TORONTO - Considered one of the finest actors of his generation, Edward Norton has played psychopaths (“Primal Fear”), neo-Nazis (“American History X”), figments of the imagination (“Fight Club”) and even Nelson Rockefeller (“Frida”). He’s produced films on several occasions, directed once (“Keeping the Faith”) and plans to direct again, eventually, with an adaptation of the Jonathan Lethem novel “Motherless Brooklyn.”
In “Pride and Glory,” director Gavin O’Connor’s cop drama co-starring Colin Farrell, Norton plays a detective investigating betrayal in a movie that almost got double-crossed itself: Produced by the now-defunct New Line, it was delayed by that company’s demise, and then finally rescued by parent company Warner Brothers. It will be released Friday. John Anderson caught up with Norton recently in Toronto.
Q. Has it been a bit rugged waiting to find out the fate of this movie?
A. No, not rugged at all, but I’ve definitely been frustrated for Gavin. I had a baseline faith it was going to sort itself out, though. You’re never 100 percent trusting of studio dynamics and what’s going to drive decisions, but I kind of took it at face value. With New Line melting down and films being reshuffled, I sort of decided to wait and see when they said, “Let us sort through what we’re going to do.”
Q. What gave you that faith?
A. The reaction to the film was so strong from different people we showed it to, critics, industry people, I thought ‘This will find its moment.” And I think it has.
Q. It doesn’t seem to be prime time for serious drama, somehow.
A. It’s pretty commercial, though. They’ve got the elements to sell the film to a lot of demographics, I think.
Q. Is this an “Ed Norton returns to his pure acting roots” film?
A. I had done a series of films that I produced and had to wear a lot of hats and keep my head in a lot of issues beyond the creative, and it was nice for me to return to a simpler mode of just doing my work, doing what I can do as an actor, for a good director.
Q. What made it special?
A. I love getting handed something I think is really cohesive, that has a real aesthetic, is very realized. Plus, Gavin gave it the room and a solid amount of prep time. I got that research and rehearsal period that you often don’t get.
Q. You don’t?
A. They say you’ll have your rehearsal time, but you never get it.
Q. Gavin and his producer brother, Greg, come from a police family. Did that help you at all, or convince you to do the film?
A. I really like to work with people when I feel like they need to make this movie. I’m about to go work on one now where I feel that way. I felt like that with (David) Fincher on “Fight Club,” I felt like that with Spike Lee on “25th Hour.” You just have a strong sensation that this is the right person to make this film. I felt that with Gavin and Greg, Obviously, they felt a very very special intensity about depicting all this in an authentic way. I think when something is a passion project, the people involved go to those extra lengths to get the details right. I love that.
Q. But can’t filmmakers get too attached to their texts?
A. Yeah, and I think maybe the flip side is when you’re very passionate about something and you’ve been with it for a while, it’s very helpful to have other people come in and sort of crack it back open for you. The actors come in, and flex it, and have their own demands and it’s good. The director pushes back. But it puts life back into the process.
Q. How was it working with Colin Farrell?
A. Colin’s great, I really enjoyed it. He’s utterly unpretentious, pulls right into the parking lot with the rest of the cast and crew and gets down into the ensemble. He’s like any good actor I’ve worked with - tireless, goes as late as you want, and gives it his all.
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