First Look: Down in the Valley
Cowboys and Indies: Norton, Jacobson, and Wood mix the old west with the new school
Starring Edward Norton, Even Rachel Wood, Rory Culkin and David Morse; Directed by David Jacobson (Element FIlms)
When Peter Biskind was writing Down and Dirty Pictures, about the rise of independent film, he called Edward Norton for an interview. "'Peter,'" the actor recalls confessing, "'I've never been in a film that wasn't made by a studio.'" Down in the Valley - costing around $8 million and written and directed by David Jacobson (Dahmer) - marks his first indie.
Set in the San Fernado Valley, this contemporary western tells the story of Wade (David Morse), a corrections officer whose life is overturned when Harlan, a delusional man (Norton) who thinks he's a cowboy, befriends Wade's son, Lonnie (Rory Culkin), and beds his teenage daughter, Tobe (Evan Rachel Wood). "Harlan is the cue ball that splits [the family] up and reconfigures them," says Norton. "The story is always about the people who change."
After the film's incubation at the Sundance screenwriting lab, Norton worked closely with Jacobson to further develop the script; it took them seven months, including two weeks of revising in Norton's dining room. "It was very strange; something that he had poured out of himself like a fever dream," Norton says of the first draft he read, in which Harlan and Lonnie go on a killing screen. "I don't know if Harlan was a mixture of Jeffrey Dahmer and a lot of cowboy heroes," says Jacobson, who conceived the idea years ago while rewriting Dahmer and watching old westerns, "but it pretty much came in ten minutes, the whole story."
Given Harlan's borderline-illegal relationship with Tobe, it seems like a dash of Humbert Humbert also made it into the mix, but Norton emphasizes that Harlan and Tobe are emotional equals. "This is not a Lolita relationship between the two of them at all," he says. Even so, Wood was only 16 when their love scenes were shot. Moleskin, the bandagelike adhesive usually used on feet to prevent blisters, was applied to any part of the actress that couldn't be shown on camera. "Getting that stuff off is the worst experience," she says. "It's just the most painful thing I've ever had to do."
Still, it was worth the reward of starring opposite Norton, Wood says: "I found this interview I did when I was, like, twelve. This kind of creeped me out. Somebody asked me who I'd want to work with. I was like, 'I don't know, Edward Norton.' I can't believe I'm playing his girlfriend."
If you have new information on Edward Norton (and you can provide a verifiable and reputable source), please email me- Susan
Note: Articles and images have been posted without permission for noncommercial and nonprofit use
with no intention of copyright infringement. The purpose of this reprinting is to disseminate correct information about the
actors, films, and studios. I have included author names and links to sources whenever possible.