Edward Norton was nominated for an Academy Award in 1997 for Primal Fear and went on to celebrated performances in The People vs. Larry Flynt and Everyone Says I Love You. He will be seen next as Worm, a card cheat and hustler, in the film Rounders, which we wrote. It is set in the underground poker world and also stars Matt Damon, John Malkovich, John Turturro and Gretchen Mol.
To play Worm, you eschewed a hand double and did many of your own card manipulations.
Right. When you actually know what your doing, by becoming immersed, there's a much greater likelihood that in the moment in which you're creating it, something spontaneous and true will happen....Imagine The Hustler if Paul Newman hadn't learned to play pool. Also, one of the things I really love about the work I do is that it gives me an excuse to dip into these different realms of experience without the consequences of having to make that choice in life.
And for people who might not know much about poker, what are the attributes of a serious player.
Poker is a game of deep mathematical skill, odds-making skills, strategic skills. I think it's on par with chess as a game of multiple levels. I think the people who are really good at poker are very perceptive and smart.
What was it like working with Matt Damon?
It was really easy and fun. Good Will Hunting was probably my favorite movie last year. I think it was a wonderful case of something being done from all the right places, instincts, motivations. On all levels, from Matt and Ben's script to Gus Van Zant's direction to Robin Williams' willingness to get involved in a low-budget film, it was so clearly done with an eye toward its own purposes and not toward commercial purposes. And yet, people really responded to it. That it became commercially successful is fantastic, because it shows that people respond to things done from the heart.
You gave us a book you love, A Soldier of the Great War, by Mark Helprin. There is a quote from it: "The spark of life is not gain, nor is it luxury. The spark of life is movement, color, love, and furthermore... if you really want to enjoy life, you must work quietly and humbly and realize your delusions of grandeur." Does this apply to your life?
Yeah, um, definitely. I think it's healthy to admit exactly what is built into Helprin's quote, which is: Everybody has these dreams, everybody has these delusions of grandeur. Everyone has these aspirations and practices their Oscar speeches. Because those are your dreams. But the maturity comes in the understanding that you have to accept these feelings, embrace them, let them run through you and then put them to the side. And try to work from a more solitary place. A place that is more internal.
The Rounders screenwriters didn't make the best impression on the staff of Jane magazine. A regular feature in Jane is "Jane's diary" where the magazine's founder and editor-in-chief Jane Pratt writes a sentence or two about each of the features in the current issue. Here is her comment on the Norton article: "Ed Norton (page 62) currently stars in Rounders. Note to the Rounders writers who interviewed him: You might want to transcribe your own interview tapes if you're going to denigrate the magazine you're writing for during said interview."
While Jane may not think too highly of Levien and Koppelman, that opinion is not shared by
Edward Norton. There are plans for a film adaptation of A Soldier of the Great War, the Helprin
novel mentioned in the article, which would involve another collaboration between Norton and the
Rounders screenwriters. Norton would produce (and possibly star in the film) while Levien and
Koppelman would write the screenplay and also produce. This was announced March 25, 1999 in Variety.
There has been no further mention of it since then.
Read the announcement.
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