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Born August 18, 1969

American film actor, screenwriter and director. In 1996, his supporting role in the courtroom drama Primal Fear garnered him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. A year later, his lead role as a reformed white power skinhead in American History X earned a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actor. His other films include period dramas such as Kingdom of Heaven (2005), The Illusionist (2006), and The Painted Veil (2006); and other notable films such as Rounders (1998), Fight Club (1999), 25th Hour (2002), Red Dragon (2002), and The Incredible Hulk (2008).

Aside from acting, Norton made his directorial debut with the film Keeping the Faith (2000) and is slated to direct the film adaptation of the novel Motherless Brooklyn, set to be released in 2010. He is a member of the board of trustees of Enterprise Community Partners, a non-profit organization for developing affordable housing, as well as a social activist.

Edward Norton was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up in Columbia, Maryland. His mother, Robin (née Rouse), an English teacher, died of a brain tumor in 1997; his father, Edward James Norton, Sr., is an environmental lawyer and conservation advocate working in Asia, as well as a former federal prosecutor under the Carter administration. His maternal grandfather was the developer James W. Rouse (founder of The Rouse Company), who developed the city of Columbia, Maryland (where Norton grew up), helped develop Baltimore's Inner Harbor, Norfolk's Waterside Festival Marketplace, and Boston's Quincy Market, as well as co-founded the Enterprise Foundation with Norton's maternal stepgrandmother, Patty Rouse.Norton has two younger siblings—Molly and Jim, with whom he has professionally collaborated. From 1981 to 1985, along with his brother, he attended Camp Pasquaney, on the shores of Newfound Lake in Hebron, New Hampshire. There, he won the acting cup in 1984 and later returned to the camp's council for two years, directing theater. He maintains close connections with the camp.

Norton graduated from Columbia's Wilde Lake High School in 1987. He attended Yale University, where he acted in university productions alongside Ron Livingston and Paul Giamatti, graduating in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts in History. Following graduation, Norton worked in Osaka, Japan, consulting for his grandfather's company, Enterprise Foundation. Norton can speak some Japanese. He appeared in an ESL textbook, Only in America, used by Nova, a formerly major English language school.

Norton moved to New York City and began his acting career in off-Broadway theater, breaking through with his 1993 involvement in Edward Albee's Fragments at the Signature Theatre Company. His first major film was 1996's Primal Fear, which tells a story of a defense attorney (Richard Gere), who defends Aaron Stampler, an altar boy (Norton), charged with the murder of a Roman Catholic archbishop. The movie is an adaptation of William Diehl's 1993 novel. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly wrote: "Norton gives a performance that's fully the equal of Gere's -- he's as slyly self-effacing as Gere is slyly ostentatious." Alison Macor of The Austin Chronicle, in review of the film, wrote, "Norton's performance and the well-paced tension preceding the movie's climactic sequence provide an entertaining if slightly predictable thriller." Despite the mixed reviews, Norton won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

In 1998, he took on the role of Derek Vinyard, a reformed neo-Nazi in the film American History X. David Denby of The New Yorker noted that Norton gives Derek "ambiguous erotic allure; he's almost appealing". American History X received positive reception, and grossed over $23 million worldwide at the box office. His performance in the film earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He packed on 30 pounds (13 kg) of muscle for his role in American History X but did not maintain the physique after production. Also in 1998, Norton starred opposite Matt Damon in Rounders, a movie following two friends who need to quickly earn enough cash playing poker to pay off a huge debt.
Norton at the Gen Art Premiere and Party for The Illusionist

In the 1999 film Fight Club, Norton played the nameless protagonist, an everyman and an unreliable narrator who feels trapped with his white-collar position in society. The film, an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel of the same name, was directed by David Fincher. To prepare for the role, Norton took lessons in boxing, taekwondo, and grappling. Fight Club premiered at the 1999 Venice International Film Festival. During promotion for the film, he said, "I feel that Fight Club really, in a way ... probed into the despair and paralysis that people feel in the face of having inherited this value system out of advertising." The film failed to meet expectations at the box office, and received polarized reactions from film critics. However, it became a cult classic after its DVD release.

In 2002, he starred in Brett Ratner's Red Dragon as FBI profiler Will Graham and in Spike Lee's 25th Hour. While Red Dragon received mixed reviews, it was commercially successful. 25th Hour was praised by critics, particularly for its examination of a post-9/11 New York City, but failed to break even.

He played himself in a cameo role in the experimental comedy show Stella, and won critical acclaim for his role as Baldwin IV, the leper king of Jerusalem, in Kingdom of Heaven. In 2006, he starred in the independent movie The Illusionist, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and later became a sleeper hit when it went into general release. Norton has also done uncredited script work on some of the films he has appeared in, specifically Frida and The Score. In 2000, he made his debut as a director with Keeping the Faith. He will also direct the film adaptation of the novel Motherless Brooklyn. Norton portrayed Marvel comics superhero The Hulk in the second movie adaptation of The Incredible Hulk, released in 2008.
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