Edward Norton on the relevance of ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ film

The actor discusses his new film and explains why his character is a tough underdog.
4:50 | 10/22/19

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Transcript for Edward Norton on the relevance of ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ film
I just have to say, the movie, just the character, the character that you're playing, is an extraordinary one because it's one we've sort of seen maybe once or twice in movie history but never like this. He's a hot mess. That's what I expected you to say. No, he's -- when I read the book I really, like the greedy actor in me was like I need to do this one because he's all these paradoxes. He's brilliant and sensitive and smart but he's got tore et ae syndrome and the conditions that gets in his way are hilarious and painful. He's just a mess of paradoxes, and in a way I think he does fit in that tradition of Forrest gump and rainman of underdog characters that we can root for. He's a little tougher than those guys. I will say that the acting -- Yes, yes. Brilliant. There are movie stars out there and there's true, raw talent. Whenever I see you and in this movie in particular, I haven't seen anything quite like this, the way you played this role. Thank you. It's a good one and -- it's a good one. The cast, the cast, I couldn't have made this film without this cast. Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin and willem Defoe, the great cherry Jones, mbatha raw who's a great new talent from England. These people came together and did this film for me for no money. It was the only way that I could do this big, epic L.A. Confidential, chinatown style historic thriller because these things are costly. Literally my tribe of New York actors rallied around me and came and did this for me as a favor. But it's really one of the better ensembles I've ever been a part of honestly. The fact that you wrote it makes me very, very happy because, you know -- It made me happy when I was finished. The doing of it took a long You wrote it for how many years? Well, I love that you give me 20 years of credit. That sounds great. I read -- I was making other films and I was doing things. I read the book, was very hooked on it. It took me a number of years to get at it and then when we decided to mash it up with the big, dark history of what happened in New York in the '50s, that took a lot of research. That took me a few years. And then, you know, life comes in and everything. But at the end of the day I think I feel like we're bringing it out at the right moment for this film. It's about things, sometimes you look at the past to understand the dangers that you're facing as a society now and I think there's a lot about this film that's very resonant for the moment that we're living in. Yeah, it felt very current actually. Alec Baldwin playing an autocratic and racist property developer who ruins New York. Yes, yes, yes. Exactly. My husband and I were watching it like, we've seen this before. Although, Robert Moses, the man that sort of actually inspired the character, was a genius and a real visionary, so the analogy breaks down right there. Well, yes. I think we have a clip. What are we going to see? Well, remember Lionel, my character, has -- he has -- part of his tourette's is when people say certain combinations of words he can't stop spinning them around and shouting out variations on them. So in this I'm confronting willem Defoe with my conviction that I've figured out what's going on and I kind of -- I trip the wire with him. You know what that tells me? That tells me you and Billy set this up to blackmail your brother. Where did you get that? Figured out the scam and you who found out whatever it is they're so scared of but you made it look like it came from Laura and the committee so you can hide behind it. That's not true. You put your own daughter's life at risk. You don't know what you're talking about! I could have sunk him so many he sunk me. Sing a song of sunk man. He sunk me. Sing a song of sunk man. When we came -- when I came to New York willem Defoe was like -- I used to talk about Phil Hoffman and Bobby can valley. Willem was one of the actors we wanted to be like. He had a downtown theatre company and he became a movie star and working with him was a career peak for me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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