Just a few months removed from tearing up Manhattan in “The Incredible Hulk,” Edward Norton returns to rip up NYC from the inside in “Pride and Glory,” in which he plays a police officer who discovers that members of his own family — also cops — might be corrupt.
MTV: “Pride and Glory” is a film that’s steeped in kind of the Sidney Lumet, ’70s style of filmmaking. Are you a fan of that?
Edward Norton: Definitely. “Serpico” especially stands out for me. I think the reason is because it’s a really generational film. It [goes] above the genre of cop corruption, because … Serpico was the hippie cop — he was the cop for the counterculture — and that generation could really see themselves in [him]. When Gavin O’Connor came and said, “I wanna make this film,” I sorta said, “Why do another one of these?” We got talking. The United States has been going through all these scandals of institutional lying and issues of people who are serving noble institutions and noble causes facing moments where they have to decide if they’re going to tell the truth about things that we’re doing. And so it felt to me — I hoped in a way — that there was something in this that was a little bit above just a cop drama, that was about these things that the country’s been facing lately.
MTV: And about people who are slowly shifting. I mean, these aren’t black-and-white, good-and-evil people. They are people — like Noah Emmerich’s character — it’s like you take one small step, and then it becomes a larger step, and before you know it, you’re corrupt.
Norton: The gradients, the act of corruption, the corruption of looking the other way — there’s a lot of different kinds. And, for me, not to put too fine a point on it, but I think Jon Voight is really, really wonderful in this film. He really captures what I would call that Donald Rumsfeld kind of generational thing of having been in an institution so long that you forget what the institution is serving. He’s the guy that has kind of lost the plot, and the institution becomes its own good.
MTV: It’s interesting. These kinds of films, they’re gritty. It almost feels real, and yet it can operate on kind of an operatic scale. The emotions are big, the choices are big. It’s an interesting kind of dichotomy.
Norton: It is. I always say, “You don’t want to go see a movie about just any other day.” … Whenever we tell stories, we tell stories about something special that happened. In these characters’ lives, this is their desperate hour, in a way. And the thing that’s always challenging [is], “How do you tell a dramatic story but root it in a way that feels everyday and real?” I think one of the things I like most about the film is that Gavin pursued this very cinema-verité feeling. He chased the feeling that you’re walking into these bodegas right behind these guys. He told us, “I don’t care if people understand what you’re saying.”
MTV: If it feels real, you’ll go with it.
Norton: Yeah. I think a lot of times people talk about, “Oh, will people understand?” It’s a great thing for filmmakers sometimes to go, “People don’t need to understand.” They want to feel that you understand.
MTV: Is it tough for you as a filmmaker to take off that hat when you’re on set and give yourself totally to a Gavin? Can you focus on just your work, or do you have to look at the larger whole?
Norton: It depends on the point in the process. It’s always preferable to me, if I’m just working as an actor, like I was in this one, to have a period in rehearsal and in prep where you’re talking about what you’re doing and the macro and mining the director’s sense of the drama and debating things — like the shape of the story and things like that. Ideally, you work all that out and you get into it, and you sort of get to let that go. And trust is an enormous part of that. This one, we shot it in such real places — we never shot sets — so it was very easy to slide into the reality of this.
MTV: Is any part of you interested in reprising the Hulk in any form? Are you a betting man? Do you think it’s gonna happen?
Norton: You know, I really couldn’t say. The minds of Marvel are sometimes opaque. I won’t say obtuse, but opaque. I don’t have any idea what they want to do. This notion of connecting the Marvel characters — who knows where they’ll go.
MTV: “The Avengers” is less of an interest for you?
Norton: I really actually have no information. I don’t know what the agenda is in the moment, but I’m sure you’ll find out more than me.
MTV: I was talking to David Fincher about a “Fight Club” musical . Are you intrigued by this idea?
Norton: This has been floating around for a while. I’ve seen different notions of it.
MTV: Trent Reznor is apparently involved.
Norton: I doubt it’ll be me and Brad [Pitt]. I know Brad can’t sing. Reznor would be about the right vibe for it, I guess.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Pride and Glory.”
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