Edward Harrison Norton is an American actor and filmmaker. He has received numerous awards and nominations, including a Golden Globe Award and three Academy Award nominations.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in Columbia, Maryland, Norton was drawn to theatrical productions at local venues as a child. After graduating from Yale College in 1991, he worked for a few months in Japan before moving to New York City to pursue an acting career. He gained immediate recognition and critical acclaim for his debut in Primal Fear (1996), which earned him a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and an Academy Award nomination in the same category. His role as a reformed neo-Nazi in American History X (1998) earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He also starred in the film Fight Club (1999), which garnered a cult following.
Norton emerged as a filmmaker in the 2000s. He established the production company Class 5 Films in 2003, and was director or producer of the films Keeping the Faith (2000), Down in the Valley (2005), and The Painted Veil (2006). He continued to receive critical acclaim for his acting roles in films such as The Score (2001), 25th Hour (2002), The Illusionist (2006), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). His biggest commercial successes have been Red Dragon (2002), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), The Incredible Hulk (2008), and The Bourne Legacy (2012). For his role in the black comedy Birdman (2014), Norton earned another Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Despite critical plaudits, Norton has gained notoriety for being difficult to work with, including incidents such as editing the final cuts and rewriting screenplays against the will of other producers. He is discreet about his personal life and has expressed no interest in being a celebrity. Besides acting and filmmaking, he is an environmental activist and social entrepreneur. He is a trustee of Enterprise Community Partners, a non-profit organization which advocates for affordable housing, and serves as president of the American branch of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. He is also the UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. He is married to Canadian film producer Shauna Robertson, with whom he has one child.
Edward Harrison Norton was born into a progressive Episcopalian family in Boston, Massachusetts, on August 18, 1969. He was raised in Columbia, Maryland. His father, Edward Mower Norton Jr., served in Vietnam as a Marine lieutenant before becoming an environmental lawyer and conservation advocate working in Asia and a federal prosecutor in the Carter administration. His mother, Lydia Robinson "Robin" Rouse, was an English teacher who died of a brain tumor in 1997. Norton's maternal grandfather, James Rouse, was the founder of real-estate developer The Rouse Company and co-founder of the real estate corporation Enterprise Community Partners. He has two younger siblings named Molly and James.
At age five, Norton saw the musical Cinderella with his parents at the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts (CCTA), which ignited his interest in the theater. He enjoyed watching films with his father as a pre-teen, but later reflected that he was fascinated with the cinematography rather than the acting. Norton recalled that it was theater and not films that inspired him to act. He made his professional debut at the age of eight in the musical Annie Get Your Gun at his hometown's Toby's Dinner Theatre. At the CCTA, he acted in several theatrical productions directed by Toby Orenstein.
In 1984, Norton won the acting cup at Pasquaney, an annual summer camp for boys in Hebron, New Hampshire, where he later returned as a theater director. He subsequently immersed himself in films, naming Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro as two of his early inspirations because "the ones liked were also the ones who made think could do it because they weren't the most handsome guys". He graduated from Wilde Lake High School in 1987. He attended Yale College, where he earned a BA in History. While there, he also studied Japanese, acted in university productions, and was a competitive rower. After graduating from Yale in 1991, conversant in Japanese, Norton worked not-for-profit as a representative for his grandfather's company Enterprise Community Partners in Osaka, Japan. He also trained in aikido and krav maga in both the U.S. and Japan.
Norton has opted not to discuss his personal life in public, saying that he believes that excessive media coverage can distract him from fulfilling his role as an actor. Following the release of The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), tabloids spread rumors that Norton and his onscreen co-star Courtney Love were dating. Norton insisted that he was not romantically involved with Love, and the two were only friends and colleagues. However, Love confirmed they were in a brief, discreet relationship. She said that Norton had been a "mediator" and "communicator" between her and her daughter Frances Bean Cobain, calling him a "force of good".
After Norton had ended his relationship with Love in 1999, he started dating Salma Hayek, with whom he later appeared in the 2002 biopic Frida. Norton absented himself from the premiere of The Italian Job, in which he starred, to attend the premiere of The Maldonado Miracle, Hayek's directorial debut. The two broke up in 2003. Hayek still remains friends with Norton. She recalled in a 2017 piece for The New York Times that he "beautifully rewrote the script of Frida several times and appallingly never got credit" after she had rejected Harvey Weinstein's sexual demands and Weinstein, in retaliation, had given her "a list of four impossible tasks with a tight deadline," including to "get a rewrite of the script, with no additional payment," before he would make the film. In 2011, Norton proposed to Canadian film producer Shauna Robertson after dating for six years. They married in 2012 and welcomed their first son, Atlas, in 2013.