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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Thursday's Connector – Ed Norton

September 21st, 2010
10:47 PM ET

Ed Norton has delighted audiences on the silver screen for more than two decades. His roles in films like Fight Club, The Incredible Hulk, Frida, and Primal Fear – for which he was nominated for an Academy Award – have distinguished him as one of Hollywood’s most talented and versatile actors.

Now, he’s turning his attention to another sphere – development and conservation. In July this year he was named a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity. In that role Ed Norton has been working to ensure world leaders take appropriate measures to protect the environment.

One of his top priorities as Goodwill Ambassador will be to increase “people’s focus on the fact that human well-being is intertwined fundamentally with biodiversity.”

At the ongoing UN General Assembly Conference, the biodiversity crisis will be an issue the 192-member body will focus on.

What would you like to ask Ed Norton about this issue? What would you like to ask him about his acting work, and why he’s taking up biodiversity as a cause now?

Send in your questions below – we'll put them to him in our interview.

soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Gayatri

    The acting world will certainly lose a great actor. Are you planning on pursuing an active career as a Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity as well as acting? How are you going to balance both of these?

    Gayatri Geneva, Switzerland

    September 22, 2010 at 9:56 am | Reply
  2. toddsaed

    HOw to motivate without just using the facts, which does not always work. ? Emotion and passion, humor, personal acknowledgment and plain old appealing to good will and the God within, or basic humanitarian impulses, would be ways an actor with name recognition would excel at , how about the rest of us? Experimenation with meditating on the nature around you, feeling the spirits from 40000 years ago still there, and the soul of the redwood tree glowing green and luminescent, some possiblilities? Open to whatever here, the governments seem to block or work in cahoots with corporate bankster greed freaks, how to take them on? The Tofflers in Revolutionary Wealth say third wave economies working ten times faster than governments will solve problems , helium three on the moon, and other marvels solving the problems, or is there no problem as they say in yoga , just thoughts from the body misconstrued as soul or spirit. A non problematic future is described at Sexual Tennis for Yogis at lulu.com, visualizing the most positive aspects of the third wave future as it could play out, so what spiritual component must be added if any to realizing the biodiversity goals,
    and how to succeed at the mass level.. Starting with the individual?
    I would like to mention Fight Club, The Illusionist, and The Painted Veil as being among the memorable films I loved, and wonder if Mr Norton has a favorite, pays any mind to critics or changes a game plan from their analysis, has an ultimate movie he would like to make,
    has suggestions for improving his business for more quality films,
    and what the future is going to be like, guess or say, we think the depths shown on screen means there are some secrets that can be revealed on what most likely will happen.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:22 am | Reply
  3. Lucy

    Hi Ed,
    i've always been a huge fan.
    are you optimistic about the UNGA's focus on biodiveristy?? And with so many environmental issues facing us today, why do you think biodiversiity should be at the top of our list?

    September 22, 2010 at 10:34 am | Reply

    Hi Ed. I like your movies a lot cause you are a talented actor. What makes you to be an ambassador of UN? Any future plans for Hollywood movies? – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    September 22, 2010 at 10:35 am | Reply
  5. Clifford


    Huge fan of your movies. At what point in your life did you decide that biodiversity and conservation was an issue you wanted to persue politically?


    September 22, 2010 at 11:05 am | Reply
  6. Xander

    Hey Edward,

    The lack of biodiversity is one of the problems that are caused by mass consumption. A lot of unique landscapes are being destroyed to make space for farmland, with that a lot of undiscovered plants, flowers and animals are disappearing. with the destruction of those areas the possible sollutions to fight virusses or even cancer are disappearing. You as a actor and a commentator for nature films of National Geographic can do something about it. But don't you think that the mindset of the consumers needs to change? And isn't it harder to change a mindset then it is to change pollicy?

    September 22, 2010 at 11:07 am | Reply
  7. adam kwoka

    Hey Edward,

    I love your work.

    Rapid environmental changes typically cause extinctions.

    The latest extinction, named the Holocene extinction, the reduction is caused primarily by human impacts, particularly the destruction of plant and animal habitat

    What do you think we can do, as a planet, to get together and take preventive measures to avoid causing more damage and reverse the effects humans have on plant and animal life?

    September 22, 2010 at 11:11 am | Reply
  8. Oehm

    From Fight club to UN!! How come? Ofcourse UN is the biggest Fight club? Your opinion...You are too good an actor why waste your time, it takes a lot to entertain.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:33 am | Reply
  9. Yawsman Flackmorn

    Actors should stick to reading only what's on a script from professional writers. Everytime a Hollywood celebrity opens his or her mouth in public another ludicrous comment falls out. They live in a fairy tale world with absolutely no connection to the average American....kind of like the President and his regime.

    September 22, 2010 at 11:52 am | Reply
  10. syvester ofori agyemang

    when it comes poverty , world leaders hasnt done enough it is only a big talk and nothing moroe. we will all die one day and leave evey curreny behind.It is abig shame.

    September 22, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  11. Susie

    Hi Ed,

    How are you? I'm from Madrid, Spain and I enjoy watchin' your movies a lot and I'd like to know.. what will happend with this world in the next 100 years?? what do you think about it? by the way, Are you ready for your next film? would you like to visit Spain soon?? Thanks and You're amazing!!!

    September 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Reply
  12. Peter

    This is a work-related question. Your performance in Leaves of Grass was absolutely incredible. What was your inspiration for Brady, and what was it like working with Tim Blake Nelson on such a personal script?

    September 22, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Reply
  13. Mata

    How do you manage to stay grounded in Hollywood?

    Besides talent, what qualities do you think are necessary for an actor to become successful?

    Why do you think today's youth lacks interest in protecting the environment and in what ways can we motivate youth to be active in preserving biodiversity?


    September 22, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Reply
  14. A

    Ed, come to Ghana and see how we are trying to promote and protect biodiversity

    September 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Reply
  15. Mark

    Mr Norton,
    as you have lived in Japan for a few years, you probably realized that like in the US, that over 80% of the population (as in most countries), either does not care to vote, is to naive or just plain too dumb and should not be allowed to vote. Why don't you use your talent and go back to make movies that touch millions. Than when you step on the red carpet you can send the message of biodiversity that will reach around the world. Primal Scream II or American History X II will give you more publicity than an announcement as a UN ambassador. Most people are stupid, so you use your talents wisely to help society and the earth. Food for thought.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  16. Susan

    Hello Ed.
    Huge ambitions you have. Very admirable. I'm curious if you some how see crowdwise and and perhaps the various social media sites as an avenue for fundraising and/or creating worldwide awareness. I recently read an article about a highway being planned to go through the Serengeti and thought what a shame that would be. I then wondered how to bring these situations to light among my peers. How do you plan to spread the word and create action and not see these topics get buried in the mass of media we're surrounded by?
    Thanks and best of luck!

    September 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  17. shervin

    Mr Norton,

    You've played Bruce Banner in the Incredible Hulk. Would you consider taking on another comic-book icon sometime in the future and if so what character would you want to play? Personally, I think you'd make a terrific Flash.

    September 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  18. ric

    Why is it actors of Hollywood think everyone is interested in their particular brand of politics? I understand there are celebrity worship types, many posting here, but how do you reconcile alienating fan base with ideologue?

    September 22, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  19. Calvin

    Hi Ed,

    It's always good when a great celebrity travels back to earth once a while and do what's real. In your opinion, what would you like other celebrities to be doing now and why?

    Calvin – Web Pal – Malaysia

    September 22, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  20. Dissident

    An admirable choice working for the UN when already in a more personally gratifying field.

    That being said how long do you think your star power will be able to carry you to help make a difference, over someone else on top of that game committed to the task?

    I think the better tactic than full commitment to one task is to stay in the public eye making movies, combining this with your latest passion.

    September 22, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  21. Dodi Mulinyawe

    Ed Norton, you are a great actor and I have been your fan for many years. But do you think you can infuence all those big people in Washington to support your new project. I know you and your family is well off financialy but I would support you all the way. I know it is a good cause for what you would want to do. Maybe you can also ask those celebreties in Hollywood to help you out like Salma Hayek...she is also a very wealthy woman.

    Keep up the good work Ed..

    September 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Reply
  22. Wayven

    Hi Edward,

    I am indeed one of your biggest fans and think that you're one of the best in Hollywood. But I am not sorry that you're leaving acting for a while to focus your attention on a political hot potato such as biodiversity. There has been so much mass communication on climate change and yet people are not taking heed. Changing people's mindset is very hard. What would your approach be in communicating the 'lack' of biodiversity which affects human health?

    September 22, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Reply
  23. Danny

    Looking back, which character was the most challenging to you as an actor ? Why ?

    Looking ahead, which task you think is going to be the most challenging to the Human Race in relation with our environment. What would be the next step after raising awareness ?

    September 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  24. ladi skura

    hello Ed,
    I am an african, and i always enjoy watching your movies. Just want to know.... What is the murphy's law?

    September 22, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  25. Alex

    Mr Norton,

    This message goes along with the one I read from Shervin. Personally, I think you should do the pigment augmentation just like Robert Downing Jr. for Tropic Thunder, and then you could play Ben Foster as Goliath.

    September 22, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  26. Greg

    Mr Norton – you are a very capable actor, one of the best of your generation I believe. It's not just about playing a role, because usually you get to the point where you are genuinely that person, such as American History X or Fight Club or Down In The Valley.

    I'm interested in the direction that you see your life going. Do you see political contribution as the way to genuinely change lives, or as others have pointed out here, would movie-making be a continuation of that (with the right material) because it reaches more individuals?

    I would be interested as well as to what your thoughts are about your peers in the acting business and the greater concept of 'payback' – you have obviously been very successful and have a huge amount of money at your disposal, and so it makes helping others that much more achievable. In fact, a lot of actors and other wealthy and high profile individuals make noises about doing 'good things' but very few actually follow through for one reason or another. I'm glad that you're trying, but I'd like to hear that you're in it for the long haul and that you have the confidence to feel like you're going to be able to make a difference – especially in the area of biodiversity, because with nearly 7 billion people on the planet, which is way more than the planet as a whole can support given the current lifestyle of the population, how bright a future can humans, plants, and animals have? Your thoughts would be appreciated, thanks.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Reply
  27. toddsaed

    Greg, your comments very clear, direct, and profound in their simplicity, the future is infinitely bright we know from the sum of human knowledge, the limitless knowledge that will bring us surprises, all the answers are within, we can see Ed making new ones from creativity and dedication, we can too, or already did.

    September 23, 2010 at 11:10 am | Reply
  28. Veronica

    Mr. Norton-
    Since being named the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, this July, can you elaborate on your own personal connection to biodiversity; what you personally have fulfilled and/or given in your personal life to such an organic cause to us all? I am always intrigued by individuals who live a life in line with their dreams of success.
    Please elaborate.
    Veronica Farris

    September 23, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  29. Andy

    Ed...!!! 'am a huge fan of yours, and this bothers me, the UN is really a huge political table, no doubt you will do fine, but, Hollywood... United Nations two different waters, which boat are going to paddle more?'cos we catnn't afford to miss u here on our silver screen

    September 23, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  30. Darja

    Being connected with other cultures means for me not only ready about foreign cultures but also living in them. Reports or stories alone can never give someone the same deep impression of how an other culture is than if someone lived in the culture. I am form Russian and the German culture, the way the people live there and the customs was always something which has attracted my attention I decided to try to get a study place in Germany. Because I thought travelling is also not enough to learn to understand a society. If one image stairs, reports are at the lowest stairs when it comes to understand a socienty, at the next step there would be travell experiences but I think at the uppermost step there is the life in the respective society which enables one to learn the most about the people.

    And at this point I must refer to a company in Germany. This is not advertisement. But this company for is an important bridge regarding the connection of people from different countries. Because without their help I think I would never get the chance to study in Germany. Because between a study place and the chance to live in Germany at least for the time of my studies there is the application process and the proceedure with authorities. Which is pitty because it is really difficult and I am sure that mean like me who want to study in Germany give up without help and cannot realize their dreams. Because I am getting closer to my dream to study in Germany I think it is fair and appropriate to thank this special people form HeSA Germany. People like them help to connect people.Thank you very much.


    Darja Nowikow
    St. Petersburg

    October 4, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Reply

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