Ed Norton goes 'Down in the Valley'

LOUIS B. HOBSON - Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:52 AM ET

Edward Norton got roped in the moment he read David Jacobson's screenplay for Down in the Valley.

Not only did Norton agree to star as Harlan -- a twentysomething drifter in the present-day San Fernando Valley who thinks he's a cowboy -- he signed on as one of the film's producers as well.

"I saw great potential in the story. I loved the ending. It was so honest, real and powerful. I worked for six months with David peeling away anything in the screenplay that wasn't relevant to that ending.

"I particularly wanted to take away some of the violence," says Norton from the New York set of the cop movie Pride and Glory, where he's filming with Colin Farrell, Noah Emmerich and Jennifer Ehle.

Norton is pumped about Down in the Valley, a film he made two years ago that is finally getting its Canadian release. He says Down in the Valley shows how "a fantasy life unchecked can run amuck.

"I'm an actor so I've seen that in people I've worked with and I understand it in terms of myself.

"Fantasy can be a very creative force if properly channelled. If not, as in the case of Harlan, it can be tragic and destructive."

Norton is also trying to find a balance in his career. He gets offers to star in major studio films, but that's not where his heart lies."I think it's pretty clear I don't have a commercial career orientation. We're squeezing in my little contemporary western between The Da Vinci Code and X-Men. If we get lost in the shuffle it doesn't really bother me. I'm confident people will find us on DVD and embrace us as they did American History X."

Norton will be seen later this year in The Illusionist and The Painted Veil. And once he's finished Pride and Glory he'll decide whether he'll do Motherless Brooklyn, a drama in which he would play a detective with Tourette's.

"When I feel saturated by acting I need to take off. My imaginative reserves get drained.

"As an actor, you live in these constructed worlds for so long that it's essential you get back into the real world. For me that means directing or writing rather than acting or just taking some time off to get in touch with myself.

"Once I do that, I only accept to act if I receive an offer that is too compelling to refuse. That's what happened with Down in the Valley. I had told my agent I wasn't reading anything, but he insisted I read David's screenplay and it grabbed me. David and I both love westerns.

"As a genre they're clearly imbedded in our identity as Americans and you as Canadians.

"The West, or what's left of it, is where you go to purify yourself or to renew yourself. People who've visited Calgary or worked there say that's what happened for them."

Norton says the tragedy is that so much of the West is "being bankrupted by urban sprawl which is what Down in the Valley shows.

"I think these are important reasons Calgarians will really relate to Down in the Valley and why I'm really happy it's finally opening up there."


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