CNN LARRY KING LIVE1>
Interviews With Nicole Kidman, Anthony Minghella, Ed Norton, Bill Medley, Kim Cattrall, John Hastings
Aired January 24, 2004 - 21:00 ET
KING: Edward Norton is one of our finest actors. He's not here tonight to talk about acting. We're going to spend some moments talking about the Enterprise Foundation. He's the first time ever Future's Award. He won that from the Environmental Media Association.
And he's here to announce tonight that he is giving $1.1 million to the Enterprise Foundation for its five-year, $125 million Building Communities of Opportunity fund-raising campaign. What's this all about?
EDWARD NORTON, ACTOR: Well, it's a combination of interests of mine. I've been very involved in the affordable housing issue for many years. Because my grandfather, who you knew, James Rouse.
KING: One of the great builders in America.
NORTON: Yes, was one of the great urban thinkers and...
KING: Built a city.
NORTON: Yes, he did. And I spent -- he spent the last 30 years of his life devoted to the issue of affordable housing in America. And I got very involved in that. And I'm on the board of the Enterprise Foundation, which is the largest non-profit developer of low-income housing in America.
And then concurrently, I was very interested in environmental issues. And specifically in kind of the alternative energy.
NORTON: Yes, possibilities that technology has started to bring to bear on the environmental problems. And in thinking about those two things together, I started -- I had this idea that low-income families could really benefit from solar technology in terms of reducing their costs. Their electricity bills.
KING: How do you hook them together?
NORTON: Well it was funny, because I got solar on my house here in Los Angeles. I have these -- my brother and I looked into it. And I decided -- and I was so impressed with what the technology -- what the level that technology has reached. The efficiency of it, the affordability of it. That I called up -- I did a lot of research, and I ended up being really impressed with the company BP Solar's technology, their panels and their systems.
KING: Our producer's husband, Todd Foley (ph), works with BP on this enterprise.
NORTON: OK, so there you go. It's all in the family. So I went to BP Solar, and I basically said -- I proposed to them that in an effort to kind of bring different forces to bear on all these issues, that if we create a program whereby it's celebrities, or public figures of any sort, purchase a solar system for their homes, that BP would donate a matching system to a low-income family and eliminate their electricity bills forever.
And so amazingly they went for it. They've been phenomenal, BP.
KING: How many people are doing it now?
NORTON: Well we've got Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman are doing it. Pierce Brosnan is signing up for 2004. And I got a list somewhere.
KING: So if I wanted to do this...
NORTON: Well, I'd send you an invitation, Larry. That's why we're here.
KING: OK, what do I do?
NORTON: Well, the great thing is that we set it all up. We have this company called Advanced Solar in Los Angeles that's helping us out. It doesn't have to be in Los Angeles, by the way. But we've sent out a lot of letters to people such as yourself, and the mayor of L.A., and actors, and musicians, and athletes. Shaquille O'Neal is looking at it because he is very interested in affordable housing.
But it's very, very simple. And we get these solar panels installed on people's houses. They purchase the system themselves. And then BP donates a system to a family through the Enterprise Foundation. And that family -- essentially, it eliminates their electricity bill.
KING: So it's like going to South Central or other areas?
NORTON: Yes, like the family -- when I bought my system and BP donated a system to a family, the Andrews (ph) family. This woman, Avette Andrews (ph), has four kids, lives in South Central...
KING: What does it take to solar panel a house?
NORTON: It takes about two days.
NORTON: Yes, it's so simple and painless. And it's totally maintenance-free. It's an amazing technology. It's just -- you're literally converting sunlight energy into directly into alternating currents that comes in to your house through the meter.
And actually now in a lot of states like California in a lot of the states like California, the meter rolls backwards. You're still connected to the grid. People have this idea that solar is like...
KING: You don't get any...
NORTON: Yes, or that the lights will be dim. But nowadays, it's much more sophisticated than that. You're still connected to the city grid. But you are just getting credited for the power that your system is producing.
KING: You still get it when it's cloudy?
NORTON: Yes, absolutely. And if you use more than you're making on your roof, you just get it from the city and you pay for it. But it's amazing to me.
KING: Why isn't this widespread? Why is it...?
NORTON: Well, that's part of also, apart from this specific issue of getting the technology to families that can really benefit from it. To me it's just -- this is an idea that definitely needs to ripple out. Because you fly into L.A., it's flat roofs baking in the sun. And we need a more progressive alternate energy power...
KING: Well any person, a celebrity, or mayor, or political figure who has this done, BP matches it and it goes into a house of a deserving low-income person?
NORTON: That's right. Yes, it's as simple as that.
KING: How do people contact -- is this the number?
NORTON: You can look it up on Bpsolar.com under the solar neighbors program.
NORTON: The Enterprise Foundation, which -- I made this financial commitment to them just apart from the solar, because I think that the affordable -- you know, the issue of low-income Americans has really been I think, abandoned in recent times to a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) degree.
NORTON: Yes, I think people like you and me are getting tax cuts, and hard working, not only low-income, but middle-income families are really struggling to achieve the basic necessities of life, even a home.
And so I made that commitment because to me, that's -- it's one of the more pressing and least publicized issues.
KING: And where do we look up the Enterprise Foundation?
NORTON: They are on EnterpriseFoundation.org.
KING: You can go to the Internet, either one?
NORTON: Either one, and we're calling on -- we're inviting all kinds of people. Y ou -- Governor Schwarzenegger, we want Governor Schwarzenegger to do it, because I know he's very supportive of alternative energy stuff.
NORTON: And we want to bring him in. And get -- I should say too, the critical thing, Mayor Hahn, in Los Angeles has been incredibly supportive of both low-income and solar issues. But we need -- there's a very important moment coming up, where both the city and the state are going to have to decide whether they are going to continue to subsidize the tax breaks, and the local program incentives that allow these solar programs to make financial sense right now.
And that's something I think we're all really crossing our fingers that in these lean times that the state and the city don't back away from.
KING: Well, I will tell you publicly, I'm going to get in this.
NORTON: Thank you. All right, that's exactly the kind of leadership that we're...
KING: We'll talk. You let me know what I need to do.
NORTON: All right, we'll do it.
KING: Thank you, Edward.
NORTON: Thank you. No, really, I appreciate the time.
KING: Next time we'll talk about a lot of things, all right? Edward Norton, one of the great talents. And again, that's Bp.com?
KING: Bpsolar.com, or the EnterpriseFoundation.org.
NORTON: You're the best, Larry, thank you. I appreciate it.
KING: Edward Norton, who tonight gives $1.1 million gift to the Enterprise Foundation. We'll be right back. Don't go away.
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