- Edward Harrison Norton
August 18, 1969 (age 51)
- Film Producer, Actor, Film Director, Screenwriter
- Shauna Robertson
- Edward Mower Norton, Jr., Lydia Robinson Norton
Edward Harrison Norton (born August 18, 1969) is an American actor, screenwriter, film director and producer. He played Aaron Stampler in Primal Fear which garnered him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Academy Award for Best Actor for Derek Vinyard in American History X, two years later. His other performances are diverse in range and include supporting roles in the biographical drama The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), the comedy Everyone Says I Love You (1996), and the comedy-dramas Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel, starring roles in the cult hit Fight Club (1999), 25th Hour (2002), The Illusionist (2006), Leaves of Grass (2009) (in which he acted against himself), The Italian Job (2003) and Kingdom of Heaven (2005). He has also directed and co-written films, such as his directorial debut in the romantic comedy Keeping the Faith (2000). He had his uncredited work on the scripts for The Score, Frida and The Incredible Hulk.
Alongside his work in cinema, Norton is an environmental and social activist. He 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 2 July 2014, Norton was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustee 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. While talking about his performance in Leaves of Grass, critic Roger Ebert said, "The actor Edward Norton has never agreed to appear in a film he didn't believe he had reason to respect."
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 former federal prosecutor in the Carter administration. His mother, Lydia Robinson "Robin" (née Rouse), an English teacher, died of a brain tumor in 1997. His maternal grandfather was the developer James Rouse (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.
From 1981 to 1985, along with his brother, Norton attended Camp Pasquaney on the shores of Newfound Lake in Hebron, New Hampshire, where he won the acting cup in 1984, returning 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 in History. Following graduation, Norton worked in Osaka, Japan, consulting for his grandfather's company, Enterprise Community Partners. Norton speaks some Japanese. He appeared in an EFL textbook, Only in America, used by Nova, a formerly major English language school in Japan.
Norton moved to New York City and began his acting career in Off-Broadway theater, breaking through with his 1993 involvement in Edward Albee's Fragments, at the Signature Theatre Company. His first film was 1996's Primal Fear, as Aaron Stampler, an altar boy charged with the murder of a Roman Catholic archbishop who is defended by a defense attorney (Richard Gere). The film is an adaptation of William Diehl's 1993 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. His performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Also in 1998, Norton starred with Matt Damon in Rounders, that follows two friends who need to quickly earn enough cash playing poker to pay off a huge debt. In the 1999 film Fight Club, Norton played the nameless protagonist, an everyman and an unreliable narrator who feels trapped with his white-collar position in society. The film, an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel of the same name, was directed by David Fincher. 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. In 2008, Fight Club was named the 10th greatest movie of all time by Empire Magazine in its issue of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.
After six years of dating, Norton proposed to Canadian film producer Shauna Robertsonin 2011 and they married in 2012. They have one son, born in March 2013.
Norton is generally known for his reluctance to embrace his celebrity status, and has said, "If I ever have to stop taking the subway, I'm gonna have a heart attack." Norton has stated in interviews that he is a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, and was involved in many of 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 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.