / The Hulk||Louis Leterrier||Also re-wrote the script (Uncredited);
and provides likeness and vocal performance in the video game adaption.
|Pride and Glory||Ray Tierney||Gavin O'Connor||Also producer|
|2009||The Invention of Lying||Traffic Cop||Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson||Cameo|
|2010||Leaves of Grass||Bill Kincaid / Brady Kincaid||Tim Blake Nelson||Also producer|
|Stone||Gerald "Stone" Creeson||John Curran|
|2012||Moonrise Kingdom||Scout Master Randy Ward||Wes Anderson|
|The Dictator||Himself||Larry Charles||Cameo|
|The Bourne Legacy||Eric Byer||Tony Gilroy|
|2014||The Grand Budapest Hotel||Henckels||Wes Anderson|
|Birdman||Mike Shiner||Alejandro González Iñárritu|
|2016||Little Door Gods||Yu Lei (voice)||Gary Wang||English dub|
|Sausage Party||Sammy Bagel Jr. (voice)||Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon|
|Collateral Beauty||Whit Yardsham||David Frankel|
|2018||Isle of Dogs||Rex (voice)||Wes Anderson|
|2019||Motherless Brooklyn||Lionel Essrog||Himself||Also director, producer and screenwriter; Filming|
|2000-2013||The Simpsons||Devon Bradley
Reverend Elijah Hooper (voices)
|"The Great Money Caper"
|2009||Modern Family||Izzy LaFontaine||Episode: "Great Expectations"|
|2013||Saturday Night Live||Host||Episode: "Edward Norton/Janelle Monáe"|
|2015||Last Week Tonight with John Oliver||Himself||Episode 28|
|2013||"Spring Break Anthem"||Himself||The Lonely Island song|
Edward Norton supports the following charitable causes: Underprivileged Children, Poverty, Cancer, Education, Children, Peace, Environment, Disaster Relief, Health Education.