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Norton was approached to act in “Smoochy” by a lucky happenstance of geography. In 2001, Norton was in Canada, acting opposite Robert De Niro in Frank Oz’s heist film “The Score.” DeVito, meanwhile, was nearby, performing in David Mamet’s “Heist,” opposite Gene Hackman. Norton recalls receiving the script and loving how misanthropic and dirty it was. It made him laugh. As he tells the story:
“We were both in Montreal making different heist movies. We were having a drink one night and he said ‘I have this funny script.’ And he sent it to me; he said to look at Rainbow Randolph. He wanted me to look at the Robin Williams part. But I read it, and when we got together for drinks, I said ‘I think Smoochy.’ And he said [a very good Danny DeVito voice] ‘No. NO! Yes. YES!'”
By Norton’s impersonation, DeVito seemingly had a catharsis in that moment, realizing that Norton would be wonderful in the role. Norton was cast as Sheldon Mopes, and the film was made as audience saw it.
Norton, 53, also revealed that DeVito, 78, still thinks of him as Smoochy. “He still calls me Sheldon Mopes,” Norton said. “When he writes me, he says ‘Mopes.'” Although “Death to Smoochy” was not well-received by critics in 2002, and earned only $8.3 million on a $50 million budget, Norton still seems to have enjoyed working on the picture, and has fond memories of it.