We love the 1999 book by Jonathan Lethem so this is surprising news. The film, which is being directed by Edward Norton, will be closing out the New York Film Festival which begins on September 27. Like the book, it will feature “a lonely private detective with Tourette syndrome” but with an all new script.
In a radical decision, writer-director Edward Norton has borrowed the main character of Jonathan Lethem’s best-selling novel Motherless Brooklyn as inspiration for an entirely new, richly woven neo-noir narrative, set in 1950s New York. Emotionally shattered by a botched job, Lionel Essrog (Norton), a lonely private detective with Tourette syndrome, finds himself drawn into a multilayered conspiracy that expands to encompass the city’s ever-growing racial divide and the devious personal and political machinations of a Robert Moses-like master builder, played by Alec Baldwin. Featuring a rigorously controlled star turn by Norton and outstanding additional supporting performances by Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Leslie Mann, and Cherry Jones, plus a haunting soundtrack (featuring a score by Daniel Pemberton, with orchestration by Wynton Marsalis, and an original song by Thom Yorke), Motherless Brooklyn is the kind of production Hollywood almost never makes anymore, and a complexly conceived, robust evocation of a bygone era of New York that speaks to our present moment.
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The adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s best-selling novel is a fitting choice to cap the fall festival given its setting. It unfolds in 1950s New York and follows a private detective (Norton) with Tourette syndrome as he becomes entangled in a conspiracy involving a Robert Moses–like master builder (Alec Baldwin). Norton changed the book’s time frame — the novel takes place in the present day. In addition to Norton and Baldwin, the cast includes Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Leslie Mann, and Cherry Jones. The film will screen at Alice Tully Hall on Friday, October 11, 2019 and will be released by Warner Bros. Pictures later this year. Norton wrote and directed the film along with starring in the picture.
“To have this particular film — which grew out of my love affair with New York — selected for closing night is just a huge thrill…a dream come true, actually,” Norton said in a statement.
Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, the 17-day New York Film Festival will open with Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.” Earlier this week, it announced that its centerpiece selection will be Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.”