Thursday, April 10, 2008
The Curious Clout of Edward Norton
Brooks Barnes wrote an interesting piece today on Universal's upcoming Marvel Comics film, "The Incredible Hulk," for The New York Times.
Now that I'm comfortably retired from full-time reviewing, I could care less about movies such as "The Incredible Hulk." No, what fascinated me about the article is what Barnes wrote about the film's star, Edward Norton:
"Mr. Norton and Marvel, which has the right of final approval on the film, have sparred in recent weeks over trims, among other issues, said studio executives involved, who asked to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to speak publicly. Mr. Norton — who was hired to rewrite the script along with playing the lead — has made it clear he won’t cooperate with publicity plans if he’s not happy with the final product, these people said.
"A spokeswoman for Mr. Norton said he had no comment. (David) Maisel (chairman of Marvel Studios) brushed off the friction as par for the course.
“'When you get to this point in the process, there are always lots of passionate discussions,' he said. 'Edward is very passionate. He is as passionate about the Hulk as we are.' (For those unaccustomed to Hollywood speak, 'very passionate' roughly translates to a seven on the 'he’s a difficult person' scale.)"
This isn't the first time that Edward Norton has made waves during a production, either rewriting or re-editing films (or both), and while I fully appreciate his prodigious talent as an actor, I also can't help wondering why studios sit still for it.
I mean, think about it: It's not as if Norton is a huge box-office star, along the lines of Tom Cruise, guaranteeing the studios big opening weekends. (Heck, even Tom Cruise isn't Tom Cruise anymore.) I'm not sure there is anyone who rushes out to see a movie because Edward Norton is in it.
And it isn't as if Norton has the credibility of being an Oscar winner. He's been nominated twice - the second time almost ten years ago - but he has no golden statue to give him the leverage you'd think he'd need in order to rewrite and re-edit films.
And he certainly isn't a wildly charismatic performer, a la George Clooney who everyone seems to like, or even a vaguely threatening one like Sean Penn. Fact is, we have no idea of what Edward Norton's off-screen personality is like.
And, finally, he is not the stuff of celebrity gossip. Fans don't hang on his every word and no one knows who he's currently dating - and, more to the point, no one seems to care.
So, I repeat my question: Exactly why do the studios seem so intimidated? Am I missing something?
If you have any ideas/theories, share.
(Artwork: The persuasive Edward Norton)
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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com
Posted by joe baltake at 12:49 PM