25th Hour (2002) – Interview with Spike Lee and Edward Norton

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Movie Interview by Kris Griffiths

Spike Lee and Edward Norton briefly discuss their new movie 25TH HOUR.


(To Spike) What attracted you to this particular script?

Well it was written by David Benioff, a fine young writer, but I didn’t know much about the novel when it was published. Mr Norton here and I have been talking about working together for a while now so the stars just aligned by themselves.

(To Spike) This has been the first film to accurately embrace the mood of America after September 11th. What was the thinking behind it?

Filmmakers do what’s best for their films but it was never a race to embrace what is now a different world. In America we are very privileged, and I don’t mean the so-called higher standard of living, but the fact that we have not really experienced much terrorism the way the rest of the world has. The effect on New York still reverberates today and we wanted to reflect this different world in the film.

(To Edward) With regards to your incendiary speech against the people of New York, which was a startling scene in the film – did it cause any controversy among people who might not have been paying proper attention to it?

Well, if people aren’t paying attention then there’s nothing I can do about that. If a journalist starts jotting down a comment before the sequence is over and misses the point where Monty actually blames himself rather than the others, then that’s not my problem either. Fundamentally, I don’t think you could ever do something interesting if you’re always worrying that it might be misconstrued. That said, I don’t think that has happened, that anyone has misinterpreted that sequence of insults. People have said that it lambasts immigrants but it lambasts a lot more than that.

(To Edward) What are your views on the morality of your character?

I don’t really have a tendency to judge a character that I’m gonna play. There was never any doubt in any of our minds that Monty was going down for what he did and that he wasn’t going to slip the noose. In that sense, to me it was a very strong unequivocal statement about the consequences of not examining the morality of what you’re doing. Monty definitely expresses regret on a number of occasions in the film and ultimately takes responsibility for his actions. I think David Benioff pulled off a very neat trick whereby the story doesn’t start with a couple of kids buying drugs off Monty, but with Monty saving a left-for-dead dog. He is basically a complicated human being with many commendable qualities.

(To Spike) As a filmmaker what would you say is the most discouraging thing about Hollywood today?

I think the most discouraging thing about Hollywood is that if you’re trying to say something unique with a different voice it’s becoming much harder to do so. In the past year Hollywood has made more money than ever before but it’s just been more of the same: more prequels and more sequels. When executives have told me that the American audience is stupid and will do whatever you tell them I’ve said I don’t think so but they keep proving me wrong… it’s the dumbing down theory and it’s the whole of American culture. I mean this JOE MILLIONAIRE thing – I don’t know if you know about it – but this thing was a phenomenon and forty million people watched the last episode. JOE MILLIONAIRE, TEMPTATION ISLAND, and we blame you for AMERICAN IDOL! Sometimes I scratch my head and wonder what’s happening.

(To Edward) Aren’t you in a position where you can do something to change things by not taking part in certain films and uping the ante by working on films for not as much money but ones that hold more value?

Totally, otherwise you would limit your career. I’ve had opportunities to be part of films that have gone on to become huge commercial successes and would probably have paid all my mortgages and for many other comforts that I’m not enjoying now (laughs). But I can’t sleep at night with those decisions and I have to find stories like this that I feel strongly about and really speak to my moral and spiritual foundation. You want to entertain but I actually think you’re dealing with more sophisticated audiences nowadays.

So check out 25TH HOUR from acclaimed director Spike Lee (SUMMER OF SAM, DO THE RIGHT THING, MALCOLM X) whose film sheds light on a man who’s unsure of how his life has led him to this point in time where he is due to lose his freedom and enter prison as he struggles to redeem himself in the 25th hour.