TORONTO - He may have spent the summer turning green and hulking up on the big screen, but Edward Norton is, generally speaking, a serious kind of guy.
Norton was at the Toronto International Film Festival to promote two movies this week -- Pride and Glory, a cop drama that opens here on Oct. 24, and Leaves of Grass, in which Norton plays twins -- one a conservative professor, the other who grows pot.
Pride and Glory brought Norton and one of his co-stars, Noah Emmerich, to a news conference here yesterday. They were also joined by the director, Gavin O'Connor, and his twin brother Greg O'Connor, a co-writer and a producer of the movie. Pride and Glory is an intense, violent film about a family of New York cops, men who discover police corruption right in their own backyard. The cast includes Colin Farrell, Jon Voight and Jennifer Ehle. The story has broader implications about the governments and big businesses that close ranks against outsiders. Who can you trust?
Norton said he saw those layers in the script. It took a few years to get the movie organized and the cast to the O'Connor brothers' satisfaction.
"Over the course of that time," Norton said, "a lot of things happened in the United States -- torture scandals and everything. Without in any way saying that Gavin had consciously referred to that, the more I looked at the script and looked around me at what was going on, the more I felt it was starting to have an extra resonance for me.
"On some level it's about the difficulty of speaking truth to power, and the tension between our loyalties to the people who do this service for us, and the need to hold them to a high standard. So all of a sudden, this cop drama had the potential to resonate on things that were going on with the zeitgeist."
Norton, 39, trained in the theatre and first made his mark in film in 1996 with Primal Fear. He has been nominated twice for an Oscar. His two dozen movies include Everyone Says I Love You, American History X, Fight Club, The People vs Larry Flynt, The Illusionist, Down in the Valley, Frida, Red Dragon, The Illusionist, The Painted Veil and, most recently, The Hulk.
Norton knew from childhood what his work would be. He lives in New York and protects his privacy in order to lead as normal a life as celebrity will permit; he still likes to take the subway. He is rumoured to be the romantic partner of producer Shauna Robertson, who is Canadian.
Norton said Pride and Glory is more than a genre film.
"It's fun to play cops and robbers, but I started to have a special interest in it when I thought it could be something that's reflecting the moment we're going through, what the United States as a country is going through, in terms of its own ethics."
He said that the movie "echoes that cultural moment, whether on the local level, New York, with the Abner Louima scandal, where there was the torture incident at play, or on the broader level with what's going on nationally."
(Abner Louima is the man whose brutal treatment at the hands of police in the late '90s sent shock waves through all New York.)