The 8th annual Variety Screening Series kicked off Tuesday night with Overture Films' new drama, "Stone," starring Robert De Niro and Edward Norton.
Norton, on hand for a post-screening Q&A at the ArcLight Hollywood, said director John Curran ("The Painted Veil") had been exploring the prison drama for a few years.
"This was John's baby," he said. "When the economy tanked and the financial crisis happened, he said 'We gotta do this now'."
Sitting alongside Variety moderator Peter Debruge, Norton recalled how he and Curran interviewed a number of real-life inmates for the film, which is set in Detriot.
"Fifty percent of the dialogue in this movie came from two guys, in particular," Norton said. "John was like 'If you can do have as well as those two, I'll be thrilled.'"
As for De Niro, whom Norton had previously worked with on "The Score," Norton shook his head and sighed, "Honestly, the last 10 Best Actors couldn't even touch him."
"Everyone has this romanticization of De Niro," he added. "But he's not the intuitive, vocal presence on set at all. He's one of the most right-brained and clinical actors I've ever met. He's like a librarian."
Speaking of scores, Norton also revealed how Radiohead chipped in to create the foundation for the pic's atmospheric music, composed by John O'Brien.
"I'm friends with the guys in Radiohead, And Johnny Greenwood, who did the incredible score for Paul Anderson's 'There Will Be Blood,' met me in London a while back when John (Curran) and I were developing the script," Norton recalls.
"So given the spiritual ties in this film, I started talking to him about this idea: 'What would you use to record this divine-like tuning sound?' And he and Thom (Yorke) had been playing a lot of weird ambient stuff at the time and so, amazingly, they just unloaded tons and tons of files to us of these sound experiments that they had been doing. We just listened to them in awe until John (Curran) eventually got John O'Brien to come in and see what he could make of it."
As the evening wore on, Norton was careful not to forget his character's finely braided corn-rows.
"The moment the hairstylist took them out, I swear to God I looked like Gene Wilder in 'Young Frankenstein.'"
"You could say I'm thankful we didn't get that on film."
"Stone," also starring Milla Jovovich and Frances Conroy, hits theaters Oct. 8.
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