Edward Norton was deeply affected by the experience of making American History X, partly due to the film's dark subject matter, and partly because the production was a very troubled one. Here's why the actor was never quite the same after making this film.
In 1996, Norton's performance in Primal Fear established him as a formidable talent, but it was his starring role in the 1998's American History X that truly showcased his talents.
In the film, Norton plays Derek Vinyard, a neo-Nazi who abandons his ideology after spending some time in prison. He then tries to prevent his younger brother, Danny, played by Edward Furlong, from following in his footsteps. As Norton told GQ in 2019:
"The film was, like, even the poster was iconic. It was a Shakespearean type of a story by design."
It's rare that an actor has to step in and edit the film they're starring in, but that's exactly what Edward Norton ended up doing. That's because the making of American History X proved to be almost as controversial as the film itself…and the film was plenty controversial.
In the middle of the editing process, director Tony Kaye had some serious creative differences with the production company New Line Cinema. Kaye had previously worked as an advertising director, and his experience in that industry reportedly affected his editing decisions. In fact, David McKenna, the film's screenwriter, told The Telegraph that:
"[Kaye] literally destroyed the movie. It was a commercial."
In the hopes of salvaging the film, Norton stepped in and began working with Kaye, but they were constantly at odds with one another. However, many of Norton's edits did wind up in the final cut of the film. It was a new experience for Norton, but the skill came in handy later: He ended up co-editing the 2005 neo-Western Down in the Valley, a film he also starred in.
After filming wrapped on American History X, director Tony Kaye was very bitter towards Edward Norton, and he wasn't shy about letting the media know his thoughts. The Telegraph quotes him saying that,
"[Norton is] a narcissistic dilettante, obsessed with his image, obsessed with screen was going to take Hollywood by storm, and I would have but for that buffoon."
Keep in mind, Kaye doesn't seem particularly modest himself. Keep watching the video to see that
Behind-the-scenes drama | 0:15
Bad reputation | 1:55
A transformative role | 2:55
Making an impact | 3:55
Sympathy for the Devil | 4:57