Stone: Interview with actor Edward Norton

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Edward Norton stars in "Stone," directed by John Curran. The film, which also stars Robert De Niro and actress-turned-model Milla Jovovich, was released by Overture Films on October 8. 

His character


“We always felt that Stone should come from the margins,” says Norton. “He has never had even rudimentary training in how to be a stable person or any kind of guidance into spiritual life. He is a person who has fallen through the cracks and he’s as far from someone who’s likely to have a profound spiritual transformation as anyone you’ll ever encounter. And yet, by the end of the film, he’s actually gone through the biggest transformation. He and Jack have almost inverted their existential states.” 


“I was looking for a voice and a look and real language,” he says “I found people who represented aspects of what I thought Stone’s experience might have been and spent time getting to know them. We even showed them parts of the script and asked for their help in kind of making it more realistic. A lot of what I brought to the character of Stone came out of what we found in those guys.” Norton also adopted physical quirks like the cornrows of one prisoner for his character, as well as absorbing the atmosphere around him.


Working with De Niro again


Playing opposite De Niro for a second time, Norton is still awed by his co-star’s talent. “So many young actors dream of making a film with Bob,” says Norton. “For me, this was the experience I fantasized about. It is a monumental performance.  It’s a naked portrayal of this person entrenched in emotional denial and on a collision course with his shadow side. I found it unsettling and disturbing, as well as remarkably nuanced and insightful.”


“Bob’s work over the years has included some of the deepest investigations of dysfunction and loss in American cinema,” says Norton. “So many of his best performances are about peering under the hood of the American dream. He’s explored themes like rage and fame and some of the more corrosive effects of American life more deeply than anyone else I can think of.”  


On casting his co-star Milla Jovovich


“She had to be beautiful,” says Norton. “Lucetta has such visceral impact on people and she’s very sensual. But it couldn’t be someone who was put together in a way that would make you think, ‘Why would she ever be with this guy?’ You have to believe that they could come from the same world.” 


“Milla makes me think of actresses that I really love from the ’60s and ’70s, like Sandy Dennis or Karen Black, actresses who were gorgeous but not at all square,” he says. “She straddled the difficult demands of this part perfectly. There are kinks in what she does that make it original and unusual. As Stone says, Lucetta’s an alien from another planet. She does things that seem completely contradictory. Milla manages to hold it all together in an integrated package.” 


Shooting in Detroit


 “There is an incredible sensation that it is reverting to nature in some places,” Norton says. “And it’s not just poor areas. People have walked away from middle and upper class neighborhoods on a scale that’s hard to believe. 


“We wanted Stone as much as possible to be a product of that environment of urban abandonment,” he continues. “When we were at the prison, I tried to meet with inmates who specifically came out of the tougher neighborhoods in Detroit about their experiences.”