Edward Norton Talks ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ | [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

Edward Norton Talks ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ | [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]


Frank Minna, private eye. – Boys. Frank, frankly, frank-idy, frank-o! He gave me a place in this crappy world. Until I screwed up. Frank! I read the novel ‘Μotherless Brooklyn,’ just before it came out. I got threads in my heads! I got threads in my heads, man! The character struck me right away. I twitch and shout a lot. If! Makes me look like a damn freak show. – Can’t you ever cut that out? I’m so – “Touch it, Bailey!” I’m sorry. It’s this character portrait of this guy who tells you, “Μy brain is is really messed up. I have this chaotic condition of Tourette’s and obsessive-compulsive disorder,” and he sort of tells you his story and you watch this wild, churning brain interact with the world. And that’s the pleasure of it. Sorry. – Jesus! – Forget I asked. I finished it in the spring. I showed it to some people when it was really finished and you get the sensation of like, “wow, this is it.” This is… It is what it is now. It might be for some people it might not be for other people. But on the whole, it’s what I set out to do. – I think she found something. Making the films I’ve made over the course of my film career has taught me that things that chase the love of everybody are usually not very interesting. If you’re going to make distinct, challenging, personal things, like, some people are not going to get them at first. In fact, many of my favorite films, as a film fan, I would say… I mean ‘Raging Bull,’ which is like generally considered a masterpiece and one of the great films of the era, if you look back at that moment, it was too challenging for a lot of people. People, they were like, “this isn’t a story. This is like a … What is this?” Like, “this is like a dark portrait of a boxer.” And people had a lot of difficulty with it. Because it’s one of those things that literally every time you watch it, it gets better. The artistry of it is so complex and so deep. And it goes sideways to what people expect when they go in for a narrative story. But that doesn’t make it, like, not one of the greatest films of all time — it is. And I think that you have to get comfortable with the idea that you’re going to challenge people with a piece, you’re going to challenge their brains and get them to rise up to it. And I keep reading it’s been 20 years in the making since, you know, you got the rights of the book at least but I kept wondering, like, how do you personally feel now that it’s out in the world and it’s… We didn’t work on it as a film for a long time — I kind of put it on the shelf. And thought about it and… Over the years, it kept coming back to me and I kept wanting to make the room to do it but… Writing it took a little while and it just… It took a while. It was just one of those things that took a while to get right. And then it took a while to find the right people to do it with. You know, you get a sense of accomplishment that you actually finished it. There’s a part in the movie where my character says, someone says, “Why have you pressed on this so long?” and he says, “an unfinished puzzle makes my head hurt.” And I feel that that’s how I felt about it. I didn’t want to have this kind of, like, dissatisfaction of never getting it finished. You know what I mean? Never getting it done. Some things you need to think about for a while. Like, long gestation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And in this case too, we made a very big film, you know, a big film in the ’50s in New York and the mechanics of directing a big film like that in New York and doing it for not that much money and, and I definitely didn’t have enough time, really — I couldn’t have done it without working on the films that I worked on in that period because working with Spike Lee, and Wes Anderson, and… It really affected my own process of understanding of how you could do a complex film in a shorter amount of time in a city like New York. So, so the time was really valuable to me. It wasn’t just frustrating. A lot of people refer to ‘Fight Club’ in particular as sort of their “Bible.” Like, they used it to, like, figure out who they are as a man. And some people have criticized it because of the rise of, you know, incels and all these, like, ridiculous, far-right things on the internet. And I wonder, how do you approach all these characters with such complex masculinities? And what do you think makes a man today? It would be to me a significantly unsophisticated read of the film to say that it ultimately celebrates, like, a nihilistic or assertive masculinity because the entire ending of the film is the rejection of that, you know what I mean? It’s like, it’s like… It’s… You can say this about ‘American History X’ too. You could say, like, “Does this glorify racism?” It’s like… Did you watch? You do have to a certain point go, “Hey, if you’re going to be that dumb about a thing, I can’t help you.” You know what I mean? Like… I’m, I’m confident that the message of ‘American History X’ is not the celebration of racism. You can’t let yourself be dissuaded by by some people’s relentless capacity to misunderstand. I think it’s really funny, like, Bruce Springsteen, you know, ‘Born in the USA’ is like a protest song. It’s a song about, like, soldiers being abandoned and left behind. And Ronald Reagan used to, like, talk about it as if it was this patriotic fight song and it’s, like… – America’s future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in songs of a man so many young Americans admire, New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen. “No, dude.” Like, you know, and this is just the nature of things. If you’re going to do things that are complex, they’re going to create dialogue. They’re going to create argument, you know, and that’s not a bad thing, I think. I don’t think the goal of the best films is to answer questions. It’s to provoke them. It’s to create provocation and create activation in people so that they think for themselves a little bit.

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