The Importance of Being Edward
In your career you’ve been: a poker player, a magician, a thief, a green monster, an inspector in an Eastern Europe hotel. And you’ve always demonstrated your extraordinary performing skills. That’s why you’re going to receive the Excellence Award Moët & Chandon. What do you know about the Festival del film Locarno?
Well, it’s almost 70 years now that filmmakers have brought great films to this festival. Roma città aperta was presented at the first year of the Festival and that’s a favorite of mine. So many great filmmakers have been celebrated here and I’m honored to be a small part of that tradition.
Your first role came in 1996 (Primal Fear). In six years you took part to some of the most memorable and iconic movies of that period – American History X, Fight Club, 25th Hour. Which movie of those years (or even later) do you remember with more affection and why?
Every film you make has different challenges and different pleasures. Sometimes the actual making of a film is very fun and satisfying while you are doing it… sometimes the process of making it is hard or feels very uncertain but the result is very satisfying. I’ve been really lucky to work on a lot of films that I felt very passionate about and very challenged by, creatively. And I’ve worked with wonderful directors and actors. I’ve been very, very fortunate and, honestly, I remember almost all of it with great affection. Sometimes, very rarely, you have a sensation right in the middle of making a film that something very unique and original is happening. I had that sensation making Fight Club and 25th Hour… I had it again recently making Birdman. That’s not to say that I knew the films were going to work…more that I had the sensation that what we were engaged in was very bold and strange and was tapping into a deep vein of the Zeitgeist.
In Birdman you’re playing the role of an actor obsessed with looking for life into the world of fiction. How much does the Edward Norton-actor have in common with this character?
Ha! Not very much. I like Shiner’s commitment to “the pursuit of truth in art” and to his craft but I don’t suffer as much as he does! I actually almost never relate personally to characters I play. I generally look to leave myself as far behind as I can.
As an actor you have to be tuned in with your colleagues on the set. Along your career you have worked with great actors, such as Richard Gere, Robert De Niro, Matt Damon, Marlon Brando, Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Naomi Watts, Julia Roberts, Charlize Theron. What’s the experience (or the set) you remember with more pleasure?
I’ve been very privileged to work with terrific actors who were also terrific people and real professionals. I always feel a strong camaraderie with other actors. I’ve even chosen to do certain movies just to work with the other actors involved. I did The Score just to work with De Niro and Brando. I did Stone just to work with Bob again. I did Red Dragon to get to work with Tony Hopkins... and Ralph Fiennes and Phil (Seymour Hoffman, ndr) and Harvey (Keitel, ndr) setc… The last two films I did with Wes and with Alejandro were some of the best ensemble acting experiences I’ve ever had. Both of those films were like being part of a wonderful theater company.
You’ve also been screenwriter, producer and director. What can you say about those experiences? Did your job as actor change after them? Could you tell us something about Motherless Brooklyn, the movie you’re directing 15 years after Keeping the Faith?
You certainly learn more about how to help a director once you’ve directed! After I directed a movie I made a point to stop being late… ever. And to stay on set as much as possible. Directors really need actors to trust them and so over the years I’ve really become more and more disciplined about only choosing to work with directors whose work I really admire and whom I trust to such a degree that I’m happy to explore wherever they want to go. There’s not much to say about Motherless Brooklyn yet. It would jinx it! Maybe I’ll get to bring it to Locarno. That would be fun.Carlo Chatrian