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Fantastic 5: Interview w/ STONE actor, Edward Norton

Say the name Edward Norton and immediately you think of some of his most iconic performances. FIGHT CLUB, AMERICAN HISTORY X, ROUNDERS, PRIMAL FEAR…the list goes on. Norton proved he can handle any genre with his work in THE INCREDIBLE HULK playing Bruce Banner, a man fighting to keep a monster caged within himself. In STONE, Norton attacks the theme of imprisonment on a new plain. The results, as have come to be expected with his work, are profound.

Fantastic 5: Interview w/ STONE actor, Edward Norton

Say the name Edward Norton and immediately you think of some of his most iconic performances. FIGHT CLUB, AMERICAN HISTORY X, ROUNDERS, PRIMAL FEAR…the list goes on. Norton proved he can handle any genre with his work in THE INCREDIBLE HULK playing Bruce Banner, a man fighting to keep a monster caged within himself. In STONE, Norton attacks the theme of imprisonment on a new plain. The results, as have come to be expected with his work, are profound.

Norton plays the role of Stone, a convicted arsonist who, along with his wife, aims to manipulate Jack (Robert De Niro), his parole officer, in order to secure his parole. As Stone’s wife, Lucetta (Milla Jovovich), preys on Jack’s desires, Stone finds himself on a much deeper journey within the prison around and inside of him.

We sat down with Edward Norton to ask him 5 fantastic questions. Enjoy.

Fantastic Fest: Your character in the film serves as a spiritual medium. For people who are coming into the film raw, how would you describe Stone’s character?

Edward Norton: When John Curran (Director of Stone) originally talked to me about the film, he spoke about it as a film of spiritual imprisonment. That’s the phrase he kept using. The thing he kept mentioning was that all four main characters are in some spiritual state. That they are moving up or down, and I think that Stone is the character who is most looking for an escape. But Robert De Niro’s character is the one who is most truly imprisoned. Life is clearly inauthentic for him on every level, like his marriage, his faith. He’s adrift. I really liked the idea that the environment of the prison is what the film is in many ways about.

FF: One of the most classic roles is PRIMAL FEAR. What is it about the state of imprisonment that allows for clarity within a character?

EN: I get the reference. It’s a very different sort of a film. I don’t think prison is the environment in Primal Fear. It’s more sort of part of the plot. Stone is truly about imprisonment. It’s about people in cages of their own making, really. They are trying to figure out how to get out. They grapple with that.

With Stone, it’s actually interesting, connecting it to the fact that Fantastic Fest is a genre festival. I mean, genre is an interesting idea. It takes place because there are recurring themes. When you really get down to what genre is about, it’s not just a style question. It’s about themes. Like science fiction is a set of themes. Noir is kind of a set of theme as much as it is an aesthetic. I actually think prison dramas are a sort of genre. I think there is a genre of films in which themes of imprisonment, what it does to people, how you liberate them, it all is there. I can think of lots of films about it, from great B-Films like I WANT TO LIVE to THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION or DEAD MAN WALKING. There are a lot of films where prison serves as a purgatorial environment where you’re poised to redeem yourself. It’s cool.

FF: Stone has a very unique type of voice that was inspired by your research of a person you met. You drew from Tim Blake Nelson’s accent for LEAVES OF GRASS. Do you find studying others to be more fruitful than going to a dialect coach?

EN: For sure. I used a dialect coach twice in my career. I did once on THE PAINTED VEIL because my character was supposed to be coming from such a particular strata of English society. I also had a guy I met on THE ILLUSIONIST. He was coaching Jessica Biel and working with me on something. On The Illusionist, I didn’t want the character to be the same. He was supposed to be from an almost Czech country. So the guy, Brendan Gunn, helped me on that. He was fabulous. But normally I don’t feel the need to. At least for the U.S. accents, I feel I can get it off the person I study.

FF: This film is completely different than a lot of films showing at Fantastic Fest. You had Leaves of Grass at SXSW. What is it about Austin that draws you to it now? Is the town more responsive to these films?

EN: I think there is a pretty strong community of film enthusiasts here. It’s such a young town. It’s such an artistic town in music, film and in so many ways. I think there is an enthusiasm for things that challenge the norm and genre films do that. SXSW is also a little bit more edgy and original as well. I had been to Austin many times but had never brought a film down here until last spring at SXSW. Screening Leaves of Grass was, honest to God, one of the most fun screenings I have ever done. I never sit through a screening but at the Drafthouse I was enjoying the vibe. So I said to my producing partner, ‘let’s watch a few minutes.’ The vibe ended up being so great that we stayed. It was so good that when the distributor was setting up the limited release, we asked them to take it to Austin instead of L.A. We were literally like, ‘You have to do it in Austin.’

That’s one of the reasons we brought this to Fantastic Fest. We gave Harry Knowles a look at it early and he said, ‘I think you should bring it. We love it.’ Because of that experience in the spring I came back.

FF: Well, we are glad you did. We look forward to hopefully seeing you many more times. Thank you so much.

EN: Cool. Thanks.

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