Following our chat with Rian Johnson, director of The Brothers Bloom, my fellow members of the media and I were left alone for a few minutes—to get ready for round two. I stopped my recorder, finished up my notes, and got up for a minute to stretch my legs and get myself a teeny-tiny bottle of Evian. Then, I settled back into my seat—to prepare for Adrien Brody to walk into the room to begin his interview.
Now, I know I’m supposed to be a totally unbiased member of the press and all, but I’m going to be totally honest here: I love Adrien Brody. He’s an immensely talented actor who can make me fall in love with just about any character he plays—and Bloom, his character in The Brothers Bloom, was no different. So, having just spent 20 minutes with a director that I’ve grown to admire, I was now moving on to an Oscar-winning actor that I truly respect. And I’d say it was well worth the sleep deprivation, the early wake-up call, and the long, sweaty hike through the city.
Adrien walked in and took his seat at the head of the table, ready for our questions. He was laid-back and friendly—and he was looking a whole lot more relaxed (and rested) than anyone else in the room. His dark hair had grown out a bit, to a hip, curly shag, and he’d grown a beard (which he stroked thoughtfully throughout the interview). And he wore a white shirt and a black vest—which, really, I could see just about any one of his characters wearing.
After admiring the iPhone that one of my colleagues was using as a recorder, he settled in with his cup of tea—and the questions started flying.
Q: How did [director Rian Johnson] describe the movie to you?
AB: I don’t know if he described it to me. He sent me the script, and I figured it out. And, you know, it’s a very unique story, and it kind of was uncharted territory for me. And I was inspired by it.
I decided to do it right at the end of Darjeeling Limited, when I was in India. And I think, although they’re very different in tone, that film helped send me down a path of wanting to play more comedic stuff—even though this is a dramatic role. But there’s all kinds of comedic elements that…I’m kind of playing the straight man, but they exist within that. And it’s really fun.
I mean, that’s part of it. I thought Brick was an amazing film, and I wanted to go on an adventure—another adventure. I just came off an adventure, and I had to jump into that one. But it was exciting.
Q: You said this movie made you want to explore some of the comedic side of your work. Who’s your favorite comic? Who makes you laugh?
AB: That’s a good question. When I worked with Owen Wilson, it was very difficult to keep a straight face. But I’m inspired by comedians like Buster Keaton and that kind of [comedy]. You know, it’s so broad, yet…it’s a true gift. But I grew up also loving Eddie Murphy—when I saw Raw in the theaters.
Q: How are you personally like your character, and how could you not be more different?
AB: Well, I think the similarities—or at least what I understand about him—is that, by being an actor, I’ve experienced a lot of emotions and experiences as a result of playing characters.
And the difference is that I’m more connected with myself, and I have a better understanding of myself. If I had nothing to connect to when the characters were gone, I’d be very much like him, I think. The problem for Bloom is that he really had no chance to find himself—because it is difficult, and the journey of self-discovery is difficult. And he was constantly involved in these cons. We try to find guidance from people that inspire us—our teachers and parents—and he really had nothing. He’s an orphan. He had nothing—so he didn’t have those opportunities.
But as far as his journey, I can relate. Sometimes I feel incredibly connected to an emotion, or I have a greater understanding of someone’s life that is either fictional or based on somebody else—but it’s not my own experiences. But they effect me deeply. And when it’s done, it’s over—and you have to kind of slowly crawl back into yourself and shed that. And it’s a rare thing to experience—because most people don’t have to remove themselves from their own life and influences and desires. It’s a very strange thing. So I actually can relate to that. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t know much outside of that.
Q: Did you ever feel that you had to break away at any time, from any kind of sense that people thought that you were one thing, and you thought that you were something else, in terms of roles?
AB: I don’t necessarily make choices based on that. I guess I made choices with that in mind—but more so for myself, because I don’t want to repeat things too much. I think it’s much more interesting for me and for the audience for my journey as an actor to constantly change. What, I think, the business tends to do is put you in a niche and capitalize on your success as that type. And then people will see you as that, and they relate to you as that. And when you see that actor on the street, you’re either scared of him or whatever because he’s played a bad guy so many times—but the guy’s probably really sweet, you know? This thing happens. But I’ve tried to constantly seek out things that are different so that I can grow, both as an actor and evolve as a person. Because these experiences do enlighten me. Not all of them—but sometimes. Sometimes they really do [laughs].
Q: Was this [The Brothers Bloom] enlightening?
AB: Um…it was. It’s complicated, but it was—for a number of reasons. Not necessarily the character itself, but the journey kind of reminded me of the importance of taking time to fulfill the other things that were important in my life—not just the roles. And I think that is really important. You can work a lot—if you’re lucky. And then you have to pay attention—not to forget nourishing yourself. Not just investing all your energy in being convincing and being connected to someone other than yourself. You have to not forget to stay home, too—and do other things.
Q: How do you strike that balance?
AB: I take time off. And I pick and choose projects that inspire me. Sometimes I have to go back-to-back because they’re great roles. And, if they’re not, I don’t work just because they’re opportunities to work. I haven’t done that in a long time.
Q: The next picture you have coming, you’re playing [record producer] Leonard Chess [in Cadillac Records]. Can you tell me a little bit about that role—and what playing that iconic figure meant to you?
AB: I think what attracted me to the story was the wholeness of it. It’s not just a Leonard Chess biopic. It’s really about all of that—and the struggle for poor black musicians in that time, coming out of the Depression and having a voice all of a sudden in American culture—and elements of artists being taken advantage of.
Leonard had his own obstacles, even though he was a successful entrepreneur. There was a lot of resistance, and he had to really struggle to find that level of success and to have a stronghold in that world. And it was very complicated for him in his life. But it was fascinating. It was a really fascinating journey.
Q: Are you in the middle of another break now?
AB: I’ve been chilling for a while. And…it’s too early to say. There’s a couple things brewing, but we’ll see.
Q: Do you do anything completely different when you’re not working?
AB: Do I do anything completely different?
Q: Yeah, do you like…paint? Or…go climbing? Or…?
AB: I do like outdoor stuff. I should paint, but I don’t. My dad paints. My dad’s actually really very talented. I make music. I mess around with my motorcycle and my car and fix things—and do really simple things. Like cook and spend time with my girlfriend, travel….
Q: You were talking earlier about the expectations that people have of you, in terms of the roles that you take. After you won the Oscar [for The Pianist], were there lots of scripts for that kind of character?
AB: Yeah, obviously, when you do something well, people want to see you in that role. And I understand that. You see it, and you go, “That guy would be perfect for it.” But, again, like I said, it’s pretty obvious that you can’t continue to play those things—nor would they remain inspirational…nor can you sometimes top what you’ve done. In that case [for The Pianist], it was so much of the personal nature of that film to [director] Roman [Polanski] that gave him the wisdom and experience to guide me.
But there were lots of opportunities after that. The interesting thing was that, at that point, I was looking to find—because I was ready for it and because that’s what I was being told—a leading-man role, so I could transition and not be seen only as a character actor. But I think it wasn’t available in that moment. The right kind of leading role wasn’t there.
King Kong, I guess, would have been the ideal role—then—for me. If I could have found King Kong then, that’s what I would have been looking for. Because that was definitely a leading-man romantic story. There was action involved, yet he was not a superficial leading man. He had depth and intelligence and sensitivity. And that’s rare—very rare—for an epic film like that to have a character like that.
I chose to do The Village, which was the antithesis of what everyone was telling me, because it was more in line with the choices I had made until then—and I didn’t want to just change because I felt that I should. I wanted to follow what inspired me. And I liked that role. It was intimidating, because it’s very difficult to play someone that has a mental handicap and/or mental disorder in a limited time frame—meaning limited time on-screen—to have that not come across superficially. And I had to make that decision without my agents reading it—because I promised [director M.] Night [Shyamalan] that I wouldn’t show the script to anyone. So it was a very difficult decision in that respect—because my agents wanted to read it, and I made a promise, and I also wanted them to read it, to help me with that decision. And I just made it based on what I felt. You know, I wasn’t afraid of playing another character, basically. And, you know, it’s a journey. I’m very open to trying new things. And I feel blessed to have received the recognition that I did receive from The Pianist at a young age. It’s a wonderful thing…
Q: You’re sure it’s a wonderful thing?
AB: Oh, I’m positive. To receive that kind of recognition…yes.
Q: In terms of your career, though, and how it’s affected that….
AB: I think there’s definitely more interest. But that moment of winning an Academy Award made me infinitely more recognizable than 18 years of hard work as an actor. And if you want to be in studio movies—or, in this day and era, help smaller movies get their financing—you have to be recognized. And that is part of the process—so it was a good thing. It was necessary.
And, with that, Adrien was whisked off to his next round of interviews, and we were left to prepare for round three. Check back later this week for the remaining interviews with Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Weisz.