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Has EDWARD NORTON failed to live up to his late '90's promise...?

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#1 of 77 OFFLINE   buttmunker


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Posted March 09 2007 - 12:06 PM

Edward Norton took the world by storm in 1996 when he debuted in the Richard Gere film Primal Fear as Aaron Stampler, and earned an Academy Award nomination (for supporting actor) right out of the gate for the effort.
Also in 1996, he played opposite Woody Harrelson in the great Milos Forman biopic, People Vs Larry Flynt as Flynt's lawyer - cementing his position as Hollywood's newest member.

To think: this mild-mannered, ordinary-looking guy became a leading actor practically overnight - based simply on his talent, and not based on overwhelming good looks (he's not ugly, but he's no matinee idol).

Norton continued his run of good films through the '90's with films like Rounders and American History X, both in 1998 (the latter film giving Norton his second Oscar-nomination - this time for Best Actor), and in 1999 starred opposite Brad Pitt in Fight Club.

After that...I think Edward Norton said "fuck it" and decided to go for the paycheck. Look at the films he did after the turn of the century:

Keeping the Faith (2000)
The Score (2001)
Death to Smoochy (2002)
Frida (2002)
Red Dragon (2002)
25th Hour (2002)
The Italian Job (2003)
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
Down In The Valley (2005)
The Illusionist (2006)
The Painted Veil (2006)

Aside from Frida, which was not an Edward Norton film and the films he did in 2006 (The Illusionist and The Painted Veil, which could sort of be considered "comeback films" because they're actually efforts at acting as opposed to bang-em-up action films), the rest of the films really are below his talents (I heard 25th Hour was not bad, but it didn't exactly light the world on fire).

What happened? Does anybody aside from myself feel that Norton sold out for the almighty dollar fairly early in his blooming career? At least when Tom Cruise sold out, he did it after two decades of solid films. Norton sold out after four years.
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#2 of 77 OFFLINE   Jeremiah



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Posted March 09 2007 - 01:13 PM

I don't know if he sold out but the movies you listed are far from his previous films(which I loved).

Keeping the Faith wasn't bad, but probably looked better reading the script.
The Score has Robert D., Marlon Brando, and Angela Bassett, would think it would of turned out better. Still liked it though.
Death To Smoochy was supposed to be a great black comedy, didn't really turn out that way IMO.
Frida - Never saw it.
Red Dragon I never saw but doesn't seem like a sell out movie, maybe just not a good movie.
25th Hour I thought was pretty good, the best of this list that I have seen.
The Italian Job might be a sell out movie.

I haven't seen the rest, but it looks like the movies he has chosen have been bad to above average movies more than him selling out. It's a shame because he is probably my favorite actor, but nothing recently has had me wanting to see one of his films.
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#3 of 77 ONLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted March 09 2007 - 02:12 PM

The film 25th Hour was one of the best films I saw that year and is very underrated by most people. Also, I liked The Italian Job and The Score. I could've done without Red Dragon, but it wasn't a bad film. Crawdaddy



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#4 of 77 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted March 09 2007 - 02:41 PM

Norton totally phoned it in for "The Italian Job" (I can't remember the details, but he wasn't happy contract-wise or something).
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#5 of 77 OFFLINE   Chris


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Posted March 09 2007 - 02:43 PM

Let's not forget Rounders.. I loved him in that film. OK, he hasn't had the roll he had in the late nineties. But some fo the choices on paper looked like interesting ideas that just didn't work (Death to Smoochy was something I laughed at as a parent with young kids then, but it was about 2 years too late.. and too much Robin Williams to be really good). Frida was very good. And, we all dismiss bang-em-ups, but he had a cute part in "Italian Job". It's hard for any actor to have a string of unbelievable films like he did in the late 90s. He's still a great actor.. but he's not perceived as leading man material, and so he won't get pitched those roles. So, he just has to wait to call his shots.
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#6 of 77 OFFLINE   Edwin-S



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Posted March 09 2007 - 02:43 PM

I haven't seen 25th HOUR. I thought THE SCORE and THE ITALIAN JOB were entertaining flicks. I also think that KINGDOM OF HEAVEN gets unduly criticized. I cannot understand why actors are suddenly called sellouts for starring in films that are considered of a "lightweight" nature. Actors, for all of the money they make, are still primarily workers. They have to work in order to eat. Roles in so-called "serious" films do not occur every day. Sometimes an actor takes roles in so-called "lesser" films because they want to work at their craft. Many times they will take a role because portraying the character intrigues them. Actors have little control over the final quality of any project that they sign on to. The only quality control they have is through their portrayal of the character they have signed to play. In the movies I have seen, Norton has generally done a good job of performing his craft.
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#7 of 77 OFFLINE   TravisR


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Posted March 09 2007 - 02:46 PM

Did I wander into an indie rock message board? "Edward Norton's first album was great then he signed with a major label- SELL OUT!!!!!"

#8 of 77 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted March 09 2007 - 02:59 PM

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#9 of 77 OFFLINE   Kirk Tsai

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Posted March 09 2007 - 04:41 PM

Let's see... Keeping the Faith -- this wasn't some random romantic comedy, it was Norton's directorial debut The Score -- lots of excitement when this movie was announced and released, with him, De Niro, and Brando (ended up being his last) Death to Smoochy -- a dark, dark comedy Frida -- cameo Red Dragon -- the only franchise film in this lot, but with a lot of well-respected actors, and for which Norton had good notices The 25th Hour -- the 15 million dollar budget movie was perhaps the first American mainstream movie to deal with September 11th The Italian Job -- this might be Norton's biggest regret, as he openly clashed with the film Kingdom of Heaven -- a faceless, but subtle performance Down in the Valley -- an 8 million dollar budget indie film I really doubt he was getting much higher salaries for most of these films than earlier. If he was, it was because he became more famous and had more prestige. I happen to think actors do "sell out," but picking on Norton is choosing the wrong guy. His clash with the director of American History X and his refusal to do publicity for The Italian Job actually shows the opposite. His uncooperative behavior might have gave him less of a chance to "cash in."

#10 of 77 OFFLINE   Chuck Mayer

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Posted March 10 2007 - 12:15 AM

I think he's picky. Kirk gave a nice rundown, but the only two paycheck films in there are The Italian Job (which he would NOT have done, given the choice) and Red Dragon (which did have a great cast). Other than that, those are eclectic choices. I agree with Robert that The 25th Hour is greatly underappreciated. It was a very gutsy film, with a great lead performance and direction, and one of the best films that year. And he's been the best thing in pretty much every film he's been in.
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#11 of 77 OFFLINE   Ocean Phoenix

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Posted March 10 2007 - 02:55 AM

I read about Norton being forced to act in "The Italian Job" because of contract stipulations, so when I finished seeing it with a friend, I said "he did a pretty good for a guy who didn't even want to be in the movie!" and my friend agreed emphatically. It's not that Norton's been phoning it in, I think people just expect too much because he was in such a slew of exceptionally strong movies one after the other early in his career (particulary "American History X" and "Fight Club", which are both powerfully unforgettable). It's hard for an actor to be consistent. He just looks for the best, most original scripts he can find and they can't all be like those two. Up until about 2003, I thought Tom Hanks was the only guy who could consistently make perfect choices of movies to appear in every year, but even he has slipped since then. At least Norton hasn't started being in crap like a lot of Oscar winners do after they win (see Cuba Gooding Jr. and Halle Berry, for example). I know Norton isn't an Oscar winner, but the way people expect him to always star in masterpieces reminds me of the expectations put on such actors/actresses. And I just want to add some support for the very underrated 25th Hour, which I think is just as great as any of the more memorable movies Norton has been in, and my favourite Spike Lee movie, which I liked much more than his universally praised "Do The Right Thing". "Red Dragon" and "The Score" were solid movies too, they just don't have the lasting appeal of other movies Norton has been in. The problem with "Red Dragon" was that his character was very bland, especially with Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lecter in the same movie (although his scene with his son at the end was fantastic) and in "The Score", Norton's performance was the highlight of a respectable, but forgettable movie.

#12 of 77 OFFLINE   Larry Sutliff

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Posted March 10 2007 - 03:23 AM

I hear he's become a sewer worker in New York. Posted Image

#13 of 77 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted March 10 2007 - 04:27 AM

From what I understand, Norton basically took his salary from Red Dragon and put it all into 25th Hour, so let's not be too harsh on him.

"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932

#14 of 77 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted March 10 2007 - 07:02 AM

After a year that saw the U.S. release of The Illusionist, Down in the Valley and The Painted Veil, the answer is a resounding "NO!" I've seen all three, and it would be hard to imagine three more different characters, all of them leads. But Norton brings equal skill and conviction to each one. None of those films are the kind that actors do for a paycheck. Down in the Valley was a struggle just to get released, which is why it didn't see U.S. theaters until 2006. M.
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#15 of 77 OFFLINE   Gabriel>P


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Posted March 10 2007 - 07:23 AM

Kingdom of Heaven was excellent. One of the best films this decade. At least the Director's Cut is.

#16 of 77 OFFLINE   DaveF



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Posted March 10 2007 - 08:22 AM

I was pondering this very question earlier this week. He became a personal favorite after American History X. Recently he seemed to vanish, as other promising actors seem to do. With Patrick, I agree The Italian Job was poor. But, with Michael, The Prestige was very good, showing Norton can perform with the best.

#17 of 77 OFFLINE   Nathan V

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Posted March 10 2007 - 10:23 AM

I have to disagree with Buttmunker on this one. As someone who has seen all of the films in discussion except Smoochy and Painted Veil, I can emphatically state that Norton remains an outstanding actor who makes gutsy choices. Read some interviews with the guy to find out why he's in Red Dragon (which he admits is forgettable, but he wanted to work with Hopkins, Keitel, Phil Hoffman, Fiennes, etc), The Score (which he also admits is forgettable, but he HAD to work with De Niro and Brando), The Italian Job (Paramount contract signed during Primal Fear stipulated 2 more pics, this and Score), etc. I actually just recently read another interview with him where he elaborated, correctly, that his financially successful films will not be remembered, whereas his flops already are remembered. To say that he has sold out, in my mind, is ridiculous. 25th Hour is a minor landmark and a masterpiece of a film, Spike Lee's best in almost 2 decades, and the first studio picture to deal with 9/11. His performance in Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut is one of the highlights of that incredible film, and a further testament to his tremendous acting abilities. It's not any actor who can generate such a performance without using their face. His decision to have his directorial debut be a romantic comedy is as gutsy a decision as any of his dramatic roles; he picked what was most difficult. Unlike other rom-coms, Faith seperates itself because it manages not to be centered around fluff, but how religion interferes with relationships. He continues to work at a fast pace, cranking out about 2 films a year for the past decade. He's spent the last few years working with small directors in a co-writer-producer-director capacity, exploring new avenues of the creative process and allowing them to get their films made. These films, like Down in the Valley, The Illusionist, and Pride and Glory, have all been interesting. He is currenty writing, producing, starring, and directing his next project, based on the book Motherless Brooklyn, about a detective with Tourette's syndrome. He established his credence as an extraordinary dramatic actor, and is suing that credence to pursue smaller projects that interest him. That's not selling out. That's called artistic creativity. Regards, Nathan
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#18 of 77 OFFLINE   JonZ


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Posted March 10 2007 - 10:40 AM

What about Fight Club, The People vs Larry Flynt and Rounders. I agree with whats been pretty much said above. Someone at work had made a comment about Anna Paquin to me - about how she expected Anna to have done bigger things than she has and how come she takes such lowkey roles. But theyre obviously doing the things they want to. And taking the occasional paycheck will allow him to more personal projects. Favorites from him: Down in the Valley Kingdom Of Heaven 25th Hour Death to Smoochy Fight Club American History X Rounders The People vs. Larry Flynt

#19 of 77 OFFLINE   JohnRice


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Posted March 10 2007 - 10:53 AM

Yeah, 25th Hour is just a GREAT film, and Norton is a major reason. It's not widely known, but he is supposed to have essentially written Frida singlehandedly and uncredited. Down in the Valley was a seriously bold and well performed move. Not one a lot of more "respected" actors would be willing to take. I think there are two problems with the OP's observations. 1) The assumption that media attention equates to actual skill. 2) That movies which make a lot of money/get a lot of buzz are the only ones which are worth attention. It remains that pretty much any movie with Norton in it is at least worth seeing.

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#20 of 77 OFFLINE   buttmunker


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Posted March 10 2007 - 01:21 PM

No, I know better than that. I also know that Primal Fear and American History X were not huge moneymakers - and those two films I consider to be his best work.

There's something I learned recently, and that's this: media attention (ie: Oscar's attention) may not necessarily equate actual skill, but it sure points it out. It points it out so we don't miss it. American History X may have sunk below the radar if not for the media buzz surrounding Norton's great performance. The same thing with Primal Fear. Let's face it - Primal Fear, if not for Norton, would have been just another run-of-the-mill Richard Gere flick. Aside from Norton, it really wasn't that great of a movie. The film didn't do the novel justice, but with Norton as the central character, you can forgive that. And if there wasn't a lot of buzz for Norton's work in that film, people would have missed it. You would have missed it. We all might have, because it wasn't Richard Gere that drove people to see Primal Fear. It was Word Of Mouth about Edward Norton's performance.
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