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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Ed Norton

Oscars 2012: 'Undefeated' filmmakers say sorry for the F-bomb

February 26, 2012 |  8:32 pm


The makers of “Undefeated,” which won the Oscar for documentary feature Sunday, may have gotten off to a rocky start when accepting their Academy Awards on stage: They dropped the F-bomb, for starters, were bleeped out and their speech was cut off at 45 seconds. But Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin and Richard Middlemas were charming, if a bit apologetic, backstage.

“It wasn’t the classiest thing,” admitted Martin. “But it did come from the heart.”

Their film about an inner-city football team at Manassas High School in North Memphis, Tenn., had a good deal of heart as well. Lindsay said they’d wanted to dedicate the award, when accepting it, to the community of North Memphis, but they’d gotten cut off prematurely.

Oscars: Red Carpet | Quotes | Key Scenes Ballot | Cheat Sheet | Winners

“It was heartbreaking,” said Lindsay. “Because we wouldn’t be here without them.”

“We can’t thank the community of North Memphis enough,” added Martin.

The team at Manassas High is all black; volunteer coach Bill Courtney is white. Martin said the film wasn’t initially meant to make a pointed political or social statement, but he’s pleased it’s sparked discussion of such issues. “When we got there and saw race and class was not an issue for the coach and volunteer players, for us, it was not our duty to bring that element into it if it wasn’t an element for them. But that said, the whole point of it was to elicit and inspire a conversation about race and class."

Lindsay threw effusive shout-outs to all the other nominated films in the documentary category; backstage, he credited the win in part to current filmmaking technology. “It’s partly because of the technology — you can tell stories you couldn’t tell before,” he said. “And people are clamoring for something genuine. I think we’re sick of manufactured.”


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

Kenneth Turan reviews 'Undefeated'

'Undefeated' is a provocative look at race and class in sports

— Deborah Vankin

Photo: Coach Bill Courtney and star lineman O.C. Brown figure in "Undefeated." Credit: Dan Lindsay/TJ Martin/ The Weinstein Co.

Edward Norton goes back to movie prison

October 5, 2010 |  9:45 am


In "Stone," John Curran's psychological thriller that hits theaters Friday, Edward Norton portrays Gerald "Stone" Creeson, a convicted killer who tried to cover up the murder of his grandparents with a handy bit of arson.  Eligible for an early parole, all he has to do is convince Robert DeNiro's grizzled prison counselor that he's a changed man who has paid his debt to society.

Despite Norton's faux tattoos, a corn-row hairstyle that would make Snoop Dogg envious and a hayseed accent that seems to channel both Larry the Cable Guy and George W. Bush, for some movie fans there will be something instantly familiar about the character.

Edward Norton in a prison jumpsuit. ... Edward Norton behind bars. ... Edward Norton convicted of a serious crime. ... It's getting to be a pattern. Indeed, "Stone" marks the actor's fourth movie go-round playing a convict.

Considered one of the finest actors of his generation, Norton has dramatized incarceration more than just about anyone in Hollywood. So what, then, can we surmise about the Yale graduate -- a former history major known for rewriting scripts and backseat directing -- and his willingness to again and again portray guys who are either rotting in the slammer, newly paroled or are headed to the big house?

The easy assumption may be that the two-time Oscar nominee is drawn to the material. Never mind that with a patrician mien and self-styled intellectualism, he seems unlikely to even get pinned with a jaywalking ticket -- his filmography presents the actor as a four-time offender:

• In his 1996 screen debut, "Primal Fear," Norton inverted those character traits to portray Aaron Stampler, a stuttering altar boy charged with murdering a Catholic archbishop.

• For "American History X," Norton packed on 30 pounds of muscle (and got inked up with a large fake swastika tattoo) to play Derek Vinyard, a white supremacist who must serve three years of hard time for a hate crime.

• In the Spike Lee-directed drama "The 25th Hour," Norton played Montgomery Brogan, a drug dealer reflecting on his life one night before he's set to begin a seven-year sentence in Otisville Federal Prison.

And then, of course, there's "Stone." At a recent news conference for the film, Norton explained that his research to portray Creeson involved meeting with a number of inmates at a prison north of Detroit. "A lot of people ask what you pull on from your own life for a character," the actor said. "But that’s not how things work for me. I get more from people who have really lived these lives."

-- Chris Lee

Photo: Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton in 'Stone.' Credit: Overture Films

Marvel replaces Ed Norton as the Hulk in 'The Avengers,' but will it matter?

July 11, 2010 |  9:35 pm


Our colleague Geoff Boucher at sister blog Hero Complex delves into Marvel's pointed decision to drop Edward Norton from the company's upcoming "Avengers" movie.

"We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in 'The Avengers.' Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members," the company rebuked in a statement made to Hit Fix, which  broke the Norton story. It marks the second time that Marvel has gone "Bewitched' and replaced a well-known actor, previously swapping out Terrence Howard for Don Cheadle as War Machine after the former might have gotten a little too precious with his demands ahead of "Iron Man 2."

The Hero Complex post takes the tack that this is an understandable move for the studio given Norton's reputation as a strong personality on set and in the development process (a reputation executives came to be acquainted with firsthand after working with him, rockily, on 2008's "The Incredible Hulk.") That take stands in contrast to Hit Fix's point of view, which basically is that it could look mighty odd, both in promotional moments and on the screen, to see an unknown or lesser-name actor alongside the film's mostly A-list group.

But the truth is that it's exactly that group that probably makes this a move of less consequence than it might first appear. The entire point of the "Avengers" movie (and, to a lesser extent, Marvel's studio operation in general) is to make the ensemble greater than the individual. That's a creative and marketing rationale, since it means the studio can mix and match characters with ease, as it's already begun to do with "Iron Man 2" and other movies and which will culminate with Joss Whedon's "Avengers" in two years. But maybe just as important, it's a production and deal-making strategy, since when you're creating a slate based on ensembles, that means no single character gets too big, which means no single actor can hold a slate hostage.

Marvel might find some initial resistance to the presence of a new Hulk. But it's not like Norton, for all his acting skills, was that deeply associated with the character anyway.  And as important to the canon as the Hulk is, a lot of film-goers probably be caught up in seeing the character on screen in this context as much as they'll be scrutinizing who's playing him, especially if they're already being feted with the reassuring sight of an iconic fixture like Robert Downey Jr., as Iron Man. We're more concerned, frankly, that the Whedon film could wind up being a mythology mash-up than we are worried about any individual casting choice.

After initially absorbing the backlash that it would hire an unknown for the part, Marvel course-corrected  today, saying it would hire a "name actor" to play the Hulk. That's fine to calm the initial fan reaction, but it's probably not essential for the movie. When you're building a super-group, you can afford to replace the drummer.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk. Credit: Marvel Studios


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