Homegrown movie star Edward Norton--known for portraying such violent characters as an adolescent killer in Primal Fear and a thuggish white supremacist in American History X--is actually a sweet guy who cares deeply about his fellow humans.
So tomorrow night at the Finnish Embassy, the 31-year-old Columbia native receives--along with his grandmother--a Common Ground Award from Search for Common Ground, the world's largest nongovernmental organization dedicated to conflict resolution. Other honorees include philanthropist Libby Rouse, who happens to be Norton's 85-year-old granny, and Nobel laureate Kim Dae Jung, the peacemaking leader of South Korea, who will be represented by his ambassador. The North Korean government at first agreed to accept, but at the last minute declined, an award for mysterious strongman Kim Jong Il.
"I'm very happy that things, after you do them, take on a life of their own," Norton told us yesterday. He's being recognized for directing and starring in this year's Keeping the Faith, a screwball comedy about a rabbi and a priest who fall in love with the same woman. "I guess I'm being cited because of the ecumenical, interfaith aspect of the film. I think it's thematically a film about the strength of communities and their being diverse. But this wasn't just our $30 million rabbi-and-a-priest joke. We always thought there was more to it than that. When you can reach people in ways that you didn't expect, it's thrilling."
As for his grandmother, founder of Columbia's Community Life Center and the widow of legendary developer James Rouse (who built Columbia and Boston's Faneuil Hall, among other landmarks), Norton said: "She lends a sort of special energy to everything. She's worked very hard for Common Ground, so they're giving her a lifetime award."
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