Edward Norton isn't cut from the typical Hollywood actor cloth. The often stoic, socially conscious actor has used his celebrity for good for years. This week Norton launched yet another charitable-minded effort, Crowdrise, which brings the "power of crowd-sourcing and the fun of social networking to fundraising and volunteerism."
Following the success of his Maasai Marathon fundraising website for last year's New York City Marathon, Norton and his partners, online retailers/ tech experts Robert and Jeffrey Wolfe, were approached by a variety of individuals and organizations asking for help in creating online campaigns.
"We found ourselves talking and saying we could just build this out to a really user-friendly, open-source site and just share it [with everyone]," he told MTV News. "We could basically take the work we did and engineer a website where anybody can kind of plug in their own identity, their own cause and do this themselves. And we got kind of excited about that idea because we just thought even more than raising money ourselves, wouldn't it be awesome if we made it really, really easy for other people?"
Norton confessed that before the Marathon campaign he'd stayed away from Facebook and Twitter, but that afterward he saw the potential of using social networking for good.
"It was the first I got a taste of the fact that the idea that you could maybe actually use that stuff for some substantive things, not just for social chatter," he said. "And the marathon campaign was like a confirmation of that to me. So in a way Crowdrise was our attempt to make a social networking that is motivating people to act and actually do something, but with all the fun of social networking. So I think it's pretty hip; it's pretty fun."
Speaking of social networking, Norton is a relatively new Twitter user but follows an eclectic mix of people — Tony Robbins and Sasha Grey, for example.
"I've never even met Tony," Norton admitted of that particular connection. "But we have a mutual friend and when I was doing the Boston marathon campaign my friend said, 'You know, Tony would really like this and probably twitter about it and he has, like, a million and a half followers.' So I e-mailed him and he was really really generous about it. ... Sasha, let's see, my friends, the guys who wrote 'Rounders' wrote 'The Girlfriend Experience.' And so when I did the Boston marathon they
said, 'Hey, you know, we know Sasha and she's got followers on her thing,' and so same thing [as with Robbins]."
Not that he wants to get crazy with pulling in more followers, but Norton said he'd like to fill his ranks on Twitter like Justin Bieber, CNN, and other popular accounts.
"I can only dream of having Ashton Kutcher's millions of followers. Or who else, Puffy —l Puffy's got a lot. Russell Simmons has got a lot."
Norton also made sure to point out to the "MTV crowd" that he and his Crowdrise team have made their website easy to use, with a little fun built in.
"If you go to the homepage ... the second paragraph there, it says, 'You can go here to see how Crowdrise works,' and then, you see it says, 'Go here if you want to see an even more beautiful picture of a napkin.' Awesome, right? Do you know that — this is totally not me making a joke — we've gotten thousands of pictures of napkins sent in to us. You have no idea how many people have sent us their pictures of a napkin."
The Academy Award-nominated actor has also recruited a slew of other famous faces to get involved by putting up their own pages on the site: Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell and Will Ferrell.
"I think this site is the most fun that you can have making a difference without, you know, taking illegal substances," Norton said.
That, and the slogan on the homepage reads: "If you don't give back no one will like you."
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