Even his Incredible Hulk back in 2008 was a thinker before getting angry and turning green.
Reflective and thoughtful in real life, he brings those qualities to most of his roles.
He starred opposite Brad Pitt in the 1999 cult classic Fight Club. The 25th Hour, Kingdom of Heaven, The Illusionist and even The Incredible Hulk weren't good enough vehicles for his talent.
Fortunately, this year he has The Bourne Legacy out, plus Moonrise Kingdom, a Wes Anderson whimsy set around scouting in the 1960s and a sleeper, word-of-mouth summer hit.
“I was nervous, so I actually called Edward Norton because he had worked with Woody before and I just wanted to know what to expect.
He told me Woody was very shy, very reserved, and didn’t really give a lot of direction to the actors.
He has campaigned for Barack Obama, saying: "I'm not disillusioned with the last four years, I think we've achieved a lot."He declares that he "can't imagine what life would be" if he were too famous to take the New York subway, yet had he reprised his role as the Hulk in The Avengers Assemble, which has surpassed The Dark Knight in billion-dollar profits, he undoubtedly would have been.
He was furious in 2010 when Marvel broke the news publicly that Mark Ruffalo would replace him, telling this newspaper that the studio had been "unprofessional and dishonest" in their dealings with him."The truth about making an action film is that it can be fun, but it can also be really tiresome," he says."It might make a very exciting scene as a whole but the doing of it can be very technical and fragmented as a process.
Just don't expect –even then – to be able to call him Ed.
Here are a couple of things you should know about Edward Norton. With no Bourne left to chase ( Matt Damon quit at the end of the third film, The Bourne Ultimatum) Byer will have to go after another agent, played by Jeremy Renner." I'm not sure my guy is the bad guy," Norton says, frowning as we sit in a bare room – exactly the kind where the CIA would beat up Jason Bourne.
He still looks serious even as he offers up chocolate and jokes about the British weather. So just how seriously will he fare as the evil mastermind of a big studio franchise? In the fourth film of the billion-dollar series, The Bourne Legacy, he plays Colonel Eric Byer, the architect of numerous secretive defence programmes, including Jason Bourne's.
The rich aren't overburdened."It's fascinating, the use of the word "us".' Norton is the son of a Maryland lawyer and his grandfather was the director of a construction company. I like things that are unfamiliar, worlds that I haven't knocked around in before.
When he was younger, he did some consulting work in Japan for the firm. And I like to align myself with whatever is good that is going on."Norton, one suspects, is far more leftfield than most sons of East Coast affluence.