In Michael Greenspan's directorial debut "Wrecked," which had its world premiere at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival last week, Adrien Brody eats a worm, ingests an ant, fends off a mountain lion, and climbs up a muddy hill in the middle of the forest. It's a characteristically committed performance from the Oscar-winning actor, who's worked with a some of the most renown directors in the industry, including Roman Polanski, Spike Lee, and Wes Anderson.
"Wrecked" features Brody in one of his most charged roles to date, as a man who wakes up in the passenger seat of a car wreck with a dead guy in the backseat, no recollection of how he got there, and no sense of who he is. Brody, on hand in Abu Dhabi for the film's official kick-off, spoke at an intimate press conference following the "Wrecked" premiere. In a surprisingly candid chat, Brody covered an array of topics: he likened his experience of being heavily cut from Terence Malick's "The Thin Red Line," to the loss soldiers feel when returning home from war; spoke of his time working with Polanski on "The Pianist;" addressed why he chose to work with a first-time director on "Wrecked;" and even dished about his performance in Woody Allen's next romantic comedy, "Midnight in Paris." Below are snippets from his talk.
Brody on working with Roman Polanski for "The Pianist"...
"It was intense but incredibly rewarding in so many ways. It changed my perspective as a human being, and gave me an understanding that I didn't possess. I look at that moment as the defining moment where I moved into manhood; where I realized in my research and through the insight that Roman inspired in me (by sharing his own personal experiences of lost with me), how much I had taken for granted in my lifetime.
"I received the recognition for this movie at 29, but I was 27 when I made this movie. I was very young in the grand scheme of things. It was epic on many levels -the epiphanies that occurred as a result of that. And I owe that to him, and to his trust in me. I didn't have to audition for that film. We met, and his decision stemmed from his trust in me. I'm grateful."
Brody on why he chose to work with a first time director on "Wrecked"...
"I believed that Michael had the ability to make something special. And I had a blueprint to work with from the script, and in the conversations that Michael and I had.
"You can't just make safe bets. Even directors and actors who do great work, do not always do great work. And I don't feel like you can wait around until someone of note comes to you and says come work with me. You have to seek out new things that inspire you.
"The key to this working is that he really didn't have to babysit me. You have to have trust in each other, and I trust Michael."
Brody on being significantly cut from Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line"...
"Shooting was a six month experience. That was something that I had gotten against all odds. The character is written as a Midwestern, all American type - which I don't fit. I had auditioned for several roles, and the one I got was the one coveted role. It was a remarkable experience, and a major life one that taught me a lot.
"On some level I felt a connection to the loss and lack of understanding that soldiers feel after they come home, supporting the values of their country, and coming home to no one understanding what they had gone through, and the lack of opportunities that await when they get home. That is what I experienced. All my experiences disappeared. All the pain, suffering, and creativity disappeared. It was public, so that was an additional issue."
Brody on his role in Woody Allen's upcoming film, and Allen's similarities to Ken Loach, who directed him in "Bread and Roses"...
"Woody Allen was wonderful to work with. It's always been a dream of mine. So kind, and gentle, and generous, encouraging and enthusiastic about my approach. It was brief though. It was also a chance to work with Owen Wilson again, who I share a friendship with. I didn't get the whole script, but I didn't push the subject. Both him and Ken Loach don't give you the whole script."
Brody on attending the Abu Dhabi Film Festival for the second time, following his visit here to support "The Brothers Bloom" in 2008...
"I love experiencing the uniqueness of every part of the world, and it's a wonderful opportunity to be here in Abu Dhabi. I'm sharing this experience with my mother for the second time. We had such an amazing time on our first visit. It's a gift.
"You know film festivals are very dear to me. They provide a voice for creative people in my industry. My first ever real notice was from Sundance at a very young age when a journalist made a reference to my work in "Restaurant," saying that I had a young, raw intensity of a young De Niro or Pacino. In Cannes you know, "The Pianist" was the recipient of the Palme d'or and the screening got a standing ovations of 20 minutes. It brought tears to my eyes.
Brody on what he's learned over the years following his success...
"I can honestly say that much of my own understanding, and my insight, has come from the research I've done on characters that are not myself.
"Obviously we all hope to learn from our mistakes, but it's normal to make mistakes. The key is to be conscious of the lessons that become of those. I've had the good fortune of living through the mistakes of many lives that aren't even my own. I've also had the luxury of truly embracing and defending them without my ego at stake, to understand where we all go wrong. Enough so, that it has given me substantial guidance in my real life."