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‘Motherless Brooklyn’ Trailer: Director/Star Edward Norton Tunnels Into the Secret History of Modern New York

Ryan Lattanzio

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The trailer for Edward Norton’s Jonathan Lethem adaptation “Motherless Brooklyn” has arrived and, fun fact for Radiohead fans, it features a new Thom Yorke song that is achingly good. Norton’s latest directorial effort — which he recently likened to “Chinatown” — trails lonely private eye Lionel Essrog (Norton), who’s afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome, as he tries to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna, played by Bruce Willis.

The rest of the cast is a bounty of riches, with co-stars Leslie Mann, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Kenneth Williams, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Fisher Stevens, and Cherry Jones. Norton has been sitting on the script since 2012, with the director/writer/star being attached to the project as early as two decades ago, when Lethem’s crime novel was published in 1999. While the novel is set in modern day, Norton opted to set his take in the 1950s. He says the period includes “the secret history of modern New York, with all of its kind of institutional racism and the devastation of the old city from neighborhoods right up to Penn Station, perpetrated at the hands of an autocratic, almost imperial force, who was intensely antagonistic to everything we think defines American democratic principle.”

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“Motherless Brooklyn” is slated to bow to at the Toronto International and New York film festivals, followed by a release from Warner Bros. on November 1. Along with “The Goldfinch,” this marks the studio’s prime Academy Awards contender.

Norton’s period noir is his second outing as a director, including 2000’s better-left-forgotten “Keeping the Faith.” The three-time Oscar nominee says that he hopes “Motherless Brooklyn” will be a “especially resonant when you’re going through moments that are giving people deep dismay.”

The new Thom Yorke song featured in the trailer, which is below, is titled “Daily Battles.” According to Norton, the Radiohead frontman’s song was so good, the director altered the film. “He sent me this track of him on a piano singing it and I was sitting on the edge of my bed in the dark, crying from listening to this song,” Norton said. “It’s so instantly heartbreaking and evocative of so many of the themes to the movie without being overly specific to them, but so much so, I thought the idea of daily battles that everyone is fighting, that you’re trying to rise up and out of, was so evocative that I went back into the script and put the phrase into a scene.”

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