Edward Norton: Empower Others…In Just 15 Minutes
The actor talks about his new social networking website Crowdrise and being inspired by those who give back and make a difference.
BY: Dena Ross
I think that applies to other stuff as well. When you feel like you're somehow wrestling with the struggles of the moment, then there's something compelling in that to me. When you get a growing generational sense that environmental sustainability might be the defining issue for our generation, you don't really want to sit that conversation out.
I am drawn to the things that feel like they are the issues that are going to end up defining our moment. It's in some ways more satisfying to me to get engaged in stuff like that, than just in movies for their own sake.
The website is well done and funny but seems to target a younger audience. Was that your intention, to try to get young people involved?
To some degree, yes. It's natural to aim it that way because obviously younger people are more familiar and comfortable with these kind of mechanisms [social networks] and how easy they are. They're not scary to them.
But very specifically—totally not commenting on politics—but as an example, the Obama Campaign to me had an incredibly eye opening component to it. Enormous numbers of young people who really didn't have a lot of money to give were engaged by being asked not to just give $25, but to raise $250. And that campaign was incredibly successful at getting grassroots supporters to become grassroots fundraisers.
It made me think a lot about organizations that I care about that are doing great charity work. If you could get existing donor bases to raise by a factor of 10 more than they're donating just by reaching to their near circles of friends and family and making it really easy for them to do that, that would have an enormous impact for so many organizations. It pulls people together in an interesting way when you build it in a way where people are joining each other. It's like when we were kids and everybody did a bake sale.
You've managed to get a lot of your celebrity friends on board to promote their causes. Have you heard any positive feedback from them so far? Are they enjoying the website? What's their reaction to it?
Some of them called us--some of them aren't even friends of ours, per se. They're people we knew, but we didn't know them. They called us because they saw the site and they said "Can you help me set this up?" We said, "We don't even really have to help you. You can set it up in 10 minutes?" Some people have come in and done some really cool stuff. But my test case for the ease of this whole thing was some of my friends like [actors] Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill.
Seth was basically like "Is this going to be easy or is this gonna take a lot of work for me? He's said "I am really involved with this Alzheimer's thing and I really want to [create a profile on Crowdrise] for it but what's it going to take?" I ran into him last night and he said "That was ridiculously easy. It's really good for someone like me."
He set up his own project called "Kick Alzheimer's in the Ass." He's raising money for the Alzheimer's Disease Related Disorders Association. If Seth Rogan can manage it and you can't, then you've got a problem. No, I'm kidding. Seth's really awesome. But, I do think he's a great test case for sort of thing.
We often hear about celebrities being involved with different causes and charities, but some people may think that it's all for show or publicity. What have you found in your experience working and socializing with these people? Does Hollywood really care?
I always pushback a little bit against the notion that there's a Hollywood. That would be like saying "Do you think it's true that reporters really don't believe in the stories they write?" You'd go, "There's good ones, there's bad ones, there's muckrakers, there's Pulitzer Prize winners." There's no way to link everybody by association of the profession you work in. Imagine the things you could say about lawyers. Of course, there are people who give enormous, substantive time and effort who work in this industry, and then there's—like anywhere else in the world, or any other profession you could name—people who do nothing or do it superficially. It runs the gamut.
But I've been as inspired by people in the industry that I work in and the work they do for things outside themselves as I am by people anywhere else. There are people really trying to give back and make a difference—as there are in all fields—and those people are great beacons, not just to other people in their field, but to anyone.
It just blew my mind when I read [about] Newman's Own. Paul Newman sets up a salad dressing label just because people know him as an actor and years later, they've donated [a total of] $250 million. It's mind boggling.
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