He’s made something of a name for himself when it comes to creating friction on movie sets, but let’s not forget that Edward Norton is also one of the greatest actors of his generation, giving critically acclaimed performances in the likes of Primal Fear, American History X and Fight Club. Below are 10 things that you might not have realised about this three time Academy Award nominated actor.

10. Cinderella inspired him to become an actor

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Norton’s passion for acting can be traced back to his early childhood, when he would visit local theater productions with his parents Edward and Lydia.

He began his career as a theater actor, a career path that was ignited when he saw the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Cinderella when he was only five years old.


9. He was encouraged by actors who “weren’t the most handsome guys”

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Norton loved watching films with his dad, and he was particularly encouraged by actors like Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman.

His interest in those particular actors came because, in the words of journalist Ed Symkus, “the ones he liked were also the ones who made him think he could do it, because they weren’t the most handsome guys”.


8. He can speak Japanese

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Norton studied History at Yale University, where he also acted in stage productions, took up rowing and studied Japanese, in which he is now almost fluent.

During his early 20s, he even spent some time working for his Grandfather’s company in Osaka, Japan, before moving to New York to pursue a career in acting.


7. He was cast in his breakthrough role ahead of two-thousand auditionees

Norton’s film debut came in the 1996 thriller Primal Fear, in which he played an alter boy who is charged with the murder of an archbishop.

This career breakthrough came after Norton was spotted by casting agent Shirley Rich, and he won the role ahead of two thousand other young prospects, giving a performance that earned him the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and saw him nominated for the Academy Award in the same category.


6. He is a method actor but refuses to smoke on screen

Despite being a method actor who sometimes even auditions for roles in character, Norton refuses to even pretend to smoke on screen.

His character in the 1998 film Rounders was originally written as a heavy smoker, but Norton insisted that the part be rewritten to remove this element.


5. One director referred to him as a “narcissist”

The negative image that Norton has built up during the last couple of decades largely began when he clashed with director Tony Kaye during the editing of their 1998 film American History X.

The pair’s war of words led to Norton being put in charge of the editing process, effectively ending the career of Kaye, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a failed lawsuit and later referred to Norton as “a narcissistic dilettante who raped the film”.


4. He was forced to star in a remake of The Italian Job

Signing a three film contract with Paramount Pictures, who had already released Primal Fear and The Score, meant that Norton was forced to star in a 2003 remake of The Italian Job.

Norton’s performance was praised by critics despite his reservations about appearing in the film, but he refused to partake in any press to promote its release.


3. He once played guitar with the rock band Hole

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In 1998, Norton twice played guitar on stage for Courtney Love’s rock band Hole during their gigs in Los Angeles.

Love, who Norton was also rumored to have been dating at the time, referred to her temporary band member as “Eduardo,” telling the audience that she “picked him up on Hollywood Boulevard”.


2. He is married with a son

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Norton has chosen never to discuss his private life in public, believing that such media coverage would distract him from his career.

He dated actress Salma Hayek in the past, and has for nearly ten years been married to the Canadian film producer Shauna Robertson, with whom he has an eight year old son called Atlas.


1. He tries to live as normal a life as possible

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Despite regularly being talked about as the greatest actor of his generation, a title that The Telegraph wrote “clings to him wherever he goes,” Norton does his best to live as normal a life as possible.

As far back as the late 1990s, when his career first took off after critically acclaimed performances in the likes of American History X and Fight Club, Norton was quoted as saying “if I ever have to stop taking the subway, I’m gonna have a heart attack”.