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25th Hour - Edward Norton Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Discuss the scene in the mirror, in which your character vents his frustrations at American society, before turning his anger on himself...
A.
Actually, that idea kind of grew out of a conversation that Spike and I were having. The thing in the mirror is in the book, it's in the same scene as the dinner with the father. He goes into the bathroom and has this conversation with himself, in which he sort of vents his anger for the fact of many other people getting away with many other things. You know, why is he going down for this? But then, says 'no', it was, more than anything, you, Monty Brogan...
But David didn't put that in his screenplay because, I think he told me once, it was too interior a moment, yet Spike and I had both circled it in the book, because in addition to it being one of the few times that you get any glimpse into the emotions that the character is feeling, it was definitely the first moment where he starts to acknowledge any of his own responsibility.
I think we both felt that and at some point, Spike said that it was almost like a love poem to the city, and when he said that, I started thinking 'that's true', and in a way, what he's really doing is preparing to leave it all, so that when he does actually leave, it's the things that he sort of loves the most that are saying goodbye to him.

The thing about the September 11 thing, is that some people have come up and suggested that there is an inherently political context to treating those events, and I disagree; I think, with the exception of Barry and Brian Cox, most of the people who worked on this film lives in New York...
Of course, there is a political context to that event, but there's also an emotional context that has nothing to do with politics. It's something that happened and it's part of the fabric of living in that city now.
And I think if I had felt, at any time in the conversation about what we were doing, that we were losing the focus from the story of these human beings and the individual focus of their sort of moral crisis, and digressing into a sort of political comment on those events, I would have been very uncomfortable with it. Not that you can't make a political comment on those events, but that's not what this story was about.
But I always thought that what Spike was suggesting was not only appropriate, it was essential; it seemed insane to make a story... that same summer we made the film, they were shooting Maid In Manhattan, so you're not going to point the cameras at Ground Zero if you're making Maid In Manhattan, but we were making a film about loss, and the consequences of choices, and of taking things for granted, and to not allow that new emotional reality into the background just seemed like kind of an insane denial, to pretend that it hadn't happened.
I think you can address an emotional reality without it being a political commentary and watching the film, when Spike first showed it to me, I never felt that there was a political comment. I always felt it was being honest about a new emotional reality of living in that city.

Q. Has your incendiary speech, which is a startling moment in a terrific film, caused any controversy at all, either for the fact that it might be taken out of context if people aren't paying attention, for instance, or that it might reflect the views of the wider world in which we live at the moment?
A:
Well, I think that if people aren't paying attention, then there is really nothing that I can do. But if a journalist drops his notepad and misses the sequence, right at the end, where the character says, 'no, it was you', then that's not my problem either; I mean, fundamentally, I don't think you can ever do anything interesting if you're worried all the time about it being misconstrued.
But, that said, I don't feel that this is happening. It's a fair question, but other than journalists saying 'were you worried about it', I haven't had a strong sense of anybody misinterpreting that sequence.
I mean, it is an equal opportunity bit of insulting. People have walked up and said, you know, it lambasts the immigrants, but it lambasts a lot more than that; I think it's a very broad spectrum.
People aren't always very literal in the way that they express what they're feeling, I mean one of the things I find very touching about Frank [Pepper] as a character, is that his cynicism about 9/11, the level of his intensity of his sort of judgement of Monty, is revealed to be kind of an emotional defence aaginst the enormous pain and fear he feels about what's happening to his friend.
In the scene in the Blue Room, the minute Monty expresses his real fears, all of Frank's judgement just disappears... to me, it's a sort of very tender portrayal of someone who's masking their fear with this toughness, and I think that's certainly a quality of people in New York in the wake of these events...
But I think that in the mirror, I think a lot of people when they feel regret, they're instinct is, they don't say, 'Jesus, you know, I'm an asshole', they lash out at other people, they look for someone else to blame, before they're able to eventually come round to accepting their own responsibility.
That, to me, is what's going on in that moment. But I don't feel people missing it, and the last thing I'd say on that is, if there's one thing I've admired about Spike's films fairly consistently, is that he is not afraid to demand of an adult audience; he doesn't talk down to his audiences, and I get very, very tired of films that make sure you understand everything that they've wanted you to understand, in a very safe way, because I feel like I'm being treated as a 12-year-old.
I don't need everything explained to me, and I don't want everything to be explained to me, and I actually think the critics tend to be more guilty of that than a film-maker like Spike.
More often that not, it's the critics that go and under-estimate audiences. You know, they said that Do The Right Thing will lead to riots in the streets, well I doubt that very much and it didn't really come to pass. I was 17-years-old when I saw that movie and I got it.

 

 

 

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