Glass talks to Oscar award winning actor Adrien Brody

IN HIS latest film, Clean, phenomenal US actor ADRIEN BRODY not only takes the lead but is also producer, co-writer and composer. He tells us why he’s still looking to achieve more.

Adrien Brody is a rare talent whose career has been as unconventional as it has fearless. At the age of 29, he became the youngest person ever to win an Oscar for Best Actor for his harrowing performance in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist. He has managed to garner critical acclaim in a massively lucrative Hollywood blockbuster (King Kong) and has easily stepped from high-budget action movies (Predators)to low-budget indie flicks (Wrecked) and back again.

He has developed a 16-year collaborative relationship with the perennially loved director Wes Anderson and gave a searing performance in, arguably, the best BBC TV series of the last decade (Peaky Blinders), to name just a fraction of his accomplishments. And then in 2018, Brody seemingly disappeared for a few years, during which time he worked on his painting.

Adrien Brody Glass 49Adrien Brody. Photographer: Kat Irlin

The son of the highly acclaimed Hungarian-Czech documentary photographer Sylvia Plachy and Polish-American history professor and painter Elliot Brody, Brody was born to be creative, be it music, film, painting or writing.

This year he re-emerges with a handful of highly anticipated projects, including Clean, a crime drama about a troubled garbage man with a dark past that he co-wrote, produced, scored and starred in, and Blonde, a Marilyn Monroe biopic in which he plays Monroe’s husband, the legendary playwright Arthur Miller.

Adrien Brody Glass 49Adrien Brody. Photographer: Kat IrlinAdrien Brody Glass 49Adrien Brody. Photographer: Kat IrlinAdrien Brody Glass 49Adrien Brody. Photographer: Kat IrlinAdrien Brody Glass 49Adrien Brody. Photographer: Kat Irlin

Our video call takes place on a grey and wet day in England but a bright, snowy one in New York, judging by Brody’s expansive garden looming in the background. He turns the camera around to show me the backdrops of Clean that he’s set up in his home as an improvised press junket location in the absence of being able to do in-person press, expressing dismay at the catastrophic effect the Covid-19 lockdown shave had on the entertainment industry.

He is instantly warm and personable. Suddenly an enormous cat tries to get his attention. “Oh sorry, I have a giant cat sat next to me,” he laughs. “He is my pal.” He resumes talking only to be interrupted by his dog trying to steal his breakfast. “Sorry,” he laughs again. “I have dogs and cats and everyone thinks what’s mine is theirs.”

Adrien Brody Glass 49Adrien Brody. Photographer: Kat Irlin

Is Clean the first film that you have written?

Yes, this is something that came from me and that I really wanted to do for a long time. I reached out to Paul Solet – the co-writer of the film – and I really felt like he could help me rein in these ideas [as] he understands the balance of the darkness I wanted to convey and the degree of action. I feel like this is the first time I have had the courage to really create something. This has gone much beyond just writing – it was a catalyst for me to be more courageous with my music as well, which I hadn’t shared or found an outlet for; it had never felt like a cohesive body of work before.

I have made music since I was 19 to sort of bide my time while I waited for my creative work as an actor. A lot of time when I was younger, I was kicking around in LA. I made beats instead of playing video games or hanging out. I was felt like it was productive to be creating something – but then I never did anything with it for practically 30 years.

I didn’t intend on scoring the film or creating any original music for it when I set out to write Clean. It just ended up being the perfect way to tell the story emotionally. It all kind of stems from the same place. It was really exciting. It has been such a wonderful, creative endeavour. Painful but wonderful.

Adrien Brody Glass 49Adrien Brody. Photographer: Kat Irlin

You spend so much time in the preparation for the role and in production and filming. When it’s all over, is there a sense of emptiness?

Yes definitely. Anybody who knows and loves me knows I am happiest when I am working. I think it is a great burden and a great relief to work really hard on something you are really passionate about. You can pour everything into that and there are often times, in independent films in particular, where they have limited resources and time – everyone is overworked and burnt by the time you finish a movie.

This is the nature of it – and it is somewhat addictive. It is a fight or flight syndrome; adrenaline is coursing and either you fail – which you can’t allow yourself to do – or you prevail. And in order to prevail, you have to break past the comfort zone. You can’t give up, right? That’s taught me a lot in the way I approach my work. I think you need that level of tenacity to at least strive to create greatness and you have to surround yourself with people who are willing to kick into gear when push comes to shove.

But I always have something I want to do – I paint a lot and I am still making lots of music, and I have other projects I am trying to develop. I have a pretty full life that I am grateful for. There have been periods in my life where I haven’t actually found inspirational work and I have taken long periods of time away from it [… ] There were offers, but I knew they weren’t really going to satisfy what I really wanted to do. And those were really frustrating times. But fortunately, at the moment, I have plenty that I am immersed in that I don’t feel idle.

Adrien Brody Glass 49Adrien Brody. Photographer: Kat Irlin

I read in one of your recent interviews that you said, “I need to start living up to my own expectations”. This is a pretty surprising statement from someone so accomplished – what have you still not lived up to?

I appreciate you saying that [… and] I am very grateful for and proud of all these achievements. It is remarkable. But I don’t think anybody, and I have met many successful people in my lifetime, I don’t think a past triumph … hmmm …

… ever quenches that thirst?

Yes that’s what I’m trying to say. Momentarily you do and you can embrace that – as you should. But there is so much that I really want to accomplish and haven’t done. My mother is a wonderful artist and photographer. I have worked with some really wonderful filmmakers and directors who have taught me so much that I would love to do that work and have that communication with actors. So yes, I am working on trying to do all of that. And of course, I am always looking for great roles that I can transport myself into. That doesn’t end – I don’t think that will ever end.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and who gave it to you?

That is a pretty easy one because I remember a moment in my life where I’d just started acting professionally. I was probably 13 and I had an audition to play the lead in a public television film. My father sent me to the audition on my own but before he left, he said, “just go in there like you already have the part and you’re just going in there to show them how you do it”. It’s such a beautiful and practical piece of advice which I share with other actors. It’s about owning the work and letting go of the inhibitions and the fact you are trying to get that acceptance and approval of your work. Just be it and do it – the rest will follow.

Adrien Brody Glass 49Adrien Brody. Photographer: Kat IrlinAdrien Brody Glass 49Adrien Brody. Photographer: Kat Irlin

by Nicola Kavanagh

Photographer: Kat Irlin

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