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American History X

Interview

EN and skinheads
Source of picture: American History X lobby cards

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Sound icon His attraction to "American History X"

"Sure, yeah, that was very much the challenge that appealed to me about it, presenting a character who's initially just almost unredeemably awful on first introduction and by the end of the story, having hopefully humanized him to a degree where you just almost have to be empathetic if not maybe even sympathetic with the tragedy of the circumstances and the shape of his life and of the waste of the potential."

Sound icon Confronting racism in America

"I think that is, by extension, in a lot of ways that the film forces you to do too which is to sort of confront some of the difficult realities of this phenomenon that's kind of a part of our cultural fabric right now. And to confront, to face up to the fact that there are not easy explanations for these things and nor are there convenient villains and evil people and good people, that it's very much a phenomenon that has at its root very, very tragic human realities to it, human frustrations without outlet that find the wrong outlet that start to express themselves through rage and that rage takes the form of hate."

Sound icon The tragic aspect of "American History X"

"The tougher realities of it is which is that there are complex human realities behind these things and that the people who have committed these acts there is some kind of very tragic story, there is some kind of a story behind it that says something about us, our culture, and the way these different forces work on people. And so that was all very provocative and challenging as a dramatic piece and specifically, the challenge of creating that guy as an actor was really thrilling."

Sound icon The uncomfortable glamour of his character

"Built into David [McKenna]'s original script was this notion of seeing him [Norton's character Derek] in these subjective memories of his brother [Edward Furlong's character Danny] so that there's even a device for looking at him through a heroic lens because his brother sees him that way. And people have talked about the uncomfortable tension between sort of the glamour of this guy and what he represents and I think that's part of- David's script had this device built in to it for seeing him, it gives you a reason, a justification for seeing him in this light because you're seeing him through his brother's eyes. For me, that was impetus to make him physically, intellectually, everything larger than life and for Tony [Kaye- AHX's director], to realize those flashbacks in a highly stylized form, like the black and white and those almost Leni Riefenstahl sort of shots of this guy. It's a heroic manifestation of this guy on all levels- visually and character wise and script wise and I thought that was, it is uncomfortable sometimes, but I always felt okay with it because I knew that we were collectively focused on a really unequivocal message at the end that there is an enormous price to be paid for these decisions."

Sound icon His research for "American History X."

"I went a little bit into that world and you meet kids who are into it and it's interesting. There's not a lot of Derek Vineyards out there, in the sense that a lot of these kids, I think, are in it much less out of any specific understanding of the ideologies or anything but more, like all gangs, out of a sense of a need for belonging or an alternative family. You know, there was a tattoo that I wanted to use that I kept seeing in books and on kids and nobody knew what it meant. Like you'd ask these people, what does that thing, and it in ink forever on your arm, mean and they'd have no idea. And I think, that's emblematic of kind of, it's a participation thing, more than it is even a demagog's understanding of, there's no.. And it's like these kids are in a gang. So that was interesting."

Sound icon His profile in George magazine

"This guy Doug Brinkley whose a terrific historian. He's down at the Eisenhower Center in New Orleans and he knows all this stuff about extreme politics. He set out to write this piece using the film as a jumping off point for talking about extreme politics, which thrilled me since 'cause that sounded like a substantive discussion and appropriate to George. But I don't even know what they were doing. But they go and they turned it into what books are on my living room shelf. What a waste of an opportunity and described my very expensive Persian rugs as ratty. [a laugh] I was really depressed."

Sound icon His Oscar possibilities this year

"To the degree that reflects people responding to this, that's lovely and I never take it for granted on any level when, in one way or another, people say there're responding to something we work on or try to do. I never liked actors saying 'Well, I don't care.' That's stupid. The point of the whole endeavor is to try to share something or to move people or provoke them in this case, or just flat out entertain. And when people come back at you in one form or another, that being one of them, and say, 'Hey, it worked'. What can you say? It's thrilling and really gratifying, makes it all worthwhile. But beyond that, the circus of that particular event is fun, I don't think it has much of a tangible effect on anything two weeks after it's over. I challenge any of you to tell me who was nominated for best supporting actor last year right now. It exists kind of for itself on a certain level. It's fun. But it's not going to enhance or diminish my sense of feeling good about the film or anything in it."

Sound icon Tony Kaye's "American History X" campaign*

It's not that big a deal. I think that it's a little bit overstated. You have to recognize that Tony is as sincerely committed to hype art and concept art and stuff like that as he is as a filmmaker. It's almost hilarious and somewhat strange that he's chosen to target his own movie with his hype art. I should be honest, I should step out. My involvement in it is really rather limited. This thing has gone on is between him and the studio. I do think that it's funny that he's presented it as big a chasm between his film and their film because the film they have is his film. It's the last film he delivered before the deadline. But he wants almost infinite time to continue working on it, but he doesn't seem to have this other thing he said. But the irony is the film that he gave them is amazing."

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Do not link directly to audio/video clips on the edward-norton.org server. I am allowed only a certain amount of traffic by my website host. Linking directly my files, especially to large audio/video clips, dramatically increases my traffic. The money to run this site comes out of my pocket alone and I make no money off the site (nor am I trying to do so). So either link to my pages or upload the clips to your own server. I posted these clips so people would have an opportunity to hear interviews and see trailers that would otherwise be unavailable to them. I am not here to pay for your website. Please be courteous so that everyone can enjoy these clips.

Source of the Clips

Hollywood.com used to have this great section called "Movie Talk" with Real Player clips of round table interviews taken at movie press junkets. However, nothing on the internet is eternal and this section was eventually removed. Early on, I had tape recorded the clips and I finally dug up the tape and recreated the clips. So the sound quality is the best I can do. The Hollywood.com clips were not an unabridged record of the press junkets- the reporters' questions are not included and the clips themselves may not be EN's complete answers on the topic. How do I know this? I obtained a copy the entire round table interview for Fight Club and compared them to the Hollywood.com Fight Club clips. For the most part, the differences are minor. This is probably more than you really wanted to know. Anyway, there are similar interview clips for Everyone Says I Love You and Rounders, as well as the uncut round table interview for Fight Club

*The final AHX clip is really from the Rounders round table interviews. The two movies were released only two months apart so it's not surprising that it was mentioned at the other round table.


Audio Clips


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