[Photos & interview- GQ Magazine, 2021] Adrien Brody Finds His Chill.
October 14, 2021
Nearly 20 years after winning an Oscar and staking his claim as one of his generation’s most serious actors, Adrien Brody is finding a glorious new gear.
Adrien Brody comes bearing fruit. We meet in the parking lot at the base of a popular Los Angeles hiking trail, and he quickly hands over the bounty he’s prepared for us: a plastic container full of cherries and watermelon, along with a couple of bottles of water, some fresh-squeezed orange juice, and two pieces of buttered toast wrapped in a paper towel. He’s a charmer, no doubt—but also an actor who relishes doing the deep work of preparation, no matter the role. We eat sitting on the curb. It’s not quite nine in the morning. The cherries are terrific.
Brody is 48 now, and has been acting professionally for more than 30 years. In that time, he’s become known for the intensity of his commitment to the job: losing weight or gaining muscle or crawling across the forest floor for a part. “I would do whatever it takes for a role,” he says, “and everybody in my life understands that and respects that.” Like all actors, he’s had highs and lows, but maybe because of that intensity, Brody’s highs have felt higher—and his lows perhaps lower—than many of the actors we think of as his peers, and whom he calls his friends. He is still the youngest best actor winner in Academy Awards history. He also decided, not long ago, to spend a few years doing anything but acting.
This fall marks an unusually prosperous stretch for the actor. He’s in the third season of Succession, in which he’ll play an activist investor butting heads with the Roy family. After that comes The French Dispatch, his fourth film with director Wes Anderson. (Their fifth is already under way.) And sometime next year, he’ll appear as two legendary figures: the playwright Arthur Miller, in Blonde, the Netflix film about Miller’s wife Marilyn Monroe, and the basketball coach Pat Riley, in Adam McKay’s HBO series about the 1980s “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers. Keenly aware of how often these things are left to chance, he’s excited that so much is happening at once. “I did a lot of fun stuff, but now we’re catching it at a good moment,” he says. Brody has always applied his maximum-effort Method approach, no matter the quality of the material. And oftentimes, his work was the best thing about the films in which he appeared. Now, though, he’s got a run of parts in projects with auteur-level creators that finally seems properly calibrated to his abilities—and that seems likely to show audiences a different kind of Adrien Brody.
When we meet, the Lakers series is still in production, and as we set off on our walk, Brody—in hiking boots, a Yankees cap, and aviators—explains that something a little strange is happening with the Riley role. Brody didn’t know much about the coach prior to preparing for the part, but he quickly learned that Riley’s story was more complex than he realized. Before Riley became a Hall of Fame coach, he had been a college hoops star, Brody learned, and then a reserve on a title-winning Lakers squad. After a nine-year pro career, Riley hung it up at 30 and, as Brody says, “found himself out in L.A. trying to figure out what his place was within the sport, and not really being able to accept early retirement.” After the Lakers’ then head coach suffered a horrific cycling accident, and the assistant coach who replaced him was subsequently fired, Riley wound up in charge of what would become the signature team of the 1980s. “One man’s misfortune, essentially, created an opportunity,” Brody explains. When McKay was casting the show, he and Max Borenstein, the series writer, needed an actor who could reflect the coach’s duality of spirit. Brody seemed perfect, “because he is a unique mixture of stylish confidence and vulnerability,” McKay tells me in an email. “And that’s a perfect description of Riley. Although Riley obviously doesn’t advertise or isn’t quite as comfortable with the vulnerability as much as Adrien is. But it’s clearly there.”
That’s the Riley he’s been thinking about: not the swaggering, Armani-suited icon but a young man worried that his best years are behind him, baffled by the circumstances that have landed him in what should be an ideal position.
It’s funny, Brody says, just how much Riley’s story seems to echo his own. Living with the comparison these last few months has given him ample reason to think back on the strange storm that seemed to settle over his life and career after he won his Oscar, in 2003, for his work in The Pianist. Back then, Brody struggled with the same sort of contradiction Riley faced when he was handed the reins of the Lakers: He was ostensibly on top of the world and yet felt unable to control the trajectory of a career that might have peaked terrifyingly early. In Brody’s case, the rush of fame and work that followed the film provided a measure of security, but the experience also left him depressed and with an eating disorder, and it permanently reordered the expectations—his own and the industry’s—about how his career should go, about what success might look like.
As he’s explaining all this, pausing for winding digressions about the nature of luck and the vagaries of independent film production, we’re stopped in the middle of the trail by a leather-skinned hiker with a thick New York accent. He recognizes the famous actor and introduces himself as Jack. He tells us that he used to know Gerald Gordon, an acting teacher with whom Brody took some classes when he first moved to Los Angeles. Jack explains that Gordon once prepared him for just this moment, having instructed him to send along Gordon’s best wishes should Jack ever happen to run into Adrien Brody. Which sounds improbable, only it’s exactly what has just happened. Jack seems as confused as we are. Brody offers his appreciation and elegantly ends the conversation.
Perhaps thanks to Brody’s open-to-the-moment training as an actor, or maybe just his congenital sensitivity, humdrum events like these—a hike, a chat with a friend of an old teacher, a discussion about what he’s working on these days—have a way, in his life, of feeling freighted with a special charge. Metaphors, I learn over the course of our time together, tend to follow him around—some days like a litter of puppies, others like a colony of angry wasps.
He’s spent his career pouring every ounce of himself into his roles. But right now, with the Riley job and everything else around it, he seems ready to learn from the work. Helpful lessons abound, if we’re ready for them. “I’m just trying to live openly and fearlessly,” he’ll tell me later.
As we make our way up the hill, Brody pushes the pace. He turns back to me. We’ve been hiking for maybe 15 minutes. “So, anyhow,” he says, “that’s how, if you’re lucky enough, you can find new chapters opening up for you.”
Brody spent the summer shooting the Lakers show in various locations across Los Angeles. Every morning, he’d fold his lanky frame down into his blacked-out, souped-up, stick shift Fiat, and pilot it from his home in the Hills to wherever the production was based that day. He quickly came to love his commute—or maybe less the specific commute than the small joy of finally getting to have one. Much of his work as an actor has taken place in less comfortable climes. He long ago noticed that his friend Owen Wilson somehow managed to always wind up acting in movies that shot in town. Brody wasn’t so lucky. “Owen would live in Santa Monica and have a movie in Santa Monica,” he says. “I’d be in Bulgaria in wintertime, and Owen would go down to Santa Monica, like five blocks, and probably be allowed to go home for lunch. It’s an amazing thing,” he says, having a job he can drive to.
It is true that if you were making a movie set in Santa Monica, you might not cast Adrien Brody. If, however, you were making a film that needed a face easily contorted into Eastern European-inflected despair, or that required the sort of actor who might regard a low-budget indie production in the Balkans as a kind of glorious adventure, Brody would be your guy.
Some of this is plain anatomy. He’s got the ski-slope nose, and the wide, deep-set green eyes, and a pair of eyebrows tilted up in permanent expectation. He looks wry but also a little sad. His voice—raspy, nasal, flecked with wiseguy—feels out of time. Wes Anderson appreciates this quality. “A rare thing with Adrien is that, if it became necessary for him to suddenly have to work in about 1935, rather than 2021, he could do it,” he tells me in a drolly narrated voice memo composed in response to my questions.
Brody comes by it all honestly. His mother, the photographer Sylvia Plachy, left Budapest for Vienna as a teenager, around the time of the Hungarian Revolution, and eventually arrived with her family in New York, where she would later begin shooting for the Village Voice. His mom’s life and work gave her an ability to “see the complexity that most people miss, everywhere around them, and catch it. And immortalize it. And through that lens, I’ve seen the world,” he says. He was a sensitive kid, upset about that quality in himself until he realized that it could be a gift too. Performing opened up a new way of relating with the world, he says: “Fortunately, there were these outlets: There were wonderfully complex human beings to step into, that I could relate to in one way or another. And purge, I guess, or, participate in another human being’s suffering, and not feel alone in my own. And then understand the universality of all of our suffering and joy, but embrace the moments of joy and honor the vast suffering that unfortunately is the pervasive underlayer.”
Mom came back from an assignment to shoot at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts with a feeling that her only child—a budding magician and a natural performer—might like to study acting formally. Before long, he was taking four acting classes a day at LaGuardia High School and eventually had booked a part with Francis Ford Coppola in New York Stories.
That one-day job provided lessons that endured: When the script called for a couple of girls to show a strong aversion to the awful cologne being worn by Brody’s character, the director doused the teenage Brody. “Coppola went full Method and poured a bottle of really shitty cologne all over me, so that the girls had something to react to,” Brody recalls.
When Brody was 19, Steven Soderbergh directed him in his Depression-era film King of the Hill. Anderson remembers seeing it with Owen Wilson and being captivated by Brody. “It was one of those entrances where you can just feel instantly, Oh, this is a movie star!” he says. “He sorta smiles his way through it a bit, and he seems so relaxed. And he just grabs you, instantly.”
For a while, stardom for Brody seemed just on the edge of the frame. He scored a big role in The Thin Red Line, only to learn that director Terrence Malick had mostly cut him out of the film, and stole scenes in Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam as a liberty-spiked New York punk. Brody kept plugging away.
As we talk, the trail ends and the two of us are deposited out of the canyon and onto a quiet street, a leafy cul-de-sac plump with large homes. Up ahead is the road that will lead us gently back down the hill, to the spot where we left our cars. Brody has a different idea. “I know another way out,” he says, appending a bit of a warning. “But it’s crazy.” Sure enough, he locates a new trail. It’s a narrow, steep single-track path that is presently baking in the midmorning heat. We take it.
It is Adrien Brody’s gift, but maybe more often his curse, that he lives for difficult roles. And not just the difficult ones—the ones that beat him up physically, that test his sanity. “I always go, ‘Why did I take this? Why do I want to do this?’ ” he says. “I’m very excited to do almost anything for a character. Like, I’ve eaten worms. I eat ants. I jumped out of helicopters. And then only afterwards you go, Wow, that was really dumb. Like, why did I do that?”
The answer is always the same: “Because you want to be fearless. It takes over any better sense of judgment that you should have, and you just go with it.”
He was 27 when Roman Polanski gave him the chance to put his thoughts about acting and suffering to the test. In The Pianist, a true story of endurance and devastation, he played the title character, Władysław Szpilman, a Jewish musician who survived the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. To prepare, Brody carved his life down to the bone. He sold his car and disconnected his phones. He gave up his apartment and put his things into storage. He spent his days alone in hotel rooms in Germany and Poland, practicing the piano.
“It was an enormous responsibility, and it changed me,” he says. Physically, the shoot was a nightmare. He was depressed for a year after production wrapped, and unhappy with a body ravaged by a crash diet that got him down to 130 pounds. The whole thing left him with a sadness that lingers still. “But I had no idea what was coming,” he says. “I had no idea.”
“I aspired for more, and it felt like my theory of contributing and pouring my blood, sweat, and tears into a project didn’t yield the results.”
Of course, The Pianist was rapturously received—most especially for Brody’s haunting performance. He was nominated for an Academy Award and was seemingly admitted to that rarefied realm reserved for our finest, most committed (and possibly most berserk) actors. He lodged in the public imagination as perhaps the next Robert De Niro or Daniel Day-Lewis—the off-kilter, not-traditionally-handsome-but-still-obviously-sexy leading man who will be every director’s first choice for every serious movie made for the rest of his life.
The week of the Oscars, Brody got a call from Jack Nicholson—they were both up for best actor, alongside Day-Lewis, Michael Caine, and Nicolas Cage. The United States had just sent troops to Iraq, and Jack called the nominees up to his house in the Hills to talk about how they should respond. It was a shock. The first time they’d met, Brody says, “He was calling me Brophy, and now Jack’s inviting me over to his house. I’m there with Michael Caine and I’m there with Nicolas Cage and they’re sipping scotch and they’re smoking cigars and we’re sitting around in a little circle.” All but Brody were previous Oscar winners. Nicholson suggested that they not attend the show, in protest of the war. Brody said, “Hey, I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going. But I agree with you: I think that whoever is called to the stage has some responsibility to acknowledge what’s going on.” He just didn’t think it would be him.
And then it was. Brody hadn’t expected to win—the morning of the show, he remembers sitting on the curb on Beverly Boulevard outside a diner in Hollywood, overwhelmed at the enormity of it all, while his visiting parents waited for him to collect himself. But the win wasn’t dumb luck, either. He had put everything he had into the role, and the experience seemed to solidify his conviction that, with enough effort, he could embody and portray the rawest extremes of human experience. It was insane to think he could come close to understanding the suffering of a Holocaust survivor like Szpilman, but there was a sort of euphoria in the effort of trying. “It was like the hardest thing I experienced on so many levels, and then anytime I started wallowing in my own minute suffering, I had this perspective,” he says. He learned a simple, indelible lesson: Making great art is painful. Which is why it’s also pretty much the only kind of art worth trying to make.
His secret, if you could call it that, was that he wasn’t always acting. “I’ve worked with actors who are brilliant and don’t look insincere, but can merely act. They can create,” he says. “It’s a wonderful magic trick. They can act like they love you, and they really don’t. And it takes work for me.” In one scene in The Pianist, he had to clamber over a wall, bust his ankle while landing on the other side, and stumble off, limping. So he stuffed a sharp rock into his shoe. It hurt to land on, and then to walk on, too. “Why have to think about acting a limp?” he asks now. “Just hurt for a minute. Just do it.”
Even now, working through a series of virile icons of American masculinity—Riley; what Brody calls his “shark” of a Succession character; Marilyn Monroe’s husband—this way of thinking comes in handy. “There’s no swagger without damage,” he says. “In fact, probably, most people swagger as a result of a lot of damage.” A swagger, he reasons, being itself a kind of limp.
The audience might only catch the smallest glimpses of this—the armature of pain Brody erects beneath each character’s surface. But he knows it’s there. “That’s essential, at least for my process,” he says. “I don’t always need a rock. But I do often have a rock.” An actual rock, he clarifies, can be useful to convey all manner of emotions, even if his character doesn’t have a foot problem.
“Now you’re learning all my secrets,” he says, laughing. “Fuck. Even when I’m not limping. That’s why I look so melancholy. I have a fucking rock under my foot.”
One thing Brody stresses as we walk is how unlikely this all was—how many tiny impossible things have to go right to make any movie, let alone one that sends its actor through the gauntlet of awards season and out the other side with a business card that reads Hollywood Darling. “You know, those things don’t necessarily happen, ever,” he says. “But the expectation can be that they should happen regularly.”
It took him a while to outgrow that expectation, and so the years that followed his Oscar win were disorienting. “I had been acting for 17 years, and people would recognize me, and it was normal,” he says. “Paparazzi, they couldn’t care less. No one followed me. No one started behaving strangely. No one did odd things. And then a lot of oddness happened.” After the Oscar, every interaction with other people was somehow different. “It was as if a storm rolled in,” he says. “Everything started blowing away—the life I knew.”
Don’t change, people kept telling him. Don’t change. So he didn’t. But then they went off and changed. They talked to him differently. Friends wanted to go into business with him. Photographers wanted to take his picture. Directors wanted him for their movies. None of it quite felt right. “It feels like it was a decade of finding out who and where I was. A lot of living and losing and winning and losing,” he says.
For a while, he had the uniquely bad luck of appearing in a number of panned projects by particularly well-liked filmmakers. He did The Village, M. Night Shyamalan’s first big wobble. Peter Jackson’s big-budget remake of King Kong. Wes Anderson’s dreary The Darjeeling Limited. Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom. All logical choices, on their merits; all performances characterized by Brody’s uniquely intense brand of pathos; all unlucky outcomes, by harsh Hollywood accounting.
He dreamed of getting away—of finding a place somewhere in upstate New York, the kind of house his dad would point out in the real estate listings when he was a kid. His friends Mark Ruffalo and Vera Farmiga had places away from the city, proving that escape wasn’t incompatible with a Hollywood career. He was dating the actress Elsa Pataky at the time, and he thought they could do the same thing. “I had way too much attention for my liking, and I thought I could retreat, come in, do my work and have this honest… I don’t know why, but I imagined it would be simple.”
Brody being Brody, it was not simple. He was working on a movie in Serbia and poking around at real estate listings online when he found the Stone Barn Castle. The enormous cobblestone-and-cement home, some four hours outside New York City, featured stables for horses and even an apple orchard. Brody was smitten. “I’d been dreaming of something dramatic,” he says. He bought it, and surprised Pataky with the purchase.
They set about on a massive renovation. But the relationship ended before they could move from the guest house to the main building.
It would be three or four years before Brody could move into the main house himself, so intensive was the construction. What began as an escape became an all-consuming project, equal parts distraction and balm. He traveled to India and China to find the right materials. He bought church windows and hand-hewn beams from farms in New York and Pennsylvania and Canada. He had a team re-pointing stones for four years. Free home makeover advice from Adrien Brody: Don’t worry about re-pointing stones. “I employed a group of men to come and chisel away every stone, underground and up above. And then when it’s all done, it looks the same. It is a little bit neater.” That feeling suffused the whole project: “I don’t know what the purpose of it really is yet,” he says. “But it is an achievement.”
And then, five or six, or maybe eight, years ago, he looked up and realized that his day job wasn’t getting any easier. He was still applying the maniacal effort that shot him to fame, but the work no longer seemed to repay his exertion. “There was this protracted period where I realized that that path wasn’t working, for whatever reason,” he says. “I aspired for more, and it felt like my theory of contributing and pouring my blood, sweat, and tears into a project didn’t yield the results. There was a disconnect somehow to what I had done for so long, and it just wasn’t working.” So he stepped back. He finished off the projects he was working on, and said no to the ones that came in. He grew his hair long, and started wearing a beard. He hung out with artists and started painting. He made music. He traveled the world.
Eventually, he came to understand the hobbies he’d thrown himself into less as attempted diversions from acting and more as ways of buttressing his belief in his own creativity—different, and often less painful, ways to channel his energy. “That’s living, that’s not running away,” he says. “It’s being present with something, and trying to create something that endures.”
Initially, our plan is to meet again the next day to talk over lunch. But as we nosh in the parking lot after our hike, we figure: Why not do this again tomorrow? We’ll have to get up a bit earlier, to account for the heat, but Brody is game and so am I. Later that night, he sends along coordinates that I follow, at 7:30 the next morning, to a trailhead near an eerie old abandoned zoo complex. This time, Brody has packed a container of sliced peaches and blood orange, and brought along little oyster forks we use to spear the fruit.
Almost immediately, Brody’s attention is captured by a squirrel hiding in a nearby rock. He crouches, willing the creature over, and apologizes to the squirrel for not having brought food. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m not prepared because I didn’t know I would meet such a cute little dude.” Brody is patient and still, and it’s working—the squirrel comes within a few inches, then retreats, then comes closer again. They repeat the dance until the animal is a whisker away from Brody’s hand. “Adrien Brody makes very authentic squirrel noises,” he says, anticipating how the interaction will appear in this story, “then communes with the wild animal right before me in the zoo.” This lasts about five minutes. “I gave him his chance to bite me,” Brody says, after he’s broken eye contact with the squirrel. “He didn’t do it.”
Brody is still putting it all out there—still giving the squirrels of the world plenty of chances to bite him—but lately things have been breaking his way. He’s in a happy relationship with the fashion designer Georgina Chapman. (Because Chapman was previously married to Harvey Weinstein, Brody has again become something of a tabloid fixture. “Life works in mysterious ways—put it to you that way,” he says of the relationship. And then, later, about the strange way his relationship has come to be something in which the public feels invested: “What could I say about that that would make it anything other than what it is?”)
He found his way back to Hollywood, first in bits and then all at once. He spent a while writing and then making Clean, a movie about a New York sanitation worker with a tortured past, which will be released next year. That project let him explore some deeply held ideas about what makes for compelling drama, in filmmaking and in life: “Everything has got to work against you. And then if you make it through, that’s somewhat heroic, and that’s real life, and that’s what everybody faces every day.” (He also got to indulge a longtime passion: His character drives Brody’s personal matte-black 1987 Buick Grand National. “It’s a beautiful car,” he says. “Very menacing.”)
After sitting things out for a little while and gaining some new perspective, he found that “interesting filmmakers were coming to me with things.” Many of these projects have freed him from the responsibility of being the leading man forced to suffer for the audience’s enjoyment. Instead, he gets to do sharply observed character work. He steals scenes, and cracks jokes.
He especially loved tangling with Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong while making Succession‘s third season. “Here I am jumping in with these big sharks really in their element, their ocean,” Brody says. “And then I have to jump in and bite back. I like the thrill of that.” He knows a couple of guys like his character, he says, billionaire hotshots. I ask if he’s hit them up to pick their brains on the finer points of the executive lifestyle. “No, no, I don’t even need to,” he says, smiling like he’s just completed his own piece of corporate dealsmanship. “I’ve already picked it! I already own it!” Brody says he’s enjoyed operating in the show’s raw, funny register. “I tend to harp on a lot of the heavy things that I see in life,” he says. “But there’s a lot of humor in even the not-so-nice qualities of people that you know. Certain things that come out and you go, ‘That was odd,’ or ‘That was a little offensive.’ ”
Elsewhere, he’s tipping into pure comedy. In The French Dispatch, he plays a slick art dealer who recognizes, in a painter imprisoned for murder, the future of contemporary art—and, joyfully, he gets laughs. Directed by Wes Anderson, it’s the latest in a collaboration that is helping him rewrite the trajectory of his career. “Wes allowed me to have fun,” he says. More than that, it seems that Anderson showed the rest of Hollywood that Brody could have fun, too. “It isn’t something he had to pull out of a hat,” Brody says of Anderson, charmingly insistent that he has learned to loosen up and have a little fun.
Of course, Brody still relishes the tough work. Andrew Dominik, director of the Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, praised Brody’s unwillingness to polish his portrayal of Arthur Miller. “He’s playing a character who’s not being seen sympathetically,” Dominik tells me. “And often where an actor is playing a part that’s unflattering, they will sort of be more of an asshole. It’s a way of saying, ‘I’m playing an asshole, but it’s not me.’ And Adrien’s instinct was completely the opposite.” This year’s Chapelwaite, meanwhile, was an old-fashioned Brody sufferfest. The Epix series, adapted from the Stephen King short story Jerusalem’s Lot, was pure gothic horror, but Brody was nonetheless able to draw from experience: He played a man driven to insanity after coming into possession of a haunted house.
With time, Brody has gotten a little wiser about what is worth suffering for. By way of explaining this shift, he tells me a story about a movie he made more than a decade ago. Wrecked was a queasy thriller that opens moments after his character suffers amnesia (and worse) after crashing his car into a ravine. Brody appears in nearly every shot, in varying degrees of agony. “You just watch me scream and flail about for a couple of hours” is how he describes it. The shoot was brutal—the character spends the whole movie with a broken leg, which meant that Brody spent most of the production crawling on his stomach across the forest floor. After a while, he started using the backs of his hands to crawl, since his palms were stuck full of thorns.
One day, the crew was shooting by a river, and Brody noticed that the rushing water had carved this perfect little oval pool in the center of a rock. In this pool Brody saw “a drowning earthworm, undulating on the bottom of the stone.” It looked like one of his mother’s photographs. This little worm—drowning but still wriggling for the surface, fighting a battle Brody could see it was doomed to lose—filled him with emotion. This, he knew, was why he was suffering through the shoot—this was his character in a single shot. “That guy’s not going to make it, and it’s so beautiful,” he says. “It’s so picturesque and tragic, and it encompasses all that we’re saying.” He asked the director to shoot it.
But Wrecked was an independent feature, strapped for cash and perennially low on time. The director said no. Brody asked again. The director said no again. “I’ll eat it,” Brody offered. The director asked for his camera. Brody ate the worm.
“It was disgusting,” Brody tells me. “I think it got me sick.”
He paused. “But it’s in the movie.”
He shares this story with me on a rocky trail high above sunny Los Angeles, the exciting third act of his career laid out like the freeway humming beneath us. Thinking back on the worm he ate, Brody wonders now what purpose his sacrifice really served. “For what benefit?” he asks. “Who even notices it?” Wrecked was a little-seen indie, and you can barely spot the scene if you’re not looking for it. He knows he didn’t have to do it. “But somehow,” he says, “I’m compelled to.”
What he’s learned, I think, is something about his own expectations. Something liberating, perhaps. You don’t need to believe that eating a worm will turn a fine movie into a great one. Or that re-pointing the below-ground stones—the ones nobody will ever see—will redeem a years-long renovation debacle. Doing the hard thing isn’t always the answer. Suffering doesn’t make you a better artist, and it definitely doesn’t make you an easier person to be around. But you can’t learn what you’re really made of without doing your fair share of suffering.
I’d asked him, earlier in the day, why he held onto his castle—whether, once the renovation started dragging on, he’d ever thought about just getting rid of what had become, inescapably, a very expensive reminder of a difficult time. He’d considered the idea. Of course he had, he told me. How could you not? “I could’ve sold. I could’ve got out immediately and said, This is too much,” he said. And then, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world: “But I can’t do that.”
Sam Schube is GQ’s deputy site editor.
A version of this story originally appeared in the November 2021 issue with the title “Adrien Brody Finds His Chill.”
Photographs by Jason Nocito
Styled by Jon Tietz
Hair by Thom Priano for R+Co. Haircare
Skin by Kumi Craig for The Wall Group
Tailoring by Ksenia Golub
Set design by Robert Sumrell for Walter Schupfer Management
Produced by Eric Jacobson at Hen’s Tooth Productions
Adrien Brody on His Ties to China and New Film. (EXCLUSIVE)
Source: Variety (August 04/2017)
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Adrien Brody was feted Friday August 4, 2017 with a lifetime achievement award at the Locarno Film Festival, Europe’s preeminent indie event, where he sat down with Variety and talked about why his 2003 Oscar for “The Pianist” didn’t lead to as many big studio roles as could be expected. He also delved into his ties to China, where he is one of a handful of bankable Western stars; and was cagey about his upcoming roles in TV show “Peaky Blinders” and genre-bending picture “De Niro.” Excerpts.
Of your early films the one that stands out for me is “Bread and Roses” by Ken Loach, who was celebrated here in Locarno last year. It’s still timely, given that it’s about exploited Mexican workers in L.A. Can you talk to me a little about working with Loach. How did it happen?
I don’t recall the audition, but I do recall the nature of the way he works, which was: all the other participants were non-actors. Other than the two lead girls and one or two other people. The rest of them were janitors, some were union organisers; real people. Which was interesting. His approach was to have as many spontaneous things that could happen happen; and that would potentially change the screenplay. He would give us two-thirds of a scene, and I would not know the resolution. It was really interesting even as an exercise for me…Ken is such a genuine, generous soul. He’s such a concerned, kind person. It’s a great quality in a director.
Your career is being celebrated here in Locarno, which is a temple of indie cinema. Of course you’ve worked a lot in the indie world, and with some of the best directors. But you have also made studio pictures such as “King Kong” and “Predators.” I wonder why you haven’t worked more within the studio system. After all, you won an Oscar when you were 29. Is it because you haven’t been offered the right roles?
No. It’s because I carved out my own window. But partially you are right, there hasn’t been the right role. If I had been offered the iconic leading-man roles that studios were making more of at the time; the roles that George Clooney would gravitate to, someone far more established…there still is a hierarchy, and there still are only a handful of really brilliant movies that have been made. I’m very appreciative of the honor that was bestowed to me winning an Academy Award, and being young. And it was very important to me to remain an actor — if that makes sense — and not become what everyone was projecting upon me… I felt that maybe the avalanche of what was coming my way — even with some of those high-caliber films that were coming my way — I wanted to stick to my m.o. which was: find the role that speaks to me first and foremost; filmmakers that are interesting, and don’t be afraid of risky creative choices, because I view the process as something that should be far more artistically motivated. “Predators” is a great example: I didn’t do “Predators” because I was dying to do a studio movie. It is a studio movie. But I did it because I thought: ‘how interesting, how unpredictable, what a wonderful challenge it would be to step into the shoes of a Swartzenegger character; an iconic ’80’s overtly muscular action hero role, and do it with a sense of playfulness but also try and bring my own integrity to it.’
Similarly to Clooney you have your own production company, Fable House. But your company, set up in 2014, has financing from China, where as I understand it, they love you thanks to “Dragon Blade,” which was a big hit in 2015, and before that “Back to 1942.” Can you talk to me about your ties with the Chinese film industry?
My fascination with Chinese cinema starts with my dad. Back in the early ’80’s we would go to Canal Street and watch obscure crazy Kung Fu movies; great strange old films, which I bet influenced Tarantino. RZA from Wu Tang Clan was also inspired by them and created a whole subculture of hip hop infused with this culture. So I’ve always this connection.. I loved all those things as a teen-ager. I studied martial arts. China is a fascinating place. I think [in general] it [the relationship] is a little skewed and jaded now, because Hollywood is clamouring to be part of it and vice-versa. Obviously there are a lot of resources there. My timing was interesting because I was ahead of the curve. To be honest, being a business man doesn’t appeal to me that much. All my motivation was just to create better opportunities for me. China has welcomed that…In the case of “Dragon Blade” I got to do this martial arts character. It’s all heightened, but it was a lot of fun to play a pure villain with all types of insecurities. And Jackie Chan and his producing partners have been very supportive. But I’ve kind of pulled back on developing several projects that are close to the vest because it’s cumbersome to do co-productions. Also, I’m painting very seriously which is a big part of my life and I actually went on hiatus and decided to not do business and not act unless something came along that really moved me. But I’m still passionate about some [Fable House] projects, it’s still in the mix.
You’ve been doing TV lately: “Houdini”; a very well-received episode of Showtime’s “Dice.” And soon you will be playing Thomas Shelby’s biggest threat in the new season of “Peaky Blinders.” Can you reveal anything about your part in “Peaky Blinders,” beyond the fact that you will be a big threat to the family? What kind of preparation did you do to immerse yourself in the role?
I’d rather not delve too much because the production is super secretive, but I love the show. The writing is fantastic, which is a big thrill to me. Steve Knight is very talented, the actors on board are great. All I can tell you is it’s something fun to immerse myself in, and it’s the kind of role I’ve longed to play.
Your next movie to hit the screens is titled “De Niro,” described as a Reservoir Dogs-type thriller. Can you talk to me about that?
We’ve shot that. John Malkovich was wonderful to work with, Rory Culkin is in the film as well; very strong. It’s little premature to talk about, but what attracted me most is it’s a great young writer/director named Paul Solet [“Grace”] and it’s the kind of movie I’d like to go see. It blurs several genres: it’s got a thriller aspect to it; it’s got a contained dramatic element to it; and it has a degree of action. I love the fact that there is a dog, who is a central character, who is named De Niro. I love animals. There is kind of a parallel made about abused animals, or neglected animals, and also people, in society….Even though it’s a pretty commercial film on the surface, it has this undercurrent that I relate to. That’s what was appealing to me about that film, and of course working with John, an actor I’ve always admired. We had a good time…I think Rory is going to be really special in the film, and the dog was wonderful.
Adrien Brody: The quiet American.
Article Archive: July 08, 2012.
Since winning his Oscar at 29, Adrien Brody has refused to be typecast. He talks about his unexpectedly diverse career, the debt he owes his parents and how to run away from a gorilla
This is the most intimate interview I’ve ever done,” whispers Adrien Brody, which is exactly the kind of thing you want to hear when you’re inches away from an Oscar-winning Hollywood actor who’s interrupted his holiday to chat to you. And when the two of you are sitting on a baking-hot day in an upscale beach complex in Monaco that is part Stella Artois advert and part JG Ballard novel, without a PR person in sight to chivvy things along and prevent you from asking impertinent questions. So who are you to quibble if the sotto voce intimacy is down to your subject having lost his voice?
“I have laryngitis – did they tell you?” he’d mouthed when he first bounded down the steps wearing a trilby with a peacock-blue band and a huge smile.
Actually they did, but I assumed that was star-speak for a bit of a croaky voice and instantly wiped it from my mind. As it turns out, Brody really can’t talk; not in any significantly audible – and therefore tape recordable – way. I experience a moment of excruciating anxiety followed by certainty that I am now sweating so profusely I will shortly resemble Dirk Bogarde in the closing scene of Death in Venice. Later I realise that it’s unlikely that I’ve concealed this from the highly empathic Brody, who immediately cracks a joke. “It’s not me being a strange actor,” he promises. “‘Adrien would only do the interview in mime’… Me and Daniel Day-Lewis, we do this, you know.” I recover sufficiently to tell him that if I subsequently find out this is method-style research for a role as a mute, I will be really angry with him.
Though it’s hard to imagine being so. Brody is terribly engaging: by turns solemn and funny, wise-cracking and serious. He is confident and relaxed, but with an air of vulnerability that is exacerbated, although I don’t think created, by his slightly lugubrious looks; you feel that he’s hiding nothing, but that there’s a lot to get to.
Laryngitis or no laryngitis, we’d better crack on. “When I have something really great to say, I’ll put a little voice in it,” he reassures me. “Until then, I’ll just whisper.” I nod, and hold the tape recorder very close; at moments during our conversation, I realise I’m whispering, as well, and apologise. “You can whisper, too,” he smiles. “It’s nice.”
We begin by murmuring about Detachment, in which Brody plays Henry Barthes, a substitute teacher who grapples with the shortcomings of the American public-school system by day and tries to turn round the life of a teenage prostitute by night. It is compellingly, harrowingly brilliant, but it is fair to say that it is also short on laughs; for those, one can go to another recently released Brody offering, High School, in which he plays Psycho Ed, a maniacal drug dealer whose weed gets a whole school stoned. It is hard to come up with two films more different; unless, perhaps, you think of The Pianist, for which Brody won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2002, and 2010’s Predators. He is not, as we will see, an actor who intends to be typecast.
In Detachment, Brody plays contained angst to enormous effect: Henry Barthes tames unruly hordes of disaffected kids through a kind of charismatic distance while privately flipping out, sitting weeping on buses as he remembers his dead alcoholic mother or giving in to explosive bouts of fury. It’s not that much of a surprise to discover that the film was directed by Tony Kaye, who also brought us American History X. Both films have at their heart men who maintain their stoicism in a sea of distress and dysfunction; they are, in a sense, explorations of tortured masculinity. On its surface, Detachment is a film about the failings of state schooling; but Brody insists that it is also about “aloneness as a human condition; as a greater, graver issue”.
“Tony would be the first one to tell you that his objective was not to make a movie critical of the education system, which obviously has flaws, we all know that,” says Brody. “But I think the education of us, and our soul, and our being, comes from a much earlier place, you know, and is the responsibility of the parents and the loved ones in our lives. A little bit of attention and kindness can totally change a whole life, and a lack of that can do the same… I think a lot of children are not given the respect they deserve, and it’s the one thing to which I can attribute my success as a person, my evolution, from my parents, from that upbringing – no other influence I think had that kind of profound effect on me.”
His family life also had a more direct influence on his portrayal of Henry Barthes, which he describes as “an homage to my father and the contribution he’s made, which is very generous and underappreciated by society”. A teacher throughout his career, Brody’s father even shot a scene for the film, in which he played Henry’s estranged father. “I swear, he was fucking brilliant; my mum and I were, like, jaws on the floor,” Brody grins. His dad didn’t make it into the final edit, but Brody hopes the scene might become a DVD extra. In the meantime, however, he’s just happy that he’s been able to give his father equal billing alongside his photographer mother, whose “tremendous inspiration” he’s often credited in the past.
He grew up in Queens, New York: outside was a “relatively harsh environment, neighbourhood-wise”; inside “a home that had love and creativity and respect”. His mother used to take him with her on jobs, and was one day sent to photograph an acting school. “It’s random. She may not have got that assignment. I may not have gone to an acting school at a young age.” In fact he’d started performing even before that, doing magic tricks as a young child, and I ask him whether he thinks being an only child determined his career choice. He talks for a little about how his parents spoke to him as an adult, and how he was encouraged to develop his imagination, and then he says, very seriously: “I think it forced me to be mature, because I had to be accountable when I came home. I couldn’t run off and blame it on my brother or sister. I had to be accountable.”
Accountability is clearly a big thing for Brody, who rarely speaks of a role without using the word “responsibility”. It makes perfect sense, of course, when he’s talking about playing Wladyslaw Szpilman, whose fight for survival during the Second World War he depicted in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist. Brody became the youngest ever winner of the Oscar for best actor, fending off the claims of Michael Caine, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jack Nicholson and Nicholas Cage; it was a particularly sweet success following the low point of a few years earlier, when what had started out as a substantial part in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line was virtually edited out of existence.
The Pianist, he says now, was “all consuming. For a good year after, I was probably seriously depressed”. A year? “Easily,” he replies. “There were severe transitions that I put myself through physically and emotionally… I shot it when I was 27, and that was my real awakening and entrance into adulthood, that responsibility, and awareness of my own good fortune that I had taken for granted.”
The responsibility of playing a Polish Jew during the Holocaust is obvious; and Brody also speaks powerfully about his regret that more roles of that calibre haven’t come his (or anyone else’s) way during the decade since The Pianist was made. So what attracted him to capering around in blockbusters such as Predators or King Kong? Well, he explains carefully, his dislike of repeating things extends even to individual scenes: “The key is to somehow get yourself to a place where it feels as real as it can feel, and you can’t repeat that… But it’s so precarious, that place, it’s so hard to find, and it takes all that work to get to it, and then it’s not something you just turn on and repeat, and so, yes, I like things that are very different for me and cause me to have to stretch.”
Hmm. Wasn’t King Kong also just… fun? He laughs: “It was pretty fun! It was harder than I anticipated. I wanted to do it because I thought it would be fun, and kind of a departure from all the weighty things that I’m attracted to, but in order to portray fear, for instance, which you have to experience in a jungle running from a 25ft gorilla, you have to find things that frighten you, and it’s much more challenging when there’s no gorilla there and there’s a tennis ball on a stick. You still have the same responsibility to feel. If I don’t feel it, why should I expect you to feel it? I can’t fake it.”
Brody’s immersion in roles is well-known – he lost vast amounts of weight for The Pianist (he was hardly chubby to start with), not to mention relinquishing his home and his relationship, he bulked up for Predators and took a part with virtually no words in M Night Shyamalan’s The Village. It is said that when he was filming The Jacket, in which he played a Gulf War veteran sent to an institution and subjected to radical therapy, he asked to be left in a straitjacket in a morgue drawer even when the cameras weren’t rolling. There is devotion to one’s art, and then there is obsession.
Which is why I’m somewhat taken aback to find that his holiday is an open-ended one, with no concrete plans to return to work. “You’re finding me at a very blessed time in my life,” he says. “I’m embracing hanging out.” His day job, he points out, requires material, and while he waits for something suitable to come along, he has a licence to relax; in his personal life, he says, he’s “a free man”. “I have a lot of discipline and I have a lot of self- control, and I think it’s important to relinquish some of that at times, to surrender to whatever will be.” Insofar as he has any plans, he thinks he might spend the summer in Europe, “then I’ll buckle down”. In any case, he laughs, “My level of irresponsibility is… not so bad.”
It certainly isn’t. I’m not sure very many other actors would have torn themselves away from the beach and lugged themselves, voiceless, to an interview to promote a small, relentlessly serious film. Of course there are some perks associated with being a film star – the bar where we’ve been sitting opened especially for us, and we’ve had the whole place to ourselves. “This has never happened to me before!” whispers Brody as we make our way out. “It’s like being Tom Cruise or something!”
Added from: theguardian
The Pianist: An Interview with Adrien Brody.
Article Archive: January 02, 2003.
The Freedom to Wait
Adrien Brody wears silvery sneakers with his black suit. He looks slightly weary, and awaits his pancakes. Aside from time out for making a music video with Tori Amos, for “A Sorta Fairytale” (in which he spends most of his onscreen time as his head attached to a hand, only), Brody has been traveling during the past year, promoting The Pianist.
Based on the 1946 memoirs of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew and composer-pianist who hid in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, in and around the Jewish ghetto, Roman Polanski’s Palm d’Or-winning film also incorporates some of his own memories of the ghetto, from which he escaped at age 7.
While the 29-year-old New York native has worked on any number of rewarding and difficult films in the recent past—including Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam and Barry Levinson’s Liberty Heights (both 1999), Ken Loach’s Bread and Roses and Elie Chouraqui’s Harrison’s Flowers (both 2000)—few had the effect on him of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line (1998), from which most of his part was, now famously, cut. This after spending months shooting in Australia.
For The Pianist, Brody committed himself wholly, learning to play Chopin and speak Polish, losing thirty pounds to shoot the final ghetto scenes, when Szpilman was starving nearly to death, working for months in an abandoned Soviet Army barracks in Jüterbog, a former East German town outside Berlin. Remembering these months, he looks pensive, a little sad. Unlike most filmmaking experiences, this one was grueling, wondrous, and life-changing.
We spoke first about his opportunities.
You’ve had the chance to work with incredibly respected directors—Steven Soderbergh [on King of the Hill], Terrence Malick, Spike Lee, Ken Loach, Barry Levinson, and now, Roman Polanski.
It is unusual, I think, and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience all of these interesting, creative people’s styles. Not only in a career sense has it been good for me, but I’ve been personally influenced by it. People are “good” for a reason, and they all have wonderful qualities that I’ve learned from. I also come in contact with these projects because I’m looking for material that’s somewhat inspirational. And I’m fortunate that I’m able to hold off and not necessarily do things just for the sake of working. Unfortunately, most actors don’t have that luxury. Somehow, I’ve managed to do that.
How have you managed?
My parents have raised me with a sense of what’s really important and have given me decent values, and I’m comfortable, but I haven’t lived an excessive lifestyle in the least. And I’ve kept my expenses to a minimum so that I have the freedom to wait.
I grew up in a house with an illustrator and photographer, and I’m wondering what it was like to grow up in a house with your mother [photojournalist Sylvia Plachy]?
I was surrounded with her pictures everywhere, negatives hanging in the bathroom, prints drying on record racks in the hallway, film canisters being rinsed out in the tub. And I went with her on assignments, or down to the Village Voice offices. And my father [Elliot Brody] was a public school teacher in New York. He’s been a great father to me, really encouraging and patient. So all of those things have shaped me, as well as the environment on the streets, which was entirely different. It was difficult, and that too has shaped me. So, I had this nurturing home life, but I know what’s out there too, on a very real level.
And unfortunately, my friends who didn’t have that home life, it’s been more difficult for them. I have friends who went to art school with me, whom I knew from Queens. We’d take the train in together to go to [High School for the] Performing Arts, and they had to let a lot of it go. First of al, they weren’t encouraged, it’s very competitive, and they had no money. We didn’t have much, but they had none, and so they had to step out into the world and just start supporting themselves. And you lose track. Fortunately, I began acting before supporting myself became an issue. You don’t make much money from independent films and theater that’s off-off-off Broadway, and workshops at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music], which I was doing when I was young. But I did manage to get an occasional commercial that would supplement my income for a while. I didn’t have the pressure of being out on my own, studying for years and then arriving in L.A. I was able to work toward something for a long time.
And I’m still working towards it. None of those films with those great directors was presented to me. It was all a struggle to get them. Looking back on it, it’s interesting that I was able to get so many roles like that and be right for them. That’s another thing. There are the obstacles of your position as an actor, not being a commodity enough to be hired by the big directors for projects that have some kind of integrity, because the successful actors who’ve been in the game for a while want those roles. So there’s more competition, so you have to work harder and be right for it.
You’re almost uncannily right for Wladyslaw Szpilman. On its face, it seems so daunting, not just because it’s so large, but also because it’s about receding over time, almost caving into yourself.
It’s hard to describe it. For one thing, I had to shoot it in reverse chronology, and it was hard to be completely involved with that end state of being that this man ended up in, and not taking that journey, even as a character. And then I had to eliminate all of those feelings that I had cultivated over time, to connect with him, and then make it seem as though, not only had I never experienced them, but they were infeasible for him and everyone around him.
What’s remarkable is that the character is somewhat detached from everything, and isn’t typically heroic. There were extended periods of silence, where I was just called to react. I’d never had that opportunity in a film, and that’s a whole different process. There’s not another actor there who’s either inspirational or who picks up some of the slack. You have to stay on, and there’s no moment to escape being immersed in that state of mind. No moment whatsoever, on set and off. Roman doesn’t even like using a stand-in. I’ve never worked this hard in my life. And it makes everything else that comes my way so much easier. Even painful things in my own life, I’m like, “Ahh!”
We had a premiere in L.A., and I’d done this movie like a year and a half ago, I’d been all over the world, doing press for the film and it’s been meaning so much to me. Finally, there was an opportunity for an American audience to see the film, and it was in Hollywood. I couldn’t wait for people to see my work in something extremely dramatic. And then, the sound broke! They cut the film and couldn’t fix it. And it was a benefit. And it was done. No L.A. premiere.
And I swear to you, it occurred to me, you know what, considering what this man endured, and really what this film stands for, this is so insignificant. And that enabled me to see things in a way that I don’t think I would have been able to, had I not experienced this on a somewhat profound level. I appreciated it so much in that moment. And I thought about it a lot. And I thought, I was disappointed, even more for the people who were there and paid for this benefit. And Jack Nicholson was there; I was dying for him to see my movie. But it didn’t mean that much. And that’s a real gift to be able to see things in that way. I don’t know if I’ll always be able to do that, but that’s a perfect example of how it changed me, in a way that I’ve noticed. It’s changed me in other ways. I feel bad, sort of, asking if I can get some syrup for my pancakes! [laughs] I should just eat them and not complain.
This is rare, for a movie to have that kind of effect.
Oh yes. I strive to find material that I will grow from, that will inspire me or educate me about some social issue that I don’t know enough about, or that I do know about, but I want to learn more, about struggles that I haven’t had to endure. And that gives you a greater understanding of the suffering that exists in the world, and also the joy that exists in the world. How good we have it here, also became very clear to me. On Ken Loach’s film [Bread and Roses], I learned a great deal, as well.
So you do a lot of research for such roles?
I do, often. Especially if it’s encouraged by the director, when there’s a place for it. I’m not someone who needs to do it for the sake of doing it, to say that I did it… later. It’s a great story that I lost all this weight for this role [30 pounds] and learned to play Chopin and all that stuff. I didn’t know it was a story when I was doing it. I was just thinking, “Oh shit, I’ve got to lose all this weight in 6 weeks.” And I didn’t eat much. And I made it through. It’s kind of wonderful to see that physical transformation, but it made me connect, too. Initially I did it for a technical reason. I did want to understand the loss, this emptiness that real hunger does encourage. It creates this whole thought process that kind of harps on emptiness. And it’s something that I didn’t know, really, not to that extent. At the time, though, I did it because it was a necessity.
In Summer of Sam, I had to embrace punk rock music. I didn’t really grow up with punk, I didn’t appreciate it really, but I learned it, as I learned to learn the fingering on the guitar. It freed me, really, because the character was so uninhibited. That was necessary then, because I had felt very inhibited from Thin Red Line, for the role, cultivating all this fear. Fear is an emotion that’s terrible to live with; it’s something that we try to work away from since childhood. And for that film, I was forced to embrace it. And… I had something to be afraid of… but it wasn’t in the script! [laughs] You should be very afraid!
You don’t feel fear regularly, as an actor?
Sure you do. But that’s exciting. As an actor, I’m not afraid of putting myself out there. As a human being, you feel these things in any endeavor. I remember years ago, I did a film called Ten Benny, originally called Nothing to Lose. And I went to Sundance with it, the first time I went, nine years ago. It was a lead role, I was a young man, or I felt like a man, but I wasn’t, I was 20. And I remember Parker Posey was there, and she was doing all these interviews, and I was thinking, “Wow, that must be so difficult, putting herself out there.” I was so nervous about the prospect of doing serious interviews. And here I am, for the past few months, I’ve been traveling the world discussing a very serious subject matter, and having to represent the film, in a way, because Roman is not discussing it. And I’m sharing personal things about myself, and being able to convey these things without being inhibited, in a sense. If I had let that fear inhibit me, and say, “No, I’m not going to do any interviews,” it would hold me back. Not only from helping the film and increasing awareness of the film, which is part of the objective. But it’s more interesting to discuss things that have had a profound effect on you, even if you have to repeat certain things, some hundreds of times. There are questions that stimulate a thought process about serious things, and these discussions can be incredible. I’ve had to formulate serious opinions about some things. And that’s very helpful, I think, for a young man. There is value and purpose in this process, even though at times it’s difficult. And that’s what’s wonderful about it.
What has the process revealed to you, as you see how people respond to the film?
Everybody has an opinion. Basically, you hear all these different perspectives, and they mention things you may not have considered, or you mention things they may not have considered. Doing interviews is very different from working as an actor, because it’s up to the journalist not only to understand what I’m trying to convey, but to convey that understanding through their process. And often times it gets manipulated, sometimes intentionally, by pulling things out of context. And that’s frustrating. Some people may not appreciate your work and some may be incredibly moved by it. So that isn’t the concern. You have to do what you can do, and share what you feel is appropriate to share in the moment. And then, it’s out of your control. Hopefully, most of the time, it comes back in the right way.
How does it feel to have this preserved record of your work and thinking, sort of “snapshots” of yourself, follow you around?
It’s wonderful. That’s something that I really value. So I can show my kids, someday, that I was cool. Somebody asked me the other night on the street in Boston, “Do you know anybody who is looking for “rolls.” And I’m sure he was trying to sell me some drugs, but I could only think, “Am I that old that I don’t know the lingo?” What rolls? What is that? I really gave it some thought. You don’t want to be out of touch when you’re a young actor. And I get called on to play a junkie, that’s the first thing I’ll learn.
Is it difficult to maintain contact with ordinary life, especially when you’re working on these lengthy projects, like the Malick or this one.
In that moment of making the film, it’s fine. The problem is when you become so well known that everyone is watching you and you don’t have an opportunity to observe. That’s something that I’m concerned about, because it’s getting there. It’s something that I don’t want to lose. I like taking the train. I like being unnoticed when I don’t feel like being noticed. It’s not like I crave attention all the time. Something that I’ve always loved and appreciated is the chance to see something about someone’s character, observe and kind of retain it, and study it without feeling like I’m studying it. I have an intense curiosity. And it would be a shame if I lose the ability to do that.
And I imagine that as the fame thing increases, people you don’t know well begin to perform for you.
That’s the other thing, is that people have preconceived notions of who you are and are unable to be just themselves, some shift. Being just yourself means you’re unselfconscious in that moment. Or maybe we’re all self-conscious to an extent. You meet a pretty girl, you’re different from when you meet a tough kid on the street. So perhaps we always are acting, in a sense. But you meet someone you feel you admire or you “know,” and it’ll be different for that reason. So far, it’s an interesting ride, and I’m curious to see what I can find next.
Added from: popmaster