Best Debut Performances: Edward Norton in Primal Fear (1996)

Muslim Taseer looks back at the debut role from one of the greatest actors of the last 30 years

Muslim Taseer
13th May 2020
Edward Norton is without a doubt one of my favourite actors. Few display as much range as him. He fits so naturally into his roles no matter what they are, it's incredibly impressive.

He never has dull roles. From a salaryman imagining a figment of his own subconscious coming to life and rejecting society to a reformed neo-nazi, Norton has played all manner of weirdos. But what's even more exceptional is his debut role. Most amazing, iconic actors got their start in small, mediocre productions, playing "standard" roles, but not Norton. Ed came out swinging, starring as a man on trial for first-degree murder with split personality disorder in Primal Fear (1996), an excellent legal thriller. He starred alongside the legendary Richard Gere but for me, completely outshone him, performance-wise.

Ed wasn't playing an easy or typical role either! He essentially played 2 very drastically different characters. The innocent, stuttering teenage altar boy Aaron Stampler, and his violent, sociopathic alter ego "Roy". He performed flawlessly, keeping you guessing throughout the whole film whether the split personalities were a ruse or genuine, and which one was the "real" Aaron Stampler? The performance is layered and exquisite, and would've been a masterpiece for any other actor. For Norton, it was his debut role! It's intense. Norton was recognized for his amazing performance, being nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and winning the Golden Globe for it, alongside countless other awards. It was the performance of a lifetime, and without a doubt the best debut role ever.

The movie is awesome too, and that's not just my obsession with courtroom dramas talking. The plot keeps you in the dark till the very end, and I haven't spoiled much. Make sure to give it a watch if you wanna see the greatest debut of any actor ever.

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