The three-time acting Oscar nominee Edward Norton has done a good job adapting Jonathan Lethem’s award-winning novel, Motherless Brooklyn to the big screen. He transported the action from the 1990s to the 1950s, an era he describes as the secret history of New York. The actor and filmmaker is never far away when it comes to being a part of or making compelling dramas. With this outing, he makes his directorial comeback since the 2000 comedy film Keeping the Faith. Added to his role as the director, the Incredible Hulk actor also starred in, wrote, as well as produced the film. With Norton as the lead character, the rest of the Motherless Brooklyn cast is a bounty of riches and largely great too.
Set in the 1950s New York, Motherless Brooklyn follows a private investigator, Lionel Essrog (Norton) with Tourette’s syndrome as he works to solve the mystery of his friend and mentor’s Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) murder. The crime drama boasts an impressive A-listers, from veteran actor’s actor Willem Dafoe to Alec Baldwin.
Norton’s period noir premiered worldwide on 30th of August 2019, at the Telluride Film Festival. Released by Warner Bros. Pictures, it will hit the theatres on November 1, 2019, after stops at the Toronto and New York film festivals.
Meet Motherless Brooklyn’s A-list Cast Members & Characters
Motherless Brooklyn stars an impressive cast. This comes as no surprise considering the historical significance of the storyline, only the best for each role were cast.
Edward Norton as Lionel Essrog
Norton portrays a lonely but wily, restless gumshoe, Lionel Essrog who lives with Tourette syndrome – a nervous system disorder marked by involuntary tics. Having a tic means that he will convulsively yelp disjointed phrases, twitch, jerk his head and grimace as if suddenly suppressing a huge yawn; mannerisms Norton fabricates with care. But Lionel also has an impeccable memory and is very good at his job.
With only a few clues and his own obsessive mind, he sets to resolve the murder of his friend and mentor, Frank Minna. He believes Frank was about to blow open a corrupt city hall conspiracy which involves the ethnic cleansing of black people from areas ripe for lucrative redevelopment with Paul Randolph (Willem Dafoe), Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin) at the centre. However, piecing together the clues to the mystery of Minna’s death would mean getting his hands not just dirty in a dead man’s secrets but also on something that has deep repercussions for the future of the entire city.
Bruce Willis as Frank Minna
Bruce Willis’ character, Frank Minna is the paternal head of the seedy Brooklyn detective agency. He employed Lionel since he was an orphaned teenager and as a result, became his only friend as well as a mentor. He is married to Julia Minna (Leslie Mann). The film, just like the novel opens when Frank Minna is murdered.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Laura Rose
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is one of the Motherless Brooklyn casts whose performance is as compelling as her personality is interesting. She stars as Laura Rose, a passionate young, smart attorney and community activist. Laura strikes up an unlikely alliance with Lionel.
Alec Baldwin as Moses Randolph
Baldwin portrays Moses Randolph, New York “master builder” Robert Moses stand-in, a ruthless public official, a role he nailed effortlessly.
According to Norton, he found in Baldwin one who is equally charming and alluring and a little bit intimidating. He also added that the veteran actor has that old-world New York political boss DNA, that is not that common. His great seductive intellect, presence and capacity helped him pull off an impressive performance.
Willem Dafoe as Paul Randolph
Edward Norton describes Willem Dafoe as “the Jedi knight in rags.” The duo shared the screen in Wes Anderson 2012 coming-of-age film, Moonrise Kingdom. As a Motherless Brooklyn cast member, Dafoe plays a local malcontent, disgraced engineer Paul Randolph. Despite the prickly nature of his character, Paul is the most deeply moral character in the story, one with a terrific humanism.
Other notable Motherless Brooklyn cast members include Lionel Essrog’s fellow private eyes Tony Vermonte (Bobby Cannavale), Gilbert Coney (Ethan Suplee) and Danny Fantl (Dallas Roberts). Cherry Jones as fiery activist Gabby Horowitz, Michael Kenneth Williams as an appealingly smooth jazz player Wynton Marsalis, Leslie Mann as Julia Minna, Frank’s wife, Josh Pais as William Lieberman, Robert Ray Wisdom, Fisher Stevens, and Candace M. Smith round out the cast.