First “Fight Club,” now Internet do-gooder. Ed Norton, famous for his intelligent performances in roles ranging from reformed neo-Nazi to hardened police officer, spends a large chunk of his time volunteering for good causes. Now Norton, who once persuaded fellow celebrities to run a marathon with him in order to raise money for Africa, borrows a page from Silicon Valley. His new website, Crowdrise.com, allows users to network and donate money to their friends’ charitable causes.
You’re trying to harness people’s generosity through Crowdrise. What’s your inspiration?
It grew out of a conversation I had with the three friends who eventually launched Crowdrise with me. We talked about the fact that the tools of social networking weren’t being used as effectively as they could be. And I had noticed that charities that were raising money the traditional way just weren’t getting enough money.
What’s your benchmark for success?
We’re working on lots of different models for how we’ll measure success. But essentially, I want Crowd-rise to be the place people go to when they want to raise or donate money. I don’t want it to be seen as Ed Norton’s website, or a website run by a celebrity, but as a website that’s the best at what it does. I’m very excited that we’re already getting a lot of positive comments from people in Silicon Valley.
A number of celebrities, have already joined Crowdrise in order to mobilize their fans for their causes.
Why are celebrities a good means of getting people involved with charitable causes?
People don’t need celebrities to get involved with charitable causes, but for celebrities who are already involved and want a way for their fans to do something, too, this is a good way. The same thing goes for regular people; everyone can encourage their friends to donate. It’s just nice to see that people you admire are doing something good.
You’ve used your fame for good many times, but you’re a reluctant celebrity. Are there times when you wish you’d pursued a different career?
When I decided to become an actor I wasn’t blind to what was involved, and I can’t pretend I didn’t know that fame was part of the deal. The best thing you can do is to use the positive aspects in productive ways.
Trying to improve society is awfully close to politics, and you were involved with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Would you ever consider running for office?
I don’t think there’s a link between those two things. Right now I can’t imagine running for public office.
What gets you excited about getting out of bed in the morning: doing good deeds or making a new movie?
I like the balance. One engages the left side of your brain, the right side. But I’d prefer not to do both at the same time. Unfortunately that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the past several weeks.
Along with people like Natalie Portman, you were on a recent top-list of the world’s 10 brainiest celebrities. Do you feel like one?
I know many people who are a lot more brilliant than me. In fact, I meet someone who is more intelligent than me every other day.