Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Edward Norton Loves Prison

Ron Batzdorff © 2010 Stone Productions, LLC
For his new film Stone, actor Edward Norton went straight to prison for his research.  Yesterday, Norton appeared on the Diane Rehm show and discussed how he visited prisons in Michigan and met with prisoners to prepare for the title role as Stone, an arsonist attempting to get his parole officer (Robert DeNiro) to approve his early release.  And if the names "Norton" and "DeNiro" in the same sentence aren't enough to have you queuing up to see this film, I don't know what is.  Unfortunately, the film has a limited release, so some of us may have to wait until it hits Netflix to see it.

In the first ten minutes of the Rehm interview, Norton gives a fascinating and surprisingly warm description of what it was like to talk to prisoners -- their interest in meeting him, their desire to share their stories, their contributions to his take on the character, their anxiety about their own upcoming parole hearings.  Norton evidently sees the prisoners he met as human beings with worthwhile stories to share.

Famous for his turns as sociopath killer Aaron in Primal Fear and the I'm-not-sure-who-you-really-are narrator of Fight Club, we're not the first to observe that Norton has done a significant number of films involving the criminal justice system and prisons.  American History X and 25th Hour, in particular, provide harrowing displays of some of the dilemmas facing those who break the law and face time behind bars.  It makes us wonder:  What does Mr. Norton think of America's status as the world's leading jailer?  What does he think of our draconian sentencing policies?  Those are some opinions we'd love to hear the next time he talks about Stone.