Adrien Brody, co-star of the "The Jacket" Movie!
An actor who hovered far too long on the brink of stardom before getting his due recognition, Adrien Brody spent much of his early career falling victim to the slings and arrows of outrageous PR. Possessing undeniable talent and looks that recall both the wasted elegance of an Aubrey Beardsley illustration and a young and hungry Al Pacino, Brody spent much of the 1990s as a candidate for his generation's "next big thing." But despite roles in two high-profile movies -- Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line (1998) and Spike Lee's Summer of Sam (1999) -- and the publicity that accompanied them, it was not until Brody was cast as the lead in Roman Polanski's The Pianist (2002) that he won the recognition which had previously eluded him. Born on April 14, 1973, in New York City, Brody was raised in Queens. The son of a schoolteacher and a celebrated photojournalist, he was drawn to acting from an early age. Brody's first taste of show business came when he was 12-years-old and performed as a magician at children's parties; with his mother's encouragement, he subsequently enrolled in acting classes, attending both the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the High School for the Performing Arts. He found his earliest work in off-Broadway productions, and made his television debut in 1998 with a PBS movie and a turn as Mary Tyler Moore's son in the comedienne's ill-fated sitcom Annie McGuire.
Following his professional debut, the actor returned to school and attended a year of college before being cast in Steven Soderbergh's 1993 Depression-era drama King of the Hill. The film, which cast Brody as its protagonist's delinquent mentor, met with wide critical acclaim and presented him with new opportunities. He won roles in several films, including 1994's Angels in the Outfield and 1997's The Last Time I Committed Suicide, a paean to the beat generation that co-starred Keanu Reeves, Gretchen Mol, and Claire Forlani.
That same year, Brody had lead parts in The Undertaker's Wedding and Six Ways to Sunday, two fairly obscure films that paved the way for both more high-profile work and a turn as one of Vanity Fair's "Hot, Young, and Full of Fun" cover boys. With the 1999 cover and principle roles in two highly anticipated films, The Thin Red Line and Summer of Sam, Brody seemed perfectly positioned to step into the limelight. Unfortunately, his scenes in the former ended up on the cutting room floor, victims of time constraints. But Brody's turn as a bisexual punk in the latter earned positive notices, and was hailed by numerous critics as one of the strongest points in Lee's flawed but compelling film.
Brody continued to do solid work in films like Barry Levinson's Liberty Heights (1999) and Ken Loach's Bread and Roses (2000), but it wasn't until he was cast as the eponymous protagonist of Roman Polanksi's The Pianist that critics -- and the Academy -- really took notice of his work. For his portrayal of the real-life Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish pianist struggling to survive the Holocaust in the Warsaw Ghetto, Brody invested himself mentally, emotionally, and physically in the role, and was rewarded for his dedication with numerous honors, including the French César and an Oscar that made him the youngest-ever recipient of the Best Actor award. Many observers felt the quality of his performance in the film was matched by that of his acceptance speech, given only days after the U.S. went to war with Iraq: after bestowing a long kiss on a very surprised Halle Berry, who presented him with the award, he went on to give a speech that managed to combine heartfelt gratitude with an eloquent plea for peace and goodwill. It was an accomplishment that brought much of the ceremony's audience to a standing ovation and ensured that although fame had eluded him in the past, Brody had finally and deservedly won his time in the limelight.
Adrien Brody Discusses His Work in "The Jacket"
Interview with Adrien Brody from the LA Premiere of "The Jacket"
Adrien Brody stars in the psychological thriller, "The Jacket," co-starring Keira Knightley and directed by John Maybury. Brody plays a military veteran who is locked up in mental hospital after being convicted of a murder he didn't commit. Once inside the hospital, his character undergoes a twisted form of therapy involving a straight-jacket and hours locked away in a metal box in the hospital's morque.
INTERVIEW WITH ADRIEN BRODY:
How does a role like this impact you?
It takes some time for the experience to be absorbed always. And some are more important than others, more relevant than others, of the roles that I’ve done. Initially I thought it was a really cool movie about this guy put through this wringer who’s basically a survivor – a cool, temporary character. But there was a lot of socially relevant issues involved as well.
John Maybury is a creative director so I learned things that I admired about him as a filmmaker. I learned things with the process for me as an actor of understanding the difficulties that this character faced. It’s what I enjoy about the work, the chance to do that.
How do you leave a role like this on the set at the end of the day?
This, I didn’t. This I didn’t. I’m not the kind of person to deliberately behave differently for the sake of behaving differently, but there are certain things that you have to kind of be true to and sacrifice your own freedom at that time to do. I mean, there was research that was necessary while I was doing it. I tried to do a very specific physical interpretation of this character, rather than doing an overtly muscular thing and bulk up. I felt that he wouldn’t be getting the nutritional levels like that. And he’s been injured, he’s been in the hospital, but he’s ultimately strong. He’s served in the Army so I did this kind of 'jail house' workout every day in a very confined space - so no trainers. None of that. 'Confined space' meaning the space of what I would be able to do in a hospital room.
What’s your attraction to these darker roles?
Well, life isn’t simple so I am attracted to things that are complex and ambiguous, just like life. And characters that are flawed – just like all of us. That’s more interesting to me.
I would do an interesting kind of lighter, comedic role if it was compelling enough. Or just fun and there’s some aspects of it that I like, and not worry about the emotional depth. But it’s a wonderful opportunity to explore all these things and get a better understanding about myself and human nature, and experiences that people are going through that I’m not. This character is a GI who’s injured and who’s released. That’s very relevant for today. He’s wrongly tried inside the judicial system – that’s very relevant. He’s sent through the mental institution and kind of mistreated. That exists in today’s world. That is people’s reality so, in a sense, I get to learn about this, expose this, and then have a wonderful time being creative along in the process.
After the Oscars this past weekend, I’m sure you had some time to reflect on how your life changed since winning the Academy Award.
I did, but I kind of had a blessing of having a very laid-back year. I’ve been in New Zealand shooting “King Kong” so I haven’t been here for all the hype. I basically watched it in my underwear eating a hamburger in my hotel room. So it was fun.
Adrien Brody talks about The Jacket and King Kong
After years as a highly respected supporting actor, all it took was working with an exiled director, making out with Halle Berry in front of millions and taking home an Oscar for Adrien Brody to achieve leading man status. After his critically acclaimed performance in Roman Polanski's The Pianist, Brody has gone from a familiar face to a Hollywood name. In director John Maybury's The Jacket Brody stars opposite Keira Knightley, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kris Kristofferson. The actor is also close to wrapping production on a tiny little project by Peter Jackson about some ape.
The Jacket is a psychological thriller about a Gulf War vet named Jack Starks (Brody). He returns to his home state of Vermont after suffering a case of amnesia from a gunshot wound to the head. Potentially shell-shocked and riddled from the traumatic effects of the war, Starks is having trouble distinguishing reality from his imagination. He is accused of murdering a police officer and committed to an institution as "not guilty by reason of insanity." At the institution, Starks is subjected to a brutal treatment where he is injected with an experimental drug, placed in a straight jacket and locked inside a body drawer in a basement morgue. Inside the jacket, Starks flashes through the horrors of his own mind, possibly seeing his future and fate.
IGN FilmForce spoke with Brody yesterday at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles. Brody talked candidly about working on the grueling film and about his upcoming work on Peter Jackson's King Kong.
To prepare for the challenging role, Brody underwent a process that would make any claustrophobic cringe. "I grew up living in New York in an apartment there, and it was pretty small. (Laughs) No, I did. I actually found a sensory deprivation chamber where we were shooting in Glasgow. Are you familiar with them, these tanks where you lay in a thin saline solution? It was really an interesting experience. I would do quadruple sessions that they were pretty amazed that I could endure, and then you become very aware of how your mind works and how cyclical thoughts are and how you kind of, you can guide them. It's an interesting way to meditate in a way, but also to separate yourself from your physical being. I did it a number of times, but it was hours on end."
The on-set conditions also helped Brody get into the "spirit" of the intensity. "Well, we shot in a mental institution in the basement; they built this in the basement of a mental institution and it had that vibe. It had the kind of energy somehow of that. We were using real gurneys and they were all kind of instruments of medicinal, I don't know, professional instruments around that were frightening. And the crew was nice, but the state of mind I was in was not; I don't even try to communicate with anyone when I'm working. You know, I was restrained in the jacket, and I would often ask to be left alone on the gurney and wait while they set up the next shot instead of them getting me out of it and sitting around and having a conversation. I think that's not conducive to staying in that state of mind, plus I think it's just important to stay centered, so therefore it doesn't matter where it is, what it is, I would be in the same place as we were shooting...
"The lighting was interesting. I think Peter Deming is a phenomenal D.P., he's really phenomenal, and the production designer is great. On all levels, it was a very creative environment, including the process that they edited the film and did the effects. It was very organic and very much like crafting something. They were crushing moth wings and blood on negatives and blood on my outfit and coffee stains and hopefully not urine, but things that were very reminiscent of urine, and it had a real artist's feel to everything, which is wonderful. So it was cool. It was pretty inspirational."
The Jacket's story ultimately leaves a lot of the interpretation up to the individual viewer. We asked Brody about his take on the film: "That's up to you. Well, I think it's the kind of, it's pretty amazing to go to a movie and not be spoon fed, as you know because you see films all of the time. You don't want to be fed everything. I like the ambiguity of it, because like in life, things are ambiguous, and people are ambiguous, and people's interpretations of people are ambiguous… That's part of what attracted me to this role was the fact that the character is not really defined by any of this. His ethnicity, his religious beliefs, where he's from, on any level that's not described, nor does he have any allegiance to his own past, which defines us; how we are raised and how we are told who we are and what we are. And I think it's a remarkable place to be as an actor or at any point in life… It's liberating, but at the same time, who are you? That's a very kind of exciting concept to explore in depth, because it's all a way for us to kind of understand or assume we understand each other, by how we perceive one another…
"I have my own ideas of what it's about, but I also have to suspend that too when I'm doing it, not even in explaining it to you, but my process is that I have to kind of believe everything my character is believing while he's believing it or while he's enduring it or experiencing it. My character is going mad whether I'm dead or I'm dreaming or whatever, I'm going mad in that moment, and I have to experience that as part of my reality."
When asked if this was his most challenging role to date, Brody says he's not entirely sure. "It depends. I mean, I'm sure we did lots of days with lots of overtime and there are sequences… Nothing will be more difficult than The Pianist because The Pianist had like a six-week slot with no other actors and it was a tremendous amount of pressure and it was all day with Roman and myself and a crew, and it's a whole movie in that time period… And it's relentless, and Roman never even liked using the stand-in, so I was there from morning to night on set doing everything. I learned probably more than I could learn in any filmmaking class from that experience, but it's made everything else kind of easier in a way, you know, easier than it would be. But not saying it was not difficult. It was difficult. There were long days of being restrained on a metal gurney in a cold, damp Scottish prison."
Brody is currently finishing work on the highly anticipated King Kong, directed by Peter Jackson. "It's very similar. (laughs) No, look, King Kong is really wonderful because it's, for me, it's a chance to not subject myself to the emotional torment, but now I am physically abused. I'm spending eleven hours on a harness shooting stunts and when you're doing these things that you can't put somebody else in there, so I'm learning another aspect of filmmaking, which is very exciting, and like physical pain is easier to deal with."
Since the actual King Kong will be added through CG later, Brody must act and react opposite blank space. "That's the real challenge… It's interesting. I mean, there is on one level, the challenge is having to experience things that don't exist, but that's also similar to what I'm doing having an out-of-body reaction in there in a drawer. You can do more to prepare for that, but at the same time, I do have a very vivid imagination. That's part of what drew me to being an actor... It's not a joke and it's not like, 'Oh my God, there's the monkey again!' It's like what do you do when there is a a 25-foot creature that sees you and senses you and smells you and doesn't like you from before? What do you do? You smile or you run, and that's the only choice, and you run for your life, and you run many times on many different colored greens and blue treadmills and do the best you can to believe. But look, the beauty of it is that it's character driven, including the depth that's going into the creation of Kong… It is going to be, in my opinion, the best combination of elements because it's going to have Peter's unbelievable team for effects, but also his own creative vision for something that he's been so passionate about since he was ten… And it's very much similar to an independent movie even though it's probably costing Universal a fortune. It's a very similar process."
Adrien Brody: The Pianist
Twenty-nine-year-old Adrien Brody takes on the most demanding role of his career in Roman Polanski's Palme d'Or-winning biopic "The Pianist".
Brody portrays Wladyslaw Szpilman, a gifted Jewish pianist who bears witness to the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.
How did you come to take on this role? Not many people have heard of Wladyslaw Szpilman...
I hadn't either. First and foremost it was an opportunity to work with Roman [Polanski]. That's what I jumped at. I was lucky to find a role like this which goes through such a journey - an emotional, physical, psychological transformation. When I first met Roman I didn't even see the script. I just took the opportunity.
The resemblance between yourself and Szpilman is quite remarkable...
Yeah, it's pretty good. It wasn't necessary, fortunately, because he wasn't that well known.
How long does it take to prepare for a film like this?
There was a lot to do, but I only had about six or seven weeks. In that time I lost 30 pounds on a crash diet. I had to learn to play Chopin and work out a dialect. Obviously I also had rehearsals, research, documentary footage to watch, and read the memoirs. Plus I'd practice the piano, three or four hours a day.
In what ways did Polanski help you with this incredibly demanding role?
First of all, he'd experienced a lot of what had happened. He and Szpilman shared similar things. So having him guide me through was invaluable. I had a great deal of trust in his vision. He knew what he was talking about and that's really important. He's very specific in what he wants. And, fortunately, he's able to convey what he wants.
Like a certain look or style?
A look, a style, a specific interpretation of certain moments. But the advantage was that they were equally as valid, if not more so, than my own. Therefore perfectly acceptable and valuable choices. He was very helpful.
Adrien Brody: Bread and Roses
You play a strike organiser in "Bread and Roses". What kind of research did you undertake?
I joined a union and went undercover - even though someone recognised me and kept it a secret. That was very interesting. I don't think I could've done the film without that. It gave me such an exact knowledge of what was required of an organiser, the techniques that they use. We picketed a major hotel, where I was again recognised and asked for my autograph! I had Spanish lessons too - there was a lot of research involved.
Do you agree with Ken Loach's politics?
To a certain extent I do. I don't have as fervent a belief, but I don't like people being taken advantage of. I was oblivious, to a large extent, to the injustices going on there, and I live there. I split my time between New York and LA, but I live there. You are consumed with the wealth in LA, the business and the success, and that's the discussion that's going on. Not, oh, people are working for nothing. It put a lot of things in perspective for me. You don't need the wealth. It doesn't make you happy, and it's not why I'm doing what I do.
Most Angelinos would've regarded the Janitor's Strike as an inconvenience - right?
It was an inconvenience. It was an inconvenience to me as well. Had I not done this film, I would've probably been more pissed off. But I was pissed off, anyway. I had a major audition for "Elizabeth" director Shekhar Kapur, which was very difficult for me to get. Most casting directors say I'm too urban, too ethnic, and this was to play a very English solider. It was an incredible role. I studied very hard for it. I didn't get it. These janitors were outside making a racket, picketing Paramount. It sounded like a game show was going on. I saw the humour in it, but had I not, I would've been very upset.
Adrien Brody in "King Kong"
Just as the film crew traveling to Skull Island in the original 1933 version of "King Kong" had no idea what was in store, Peter Jackson wants to keep moviegoers guessing about his upcoming remake.
"I'm not allowed to say too much," star Naomi Watts said recently when prodded for details.
"I can't say much, but it's going to be impressive," an equally well-trained Adrien Brody said a few days later.
One thing cast members would say is that people should expect more than just an onslaught of special effects.
"It's not going to be a superficial movie," said Brody, who's returning to Wellington, New Zealand, this week to wrap up production. "It's going to be very compelling and wonderful — incredible sequences and yet intense drama. ... I am getting the chance to be very heroic, much more the action hero than I [normally] get to play, and yet the character is very full of depth."
British actor Jamie Bell, best known for "Billy Elliott," said the casting of Brody, Watts and Jack Black, actors hardly known for action movies, is a sign of the kind of movie it will be.
"I think [Jackson] went for actors, people who can deliver performances, instead of people who can just bring in box office [numbers], which I think is a much better idea," Bell said. "I want to see good acting, a good story. I think they're all perfectly cast. Naomi, the idea that beauty killed the beast, she's perfect for that role."
As for the story line, "we're honoring the original, but Peter Jackson is a clever man and he's obviously introduced great new ideas and has made it incredibly modern," Watts said without elaborating.
The gist is Black's character, eccentric filmmaker Carl Denham, is on a mission to make a movie on a mysterious Indian Ocean island where a giant gorilla is said to be roaming. Among his crew are reluctant screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Brody) and actress Ann Darrow (Watts), all characters from the original. (The 1976 remake had different characters.)
One of the new additions is Bell's Jimmy, the lookout on the SS Venture, the ship on which the crew is traveling. "They wanted a kid in the film, so I play the kid," he said.
Bell, who has grown accustomed to low-budget indie films since debuting in "Billy Elliott" (two of his latest movies screened at Sundance last week), was shocked his first day on set at Jackson's Stone Street Studios, where the director built a rain forest. "You get showed around the digital departments, the miniature departments and all this crazy stuff and you get overwhelmed by it all," he said. "But it's been a lot of fun. ... You're going onto a production where the director and his production team just won every single Academy Award they were nominated for, 11 Academy Awards. These guys know exactly what they're doing."
For Jackson, "King Kong" is truly a labor of love. The original is what inspired him to make movies, and in 1997, before he started the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, he had already written a remake and was set to direct it. At the last minute, however, the studio pulled the plug because two similar movies were already in production. (Both of those — "Godzilla" and "Mighty Joe Young" — flopped.)
Now that he has a second chance, Jackson, along with his "Rings" collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, has penned a new script and put together a visuals team that is promising more special effects than in all three "Rings" movies combined.
Still, Jackson hasn't lost his ability to pull memorable performances from his cast.
"You expect him to be so concerned about the technicalities of the scene, what he's gonna do in post-production with the effects and blue screen," Bell said. "But he has an ability to store all of that inside of his head and still be able to approach an actor and tell him what's wrong with a scene or how he should do it differently."
In other words, "Peter Jackson is a genius," Brody said. "I am really thrilled to be a part of it."
"They're really wonderful people and incredibly creative, and I'm having the time of my life," Watts added.
Bell is also having a blast, but he's quick to point out that big-budget movies aren't simply fun and games. "It's not all glamour and glitz. There's a lot of running through jungles, getting trampled on by various things," he said. "It's not all easy."
"King Kong" is expected to wrap at the end of March and is due in theaters December 14.
Adrien Brody furious at 'Keira Knightley rumours'
Adrien Brody is furious at rumours linking him to his gorgeous 'The Jacket' co-star, Keira Knightley.
The Oscar-winning actor, who has a long-term girlfriend, Michelle Dupont, is appalled that people believed he and Keira, who is dating model Jamie Dornan, would cheat on their partners.
He fumed: "I don't know what people take me - or her - to be. I'm in a relationship and so is Keira. I don't regard being in a relationship as a loose thing."
Adrien insists he and Keira had a professional relationship only, despite rumours to the contrary.
He told Britain's Now magazine: "We were said to be having intimate, candlelit pasta dinners in my apartment. But that's not true. We ate together a couple of times because we were working, but it never went further than that. We were committed to other people and the work on the film was non-stop."
The actor, who plays a Gulf War veteran put in a mental institution after he is accused of murder, also claims the on-set atmosphere was anything but romantic.
He explained: "It was all pretty intense, dark and dramatic - not the best situation in which to start any sort of relationship, even if I'd wanted to."
Adrien Brody 'to become a hip-hop star'
Adrien Brody wants to become a hip-hop artist.
The Oscar-winning actor has been making music for some time and would like the opportunity to show off his talents.
He said: "You just never know what will happen in this business. I wouldn't do pop, but I've been making music for a long time.
It would be more along the lines of hip-hop." Meanwhile, the Hollywood star says he was so poor when making 'The Thin Red Line' that he only had one pair of shoes.
Brody claims he could barely afford to buy food before his big break and can 't understand why, now he's rich and famous, he gets freebies sent to him.
He told Britain's Independent Review magazine: "I remember when I made 'The Thin Red Line', I only owned one pair of Nike sneakers.
They shrunk, and I didn't even realise they were killing me, but I wore them for the entire movie.
"Now, I have a few pairs, and the killer part is that I get a lot of stuff for free now I can afford to buy my own. That's backwards."
Common misspellings: "Adrian Brody", "Adrien Brodie".