Adrian Brody never ceases to amaze you. As a child, he enthralled the young and the old at birthday parties with magic tricks, and now as an adult, he captivates millions with his often soul searching films. Seen in movies like Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam and Terrence Malik’s The Thin Red Line, Brody won acclaim with Roman Polanski’s 2002 The Pianist.
As Wladyslaw Szpilman, a renowned pianist working for Warsaw Radio, in the Polanski movie, Brody won the Oscar for Best Actor. He was only 29 (the youngest ever actor to have won this honour), and had put in a punishing effort for the work: he withdrew for months, gave up his car and flat, lost 13 kg and learnt to play the piano. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was certainly impressed by his superb performance, not, though, his then girlfriend, who left him. She could not probably take in Brody’s slow transformation from a healthy, happy guy into a miserable Jewish pianist, who had to virtually live like a rat in basements and attics, forever fearful that he would be caught and gassed to death. On the screen, hounded by the Nazis and forced to starve for weeks on end, Szpilman was undoubtedly marvellous.
He feels that acting is not about looking at oneself in the mirror. “I spend very little time in front of it. Acting must come from within you. As an actor you must be able to emote pain, pleasure, joy and sorrow with equal ease”. Only then can an actor be convincing. Also, the mirror will keep reminding the actor who he really is, and not quite the character he is supposed to essay.
This merely helps one to be a character’s natural best. The actor talks about Ken Loch’s Bread and Roses in 2002, where he plays an immigrant janitor in Los Angeles, treated unfairly and unequally by the system. “Now Loach will never give you the whole script. He will you hand over just two-thirds of it, and when you came to the end of your lines, there was always some surprise or the other waiting, provoking a natural and honest reaction from you”, Brody smiles.
When Brody is himself not shocked or surprised, he is all out to stun you.
In his latest movie, Wrecked (helmed by Michael Greenspan and part of the Festival), where Brody essays a car crash victim suffering from amnesia, he eats a worm. He actually did it. “I push myself into doing such things”, he says. For the sake of the project, for authenticity and a feel of reality!
Brody has jumped into freezing waters, has broken his nose doing stunts and has given Halle Berry a back-breaking kiss while he accepting his Oscar. If all these were not enough, the man swallowed the worm much to the discomfort and disbelief of all those on the sets of “Wrecked”. Oh, boy, did he manage to wreck their debonair and confidence that day?
(Gautaman Bhaskaran covers films festivals across continents, and is now at Abu Dhabi. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )