I first became aware of Norton’s desire for authenticity when I interviewed him for a biography on Spike Lee.
Then, as today, his answers were studied, becoming of a man who went to Yale to read history.
Throughout his career, whether he has been working with Woody Allen, Spike Lee, or Wes Anderson, Norton has fluctuated between emotional extremes. I ask if it’s because he heeded Springsteen’s advice and now has a family. “I would say personal life, family life, you want to balance things, but it’s an interesting paradox because being an actor is not a thing you do all the time.
If you are lucky enough, it leaves a lot of time to engage in other things and if you are engaged in other things that are really compelling or interesting or challenging to a different part of your brain or your personality, paradoxically it raises the threshold that a piece of work has to meet to interest you and pull you away from all that other stuff.
His grandfather, the philanthropist James Rouse, championed social housing. He thinks the greatest artistic endeavour of recent times was not a performance or a film, but Radiohead asking fans to pay what they want for their albums. “I don’t know that I would politically pin myself down in that way.