A revealing conversation with the star of The Painted Veil at the Historic Asolo.
By Charlie Huisking
During a fascinating conversation at the Historic Asolo on Sunday, actor Edward Norton was praised for choosing to portray complicated characters in challenging, out –of-the-mainstream films.
“I think that’s an extremely nice way of saying that I’ve been in a lot of movies that didn’t do very well,” a grinning Norton said.
The remark drew laughter and applause from a capacity audience that braved tornado warnings and heavy rain to attend the 11 a.m. lecture. It was sponsored by the Sarasota Film Festival.
The audience was rewarded with a witty and illuminating discussion in the intimate Asolo. During the hour-long session, Norton did dead-on impersonations of Woody Allen and Marlon Brando (both of whom he has worked with), referenced philosopher Joseph Campbell, and even slipped in a funny anecdote about Paul Muni, an actor from Hollywood’s golden age.
An Oscar nominee for Primal Fear, Norton was joined on stage by writer-producer Brian Koppelman, his collaborator on such films as Rounders and The Illusionist.
Norton said he thinks good actors can be divided into a couple of categories.
“Some are more iconic,” he said. “They fit into a certain set of characters. For example, Harrison Ford, who is such a good actor, embodies something for us. It’s easy for him to stand for a certain set of qualities in films.
“Other actors are more shape-shifters. They step into different skins. And I think I fit better into that category. I like to do different things. What’s fun about this job is that you are in effect given a skeleton key that lets you into different worlds, from the world of poker (in Rounders) to the world of 19th-century magic (The Illusionist). It allows you to get a continuing education in life.”
.Norton said those unfamiliar with the movie business might be surprised by how frustrating it can be to get a project made. “Four out of five things that you are interested in never happen,” he said.
Norton had been working on his latest film, The Painted Veil, since 1997. “Sometimes you just have to keep working at it, have faith and wait for the right confluence of forces,” he said.
For me, these question-and-answer sessions with actors and directors are an essential and exciting part of the festival experience. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend any more this year, as I’m headed out of town. But you can catch Norman Jewison, Steve Buscemi, Marcia Gay Harden and Joe Pantaliano at the Historic Asolo later this week.