Award-winning actor Edward Norton is known as one of the most versatile performers in the movie business. Specializing in tormented, intense characters, Norton has impressed audiences and critics alike during his career which has spanned more than 40 films. His big break came in 1996 when his supporting role in the courtroom drama Primal Fear garnered him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
The thoughtful Ivy League grad stood out in Hollywood for his tendency to eschew mainstream fare in favor of intense involvement in high quality films that often explored the darker and more controversial sides of human nature, including American History X, Fight Club, and 25th Hour. Alongside his three Oscar nominations, Norton has received countless industry awards for his nuanced portrayals on screen. He's won a Golden Globe, The Boston Society of Film Critics Award, a National Board of Review Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award, to name a few.
Besides acting, Norton is an environmental activist and social entrepreneur. He is a trustee of Enterprise Community Partners, a non-profit organization which advocates for affordable housing, while also serving as president of the American branch of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. He is also the UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity.
Despite his early love for acting, when Norton enrolled in Yale University as a freshman, he had no designs of pursuing a degree in the subject. Instead, Norton focused his attentions on academics, his social life, and competing in rowing for the school. Nonetheless, he was eventually drawn to the bright lights of the stage, acting in university productions alongside fellow Yale alumni Ron Livingston and Paul Giamatti. In 1991, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, and a minor in Japanese.
While Norton has said that his "longest and deepest friendships" are with people he met at Yale, his busy Hollywood schedule kept him away from campus until 1999, this time as a guest of the Yale Film Society. They had asked him to debut his new film at the time, Fight Club, and to talk with students about the entertainment industry.
Happy to oblige his alma mater, Norton talked about his craft and career at some length with the students, many of them aspiring actors. After urging them to “do your homework" before taking on a new role, Norton explained how the importance of being empathetic to the character he or she portrays. "You have to be a sponge," he said. "The best thing you can do is to go down as deep as you can into the character, even if you can't use all that later."