Edward Norton: "Stone"

Transcript for: 
Edward Norton: "Stone"

MS. DIANE REHM

12:06:53
Thanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Edward Norton is an actor, director and producer. He stars in the upcoming film, "Stone." He plays a man in prison for covering up the murder of his grandparents. He's up for parole. He's trying to convince his parole officer that he has reformed. The parole officer, Jack, is played by Robert DeNiro.

MS. DIANE REHM

12:08:35
That's Edward Norton and Robert DeNiro in a scene from the new film "Stone." The movie opens in New York and L.A. on October 8, in select cities a week later. Edward Norton joins us in the studio. Please forgive the sound of my voice. I'm just back from a voice treatment. Could not miss the opportunity to talk with Edward Norton. Good morning.

MR. EDWARD NORTON

12:09:14
Good morning.

REHM

12:09:15
So good to have you here.

NORTON

12:09:16
Great to be here.

REHM

12:09:18
Talk about that scene with that raspy voice that you use in it.

NORTON

12:09:26
Well, yeah, maybe we have a theme of raspy voices this morning. I -- you know, I -- when I was working on this film, I felt less prepared than I normally do.

REHM

12:09:41
Why?

NORTON

12:09:42
Well, it was taking me -- I wasn't having the opportunity to -- I just didn't have the opportunity to figure out who this guy was. Partly because we were gonna film in Detroit and the director really wanted the film and the character to be set in Detroit. He wanted the character to be from Detroit and so we didn't -- I didn't get to go up there as soon as I wanted to. So we were approaching the start of the film and I felt much less certain of who he was and what the textures of it were than I like to. And I started interviewing these prisoners at this prison just north of Detroit and -- in Jackson, Mich. and I was getting really interesting things off many people, kind of an emotional sense of what it feels like for them as they approach this parole process, and how anxiety inducing it is for them. And just in the last couple of days before we started filming this, I met a guy who came in and the minute he opened his mouth and started speaking, I was completely hypnotized by him.

REHM

12:11:05
Huh. By the voice?

NORTON

12:11:05
He had this voice.

REHM

12:11:05
Yeah.

NORTON

12:11:06
He had this -- sounded like he had swallowed sand paper and glass or something.

REHM

12:11:12
Like me.

NORTON

12:11:13
And he -- and I -- it turned out he also had an enormous amount of insight into the particular themes of the script and it was just a very compelling guy. So just at the zero hour, I really took inspiration from this one particular person and kind of channeled his -- the sound of his voice.

REHM

12:11:32
What were these prisoners like? How did they behave? How did they fit in with their surroundings?

NORTON

12:11:47
Well, in many cases -- this was a facility that in which people who were getting fairly close to their parole or the possibility of parole got kicked down to, so it was actually strangely densely populated by a lot of people who were about to enter that process or were in that process of psychological reviews and having -- whether they'd done their course work assessed and all these things and I found it very rich because they ran the gamut of attitudes toward it. Some were completely fatalistic, some didn't even think that they should be out of the institution. They were very open about saying they planned to sabotage their own parole…

REHM

12:12:43
Wow.

NORTON

12:12:43
…review because they were so afraid to get out and felt more comfortable inside. And others, you know, were much more like my character, so, so anxious and desperate to make it through that process and get their liberation that they were almost vibrating with the intensity of how much they -- you know, one guy told me he literally couldn't sleep. He couldn't stop imagining the conversations and scripting them in his head and playing them out.

REHM

12:13:16
What were your own feelings being on the inside?

NORTON

12:13:24
Well, the -- I mean, prisons are very intense environments. I think we all -- you know, it's funny we all have in our minds somewhere, we have an idea of them, but I've only been in active prisons once or twice and never with the real time to talk to people like I was this time and the reality of it is so intense. It's the actual confrontation with the fact that it's not a concept like the -- it's these people. These people are locked up, you know, like incarcerated and I know it sounds obvious, but when you confront the reality of it, I find it really shocking and I think...

REHM

12:14:06
Did they scare you?

NORTON

12:14:07
No, no, not in the slightest. No we were in -- I wasn't wandering around in the cellblocks...

REHM

12:14:13
Yeah.

NORTON

12:14:13
…I was in an administrative room and different inmates were brought in just to have long conversations. And I actually, I think both because most of them, knew who I was and liked my work or they were excited about it, I think it was a break from the monotony for them. It was very unusual for them to be addressed as people and asked about their life experiences and I think it drew the best out of many of them and they were very, very interesting. They -- a lot of them were my age, so they were very interesting to talk to.

REHM

12:14:44
Wow. Edward Norton actor, screen writer and director. His films include, "Primal Fear," "Fight Club," "American X" and "The Illusionist." His upcoming film is "Stone" which opens in New York and L.A. this Friday, in select cities on October 15 as it rolls out. Robert DeNiro is a fascinating character. What's he like to work with?

NORTON

12:15:21
Terrific. I mean, I think that all of us who were so affected by the films he's made and can be forgiven for projecting a certain kind of intensity onto him because of the nature of his roles, but the truth is, is that he's the most fantastically clinical actor. He's almost like a librarian, and I know that sounds like the weirdest thing to say about Robert DeNiro, but I've never seen anybody, you know, ask so many questions, take so many notes. He approaches things like a -- he's like a scientist dissecting things, you know, by minute degrees.

REHM

12:16:07
And yet, I've read that you said he resists being bound by this script.

NORTON

12:16:14
Yeah, when I say he's a researcher, I think he's -- he looks into the world that he's going to portray. He finds out so many details about, you know, how these people would speak, what would be the reality of these interactions and I think he comes to own. He kind of does this process of absorption of his own perception of what the truthfulness of these situations is and then he's -- he is very demanding on the script. He doesn't treat the script as a Bible, he makes the script earn itself in a way. He -- if it -- if a scene is not earning its way through its beats, he just kind of won't do it.

REHM

12:17:01
Interesting.

NORTON

12:17:01
Yeah, it's very admirable, actually.

REHM

12:17:04
He is a morally ambiguous figure in this film as your character is.

NORTON

12:17:15
I think the thing that drew -- one of the things that definitely drew me to the film was the -- I had made a film with the director, whose name is John Curran, called "The Painted Veil" and he -- I thought John did such a good job with that film and it was a film very much about people denying their darknesses of relationship in struggle and very much about the capacity of people to evolve and he was nuanced and so thoughtful as a director that when he said, started describing this film to me, you know, he -- again, he was very focused on the gray areas, you know, he was very focused on the idea of the way that people can literally be in prison, but they can also be imprisoned in lives of inauthenticity. They can be imprisoned in marriages. They can be imprisoned in relationships with their own spirituality that are inauthentic and I think that he -- I admire that about John. I think filmmakers who have the courage to let some things stay in the gray, stay ambiguous, are rare.

REHM

12:18:25
Edward Norton, actor, screen writer, director. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Join us on Facebook, send us a tweet.

REHM

12:20:03
And we've been talking with Edward Norton about the darker side of his acting. On the other hand, here is an e-mail which says, "I've known and admired you, your work and your family for many years. Do you foresee any lighter even more musical roles for you in the future? Something like 'Everyone Says I Love You?'" I wanna hear that, Edward Norton.

REHM

12:21:26
Tell me what it was like doing that?

NORTON

12:21:28
Well, fortunately, we're on radio, so no one can see me melting through the floor and blushing to the roots of my hair. You probably just ruined all the street cred that I've developed over the last ten years. That was quite a throwback for me. I had a blast doing that film, but I don't -- listening to it confirms to me that I probably shouldn't be a musical theater actor (laugh).

REHM

12:21:57
You know, I watched that yesterday, listened to it and, Edward, I loved it.

NORTON

12:22:03
Oh, good.

REHM

12:22:03
I really did.

NORTON

12:22:04
You know, when we -- Woody Allen's musical arranger is kind of a famous jazz musicologist, I think, and I remember when we did it I was very nervous about it and I got this phone call -- I recorded the sessions and then I get this phone call saying, oh, Woody, you know, Woody wants to talk to you. And I thought, oh, God, that's it, I'm fired, I'm -- I'm out for sure, you know. And I came into the studio, I said, look, I swear I can do it better. I wasn't in great form and he goes, no, no, you sounded too good. You sound too much like Perry Como, you know. (laugh) And he said, I need a little more man on the street, you know.

REHM

12:22:44
And that's a great imitation.

NORTON

12:22:46
So I -- let's put it this way, like, I don't think Robert DeNiro and I have any musicals in our future, but I guess if the right person called, maybe I'll do it.

REHM

12:22:59
So the point being you did not have fun doing that?

NORTON

12:23:05
(laugh) Oh, no, I had great fun, are you kidding? It's like, you know, it was the second movie I ever made. I was still living in an apartment that was about -- I had a 200 square foot apartment with a bathroom, like, on the hall and I hadn't had time to move out of it after my first film and I wasn't sure I was gonna get another film, so I kept it (laugh) 'cause it was rent stabilized.

REHM

12:23:28
Smart man.

NORTON

12:23:29
Yeah, so I was making this movie in New York with Woody Allen and I walked from my apartment across Central Park and, you know, like, I'm in my 200 square foot apartment and then I was, like, shooting a scene in front of the Metropolitan Museum with Drew Barrymore, like, you know, singing songs that they were playing over loud speakers on Fifth Avenue and I felt like I, you know, like, stepped through some looking glass.

REHM

12:23:53
Wow. I want to talk to you about your film, "The Illusionist" because you are such a young man and a young looking man. But in that film, you were so different.

NORTON

12:24:12
Yeah, that was really -- I said yes to that film largely because I just didn't think I could do it. You know, I read it and thought, you know, everything about the way the character was described, you know, this dark bohemian, you know, guy with this incredible stage presence and everything, I thought, like, this is going to be the one I fail. This is definitely going to be the one that I swing and miss, but it was too -- it was so interesting. It felt like such a stretch and so I took it on and I had a blast. We made that film in Prague, which is just, you know, it's...

REHM

12:24:52
So gorgeous, yeah.

NORTON

12:24:53
...I mean, living in that town for...

REHM

12:24:54
Yeah.

NORTON

12:24:55
...a spring was reason enough to do the film and Paul Giamatti who -- another great actor who's in the film, he and I went to school together and we had not worked together since we were 19 and 20 and it was really, really fun to hook back up and do a thing together.

REHM

12:25:14
You actually grew up near here.

NORTON

12:25:18
I did, yeah. I grew up in Columbia, Maryland. And...

REHM

12:25:22
Which your...

NORTON

12:25:22
...have a lot of roots in Baltimore.

REHM

12:25:23
...grandfather actually founded.

NORTON

12:25:26
That's true. Yeah, my grandfather was James Rouse who was a very celebrated -- not just a developer, but really almost like a philosopher of urban planning and urban life and in his later life, a great philanthropist, but not in the traditional sense. He built The Enterprise Foundation, which is now the largest developer of affordable housing in the country.

REHM

12:25:53
How do you think his work influenced what you do?

NORTON

12:25:58
Well, you know, in two very significant ways. One was that when I got out of college and had this inkling that I wanted to go work in the theater in New York and, you know, I had such admiration for him and he had done so much for other people, I kind of almost felt like being an actor was frivolous or something and I went and talked to him about it and I remember him saying, like, you know, that -- he said, you will find a way to contribute through whatever you do and, you know. And he was a great believer...

REHM

12:26:37
Gosh, that's wonderful.

NORTON

12:26:37
...in the arts. I mean, my granddad was one of the first really great advocates for the forming of Center Stage in Baltimore. And he was a great advocate for that. So he -- first off, he very much encouraged me to...

REHM

12:26:51
Follow your dream.

NORTON

12:26:53
...follow the dream, yeah. And he -- I remember him actually saying to me that if I -- if he heard that I was going to take a stupid job just to make money, that he would do anything to get me out of it, so that was very helpful. But then, too, he was a person who did more than one thing in his life. He was a very great model for me in terms of recognizing that you can -- yeah, you can be an actor and you can still be engaged in lots of other things as well.

REHM

12:27:24
Tell me about this U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity.

NORTON

12:27:33
Well, I mean, that's an example of what we were just talking about. I think -- I've been engaged in conservation issues for many years because my father is one of the great conservation advocates and experts of his generation and I grew up -- I grew up very immersed in those issues through him. And he -- and I've worked on conservation issues for many years. But, you know, the United Nations has now something called the Convention on Biodiversity, which is the first international framework of agreements on how to reduce biodiversity laws. And they asked me to be the global ambassador for the Convention on Biodiversity, which mainly I look at as -- the role as being one in assisting them in highlighting the issue and helping them draw lines of connection between what is often an abstract concept like biodiversity and helping articulate the way that something abstract like biodiversity is actually very intimately connected with human wellbeing. It's not just a pet project of scientists and environmentalists.

REHM

12:28:50
How will that take away from your time as an actor?

NORTON

12:28:55
It doesn't. I can't act all the time, I just can't. It's too -- I lose the -- it's like my battery drains and I lose the motivation for it and I find doing things in life is what kind of fills you back up with anything to contribute to it, if that makes any sense. You kind of have to get out there and absorb the world to be able to turn around and interpret it, I think, so it's one of the incredible things about life and creative fielder in films, is it's very fluid. You know, it doesn't -- it's not something you can do week in and week out and so I get the time -- I juggle these things.

REHM

12:29:45
I've often wondered about the real life of someone like yourself, so involved with acting, so involved with, as you say, trying to be involved with real life. What about friendship, what about close relations?

NORTON

12:30:09
I think that public life can impose a weird -- you know, can impose itself on that to some degree, but not really. I think that, you know -- I always say, like, you know, being famous is like having a low-grade illness. Like you learn to deal with it. You know what I mean? And then it (laugh) -- yeah, it becomes a management issue, not a serious problem. I think -- I think that I'm very fortunate. I have friends from -- many, many great friendships from before all this kind of weird life that I've gotten involved in and I've made many great friends in the industry, too, so I don't find it hard to preserve a grounded normal life. I also, with pride, say I live in New York City. I don't live in L.A. I think it would be more difficult for me in Los Angeles, but New York is such a egalitarian town. You know what I mean? Nobody -- there's so many people doing different great things in New York that nobody really gives you too much credit just for being a movie actor (laugh) in New York.

REHM

12:31:34
Were you in New York on 9/11?

NORTON

12:31:38
I wasn't. I had just -- I had left three days before it happened and I was caught out of town for the first week. I got home about a week after.

REHM

12:31:47
Do you have relatives in New York?

NORTON

12:31:51
No. I don't have so much family in New York. My family -- we're still rooted in Baltimore and now spread out all over. You know, we're all over the globe. My dad lives in Indonesia now. My sister lives in Rwanda.

REHM

12:32:04
Wow.

NORTON

12:32:06
Yeah, she's -- my brother lives in Idaho and they're all doing amazing things. But we're -- the Nortons are pretty far flung.

REHM

12:32:14
So you're the only actor in the family?

NORTON

12:32:18
I am, yeah. I'm not the only artist. I've got -- my uncle is a painter and one of -- my other uncle is a oboist and pianist and so we've got bohemians in the family.

REHM

12:32:29
Ed Norton, his new film just coming out is called "Stone." You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." When did you know you wanted to act?

NORTON

12:32:47
That's an interesting question. You know, my mother taught Shakespeare and introduced me to theater when I was very young and it definitely put a bug in me, but I didn't have any -- I don't think I had a -- you know, a conscious sense that this is what I'm going to do. I had two kind of (word?) experiences. One when I was, you know, growing up in Maryland, actually, here, and I had a teacher in high school who took a couple of us down here to National Theater and I saw Ian McKellen do a one-man show that he had written. It was about his life as an actor acting Shakespeare. And it had an enormous impact on me, that particular performance and show. It made me, for the first time, think, wow, this is really something you could do as a life. Because he told that story of his life in theater and that was very compelling. But I think I didn't really embrace it until I was in my early 20s.

REHM

12:33:49
I want to hear this clip from the movie "Primal Fear" which you did in 1996.

REHM

12:34:48
Isn't that fascinating that in that instant, in that 45 seconds sort of moving from one personality to the other.

NORTON

12:35:03
(laugh) Yeah, you're really determined to throw me into the vaults of memory this morning, aren't you? (laugh) Like, I -- yeah, I don't think I have heard a clip from that film in many, many years. So now I've got all kinds of neurons firing in my head. It was -- you know, it was a -- the particular thing about that film was that I think that Greg Hoblit, the director and this wonderful casting director named Deb Aquila made a really bold choice that I think was very wise in retrospect, which is they kind of looked at the whole thing and said, if this trick doesn't work, this whole thing isn't gonna fly. And Greg, you know, made the very astute decision that there might actually be added value or added juice to that illusion if the audience had never seen the person before. That if it was an actor who they had no prior experience with, that they would accept that vulnerable and initial presentation at face value. And, you know, apart from the fact obviously that I literally almost, like, owe him my career (laugh) for bringing me in on that, I think it was a great choice 'cause you really can't pull stuff like that off more than once.

REHM

12:36:26
You won a Golden Globe for that.

NORTON

12:36:30
I did, yes.

REHM

12:36:32
That must've been really something.

NORTON

12:36:34
It was. I was -- I remember I was with my sister and I remember being so surprised by it that I went -- I walked off the stage the wrong way. You were supposed to walk backstage and go to the pressroom and I, like, strolled back down into the audience like kind of in a daze. They had to come and find me and say, yeah, you were supposed to go off with the pretty girl.

REHM

12:36:58
But you like Richard Gere?

NORTON

12:37:00
Oh, he's tremendous, yep. He was great.

REHM

12:37:02
He was marvelous in that role.

NORTON

12:37:05
Yeah, he was great, great to me, too.

REHM

12:37:07
Short break and your questions when we come back.

REHM

12:40:03
Actor Edward Norton is with me and his new film just about ready to come out is "Stone," which opens in New York and L.A. this Friday, in select cities October 15. We've had several e-mails and Facebook comments like this one. Someone says, "I loved 'Death to Smoochy,' though I seem to be in the minority. How does Mr. Norton feel about that movie and the cool reception it got?"

NORTON

12:40:44
You're not in the minority. That film has emerged, I think, as another one that found its way to people on its own. And I -- it's in the -- probably the top ten of ones I've done in terms of the ones that make people come up on the street and say, I loved it. I love the film. I laugh and laugh. And, you know, it had people in it that were so -- Jon Stewart and Catherine Keener and, you know, Robin Williams and, of course, Danny DeVito who directed it. I loved it. It was without a doubt one of the most fun experiences I've had making a movie.

REHM

12:41:23
All right. Let's go to the phones to Andy in San Antonio, Texas. You're on the air.

ANDY

12:41:32
Yes. First of all, I'm a big fan of "Death to Smoochy." It raised my spirits at a time when I really needed them. I was incarcerated eight months in Mexico and got to observe 1,500 people who were incarcerated and noted that the true sociopaths always tended to go to religion first, because they were trying to put together a plan to show that they had become rehabilitated and try to get themselves out.

NORTON

12:42:04
There's definitely, I think, a question that gets posed in the film. Part of the thrill of the film, I think, is that there's -- you have a strong sense in the beginning that this character is desperate to do and say anything that he feels is gonna play. The thing that I think makes the film more interesting than just being sort of a noire thriller, in that sense, is that he ends up encountering a set of ideas and having an experience that may have actually brought him to a moment of authentic illumination. And one of the real questions of the movie is whether what he goes through has created an authentic new peacefulness in him and I think it's one of the things I actually enjoy about the film very much.

REHM

12:42:59
Thanks for calling, Andy. To David who's in Athens, Ohio. You're on the air.

DAVID

12:43:07
Hello.

REHM

12:43:08
Hi. Go right ahead.

DAVID

12:43:11
I actually had a question for Edward. One of my favorite movies of yours is "Leaves of Grass." I believe it was a more recent one that I think went straight to DVD, correct me if I'm wrong, but...

NORTON

12:43:22
No. It's out in the theaters right now.

DAVID

12:43:25
Okay. What's that?

NORTON

12:43:26
It's out in theaters right now. It's playing in about five cities right now.

DAVID

12:43:31
Oh, is it in theaters right now?

NORTON

12:43:33
Yes.

DAVID

12:43:34
Okay. I actually wanted to ask you about that. One of the roles that I understand that you played in it was the -- you played actually two roles of twin brothers and I wanted to know was there any difference in the way you went about studying the characters themselves before you portrayed them in the film that was different from how you would normally prepare for a role?

NORTON

12:44:01
It -- I'd say the same, but just doubled up, you know. And that film was -- it's a hilarious and very original film, so if it's in your town, I really recommend it. But the guy who wrote it and directed it, who's the great actor Tim Blake Nelson, the two characters in a lot of ways in that film are Tim's personality split in half and thrown up as two characters. I know it sounds strange, but my reference point for both of the characters was the same guy (laugh). It was the director.

REHM

12:44:34
Hope that answers it. To Fort Worth, Texas. Good Morning, David.

DAVID

12:44:40
Hey, good morning. It is a great honor to talk to you, sir. I'm actually, strange enough, on a Monday morning running errands with my wife. And when she started to talk about you and how much she admired your work, I had to admit I was a little bit jealous, but we're both here and honored to be on with you. We wanted to ask -- you sort of lightly touched on it, Diane, and I appreciate that. The -- I know many actors don't wanna be categorized for picking certain roles, but my experience with you started in high school seeing "Fight Club," which was incredible film and I was completely taken by surprise at the end of that one. I did not see that coming.

DAVID

12:45:22
But we see these films like "Primal Fear" like "Fight Club" and a handful of others where you seem to have -- I don't wanna say multiple personalities, in some you do, but sort of different lives you lead mentally. And we're wondering, does that psychological aspect to filmmaking or the very phenomenon of different characters you can play within one character, does that -- is that a common theme that interests you or is it a coincidence? I have a follow-up I can take off the air here, but we really feel like you being a son of Maryland, I wonder if you have read much Edgar Allen Poe. We had heard a rumor that you were being considered for the lead, and I'm not pitching an idea to you, but we thought it would be a great idea.

NORTON

12:46:07
Well, working backwards, I have read Poe. I think growing up near Baltimore, you're almost required to. And you think you visit the place where the -- you know, his grave and things like that, but the -- I've never been approached about any story about Poe, but actually, weirdly, I ended up for a period in New York, I used to live right next to the church down on Broadway and 10th Street that the bells are the -- of that church are the bells that he heard when he wrote "The Raven" and refers to the bells in the poem, so there's a weird Poe connection there. But the -- you know, I've had people bring up sort of the question of themes of duality and stuff. I don't have a conscience sense of a specific interest in duality, but I do -- I relate to it more, I think, as complexity. I think that characters that are contradictory or that -- or actually just that travel a great distance, you know, someone -- I think Joseph Campbell said the definition of a story is that something happens and as a result, something changes. And I've always thought -- I've always looked for characters that have -- that evolve over the course of the story so that they're rich.

REHM

12:47:33
Let's hear a clip from the "Fight Club."

REHM

12:48:46
How do you approach something like that? It's almost rap music.

NORTON

12:48:52
Yeah, the, I mean, there's such a weird sort of internal monologue in "Fight Club" that I think, you know, to be honest, I think a lot of people related to that film so intensely because of those stretches in which you're getting this kind of interior sense of how this character feels entombed in his life by, you know, travel and single serving friends and franchising and everything like that. And I think, I mean, it was really funny. Like, David Fincher and I worked for weeks with microphones to try to figure out literally what was the right -- literally what -- we tried different distances from the mic just to figure out what would get the perfect sort of inside your head feeling. But it was -- you know, that film actually to me is a really good example. I think it relates to this film "Stone" in the sense that Fincher's a filmmaker who's very, very, very comfortable making you feel unsettled. And I think that film was not a success at the box office despite the huge sort of footprint that it's ended up creating.

NORTON

12:50:10
And I think, I think it was an affirmation to me that a lot of times the films that really make a dent in you and matter are the -- are not necessarily the ones that are gonna be successful in the short term because people expect to be entertained on some level. And when you rattle their cage or when you unsettle them, it sometimes takes a little while for them to realize the value of that. And I think -- and filmmakers who have the courage to sort of shake you up and leave you in that state without making you feel comfortable at the end or imposing a neat little meaning are rare. So I think, you know, it's why I wanted to work with John Curran again on his film "Stone" because I think "Stone" -- "Stone's" one of those films as well that you've gotta kinda get your hat on for it. You've gotta, you've gotta bring your own mind to it.

REHM

12:51:05
But then how long does it take you to get back to a normal place or to get to you again?

NORTON

12:51:18
It doesn't -- I guess I've gotten pretty consumed in a film. You know, it depends on the type of experience it is. Sometimes you kinda wanna -- you don't wanna take the coat off, in a way. You wanna go home and go to sleep and wake up and be back in it and go home and go to sleep and wake up and be back in it. And then other times it's more like driving a Maserati. You know, it's like you're in it during the day and then you come home and you take the key out and you step out of the car and you just -- you know, you can't have that much of an engine under you, like, or you just would...

REHM

12:51:56
All the time.

NORTON

12:51:57
Yeah, or you would just -- you know, you'd lose your mind, so...

REHM

12:52:00
Have you ever driven one?

NORTON

12:52:01
A real Maserati?

REHM

12:52:03
Uh-huh.

NORTON

12:52:03
Yeah, I got loaned one for two weeks. You know, like, that, you know, when they came out with some new one. But that's kind of – actually, this film "Stone," the character, you played the clip, it's such a weird -- he's so weird. And his language is so strange and funny and everything that I thought of it like and I was only -- you know, I did all my work in a compressed period of, like, two weeks, three weeks, so...

REHM

12:52:26
Really.

NORTON

12:52:26
...so for me that was one of the ones where you, you know, plus I had my hair in corn rows and I was wearing a dew rag and, like, what am I gonna do, go out for dinner, you know what I mean? Like, I, you know, it's better to just go home and listen to Eminem and then go to sleep (laugh).

REHM

12:52:41
I did see the clip of that yesterday. It's fascinating...

NORTON

12:52:46
But...

REHM

12:52:46
...just fascinating.

NORTON

12:52:47
...that's a car, you know. That one -- some of them you can take the coat off at the end of the day and some of them you gotta just stay in the car.

REHM

12:52:55
Actor Ed Norton, sorry, Edward Norton and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You don't like to be called Ed.

NORTON

12:53:05
No. My -- I -- I just never -- My dad -- my dad's Ed and since he's...

REHM

12:53:10
Makes sense.

NORTON

12:53:10
...especially in this area, you know, if you say...

REHM

12:53:12
Yeah.

NORTON

12:53:12
...you're talking to Ed Norton, they'll think it's, like, the guy who founded the Grand Canyon Trust.

REHM

12:53:17
We've been talking a lot about your acting. What about your directing? What about your screenwriting?

NORTON

12:53:26
I've been -- I haven't directed again as quickly as I probably should've, but I've just been really busy. I'll definitely get back to it. I've been writing a script that I've been marinating in for a long time and I'll -- and I think I'm getting close, so I'll -- that will probably be one that I do. Directing is great fun. It's very consuming. You know, it takes up a bigger chunk of time and -- but I'll get to it. I've been -- I think these days I've been doing a lot of producing. Our company, we produced this documentary on Obama's campaign and we produced this film "Leaves of Grass" and now we're producing a -- you know, HBO's been doing these terrific historical miniseries about John Adams or the Pacific. And we're making a series out of Stephen Ambrose's great book on Lewis and Clark called...

REHM

12:54:18
Yes.

NORTON

12:54:18
..."Undaunted Courage."

REHM

12:54:19
Yes. And when can we expect that?

NORTON

12:54:23
It'll be a ways -- it's so big. We've never taken on anything this...

REHM

12:54:26
It's huge.

NORTON

12:54:26
...big ever. You can imagine...

REHM

12:54:28
Yeah.

NORTON

12:54:28
...the scale of it and so we're -- you know, we hope, if things go well, we'll make it next year and it would probably come out in 2012 or '13.

REHM

12:54:38
To Birmingham, Ala. Good morning, Jonathan.

JONATHAN

12:54:43
Good morning. I have a question for Mr. Norton. One of the books I really enjoyed reading in the last several years was "Motherless Brooklyn" by Jonathan Lethem and I remember hearing that he may be considering making that into a film and I was wondering what the status may be on that.

NORTON

12:55:00
Well, yeah, we'll get there, we'll get there. I think it's been delayed by just other things intervening, but that's -- I agree it's a great -- it's an amazing book and a great character and we're gonna -- we -- I never like to put a timeline on it, but that's definitely one we're -- we don't plan to let fall through the cracks.

REHM

12:55:23
And finally to Vienna, Va. Good morning, Liz.

LIZ

12:55:28
Hi.

REHM

12:55:29
Hi there. Quickly, please.

LIZ

12:55:31
Diane, I think you have a beautiful voice.

REHM

12:55:33
Oh, you're sweet. Thank you.

LIZ

12:55:35
And I'm very excited. I am a big fan of yours, Mr. Norton. Oh, my son said he's a big fan, too. He's home sick. I had two questions. One, I loved the movie "The Score." I thought that was fantastic and I don't recall that being out in theaters. Was it not out for very long? 'Cause it's a wonderful movie.

NORTON

12:55:58
Thanks.

LIZ

12:55:58
And I thought your character was fantastic.

NORTON

12:56:00
No. That one was a big hit. That was, like...

LIZ

12:56:02
Oh, was it?

NORTON

12:56:02
Yeah.

LIZ

12:56:03
Oh, well, I have three kids, so maybe I just...

LIZ

12:56:06
There was a time in my life...

NORTON

12:56:06
It hit you in one of the toddler phases.

LIZ

12:56:09
Yeah, that must've been that 10 year period. And then my second question is, my children do professional theater around town. Do you do theater?

NORTON

12:56:17
I did. I started off -- my whole life was in theater for many, many years. And then -- and professionally, that's where I got my start in New York theater. The -- most recently I did a play in New York by Lanford Wilson called "Burn This" with Catherine Keener and two other actors, now one of whom is -- has become a big star on this show "Modern Family," Ty Burrell. And that's actually why I did that little bit on "Modern Family."

REHM

12:56:53
Edward Norton, actor, screenwriter, director. His upcoming film is "Stone," which opens in New York and L.A. this Friday. Thanks for so much.

NORTON

12:57:10
Thank you. You're such a class act, Diane. It's great to be here.

REHM

12:57:12
Thank you. Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.

ANNOUNCER

12:57:16
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