Edward Norton Used a Fax Machine to Land an Audition for ‘Primal Fear’

Edward Norton won a Golden Globe for his film debut in 1996’s “Primal Fear” and, at Thursday night’s 35th Annual Artios Awards ceremony, he shared the innovative way he nabbed the audition by making the most of the electronic communications of the day.

“I sent a fax to her at Paramount. Dating myself,” Norton said while presenting Artios’ Hoyt Bowers Award for Excellence in Casting to the film’s casting director Deborah Aquila. “Trying to desperately say I was, [that] you saw me for this animated short in front of an independent at Sundance, or something like that, and I’d love to get in [for an audition].

“[Aquila] responded to it. I got that audition,” Norton recalled. “She was seeing thousands and thousands of people for that part. What happened, happened, and then there were lots of stories about the way it could have gone down. It started to kind of focus on me.”

The role was famously passed on by Leonardo DiCaprio, who had “Titanic” hit theaters the following year. Norton’s audition tape for his “Primal Fear” role, at the time, made the show business rounds, reportedly, garnering buzz for the then-unknown actor.

“When I went in to audition for ‘Primal Fear,’ I asked if I could come into the room,” Norton said. “Then, Deb came into the room, and I was sitting on the floor by the couch in the scene in the prison cell. Deb took a look at me and grasped that I didn’t want to chat, that I just wanted to get into it. She came over, pushed the table aside, and sat down on the floor with me. I looked at her and realized, ‘There is no assistant; She doesn’t have a script in her hand. She’s sitting down to do the scene with me. So, let’s go.’ And she did.”

Aquila was honored at the Los Angeles ceremony, held at the Beverly Hilton, for a career that includes casting “The Shawshank Redemption,” “La La Land,” “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” and “Dexter.”

It was a week of reminiscing for Geena Davis, who screened her classic 1990s film “Thelma & Louise” alongside costar Susan Sarandon, on Tuesday night in New York City. Accepting the Lynn Stalmaster Award for Career Achievement two days later, Davis recalled how Stalmaster came to cast her in her debut film 1982’s “Tootsie.”

“After I studied acting, I went to New York,” Davis told Variety. “[I] decided I could become a model instead, because it’s so much easier to become a supermodel. That’s how I got cast. They called modeling agencies to see if they had any models that could act. They said, ‘Yeah, we’ve got one.’ So, they sent me over there.”

Onstage, Davis joked about her modeling career, “I was on a cover. I was on the cover of ‘New Jersey Monthly.’ It was kind of a hat situation. You couldn’t see my face,” she recalled. “Because the [‘Tootsie’] part required the character to be in their underwear rather a lot, Lynn Stalmaster called model agencies.”

As “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” casting director Victoria Thomas accepted one of the night’s biggest honors for Best Feature Film Big Budget Drama, she recalled growing up keeping scrapbooks with pictures of actors and actresses  — like her mother did too — which informed her knowledge of the film’s vintage aesthetic.

SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris also attended the ceremony, speaking to Variety about her late “Beverly HIlls, 90210” co-star Luke Perry and his role in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Perry passed away before the film’s release last July.

“Luke had just passed away,” Carteris said, recalling a conversation she had with director Quentin Tarantino. “He had talked about how great it was to work with Luke. I think it was so sad that Luke didn’t get to see the finished project.”

She continued: “But isn’t that great that he was able to work with a director he really admired. To be a part of something that he really loved, and with the actors. I think Luke lived a full life. It’s so painful to think that he died so young. Just sad whenever that happens.”

Other presenters and attendees at Thursday’s L.A. Artios Awards included Margaret Qualley, Samira Wiley, Marin Hinkle, Thora Birch, Linda Cardellini, Bob Odenkirk, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Billie Lourd, Asante Blackk, Jared Harris, Danielle Macdonald, Frances Fisher, Michael Angarano, Jake McDorman, Esai Morales, Lauren Ash, Eris Baker, Lyric Ross, Faithe Herman, Audrey Moore, Camryn Manheim and Lisa Ann Walter.

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