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Hollywoodland - Adrien Brody interview

Adrien Brody in Hollywoodland

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ADRIEN Brody talks about playing a private detective in Hollywoodland, as well as his experiences of the studio system – both good and bad.

Q. You doggedly search out the truth in this movie. Did you come to any conclusions yourself about the fate of George Reeves in light of any research you may have done while preparing for the role?
Adrien Brody: I think initially Simo’s quest is much more superficial. This is a flashy case and obviously would land him a lot of credibility if he was able to disprove the police reports. But along the way he gains an understanding and a bit of empathy for Reeves as a human being, rather than just trying to solve the case for his own means.

I usually decline from sharing my own personal opinion, partially not to weight in on it because I think the purpose of the film is to paint an objective portrayal of what could have happened. Also, more importantly, it’s about more than solving the mystery even though that is the story. There are a lot of unanswered questions and I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if I do have a right answer.

Q. Does this case still strike a raw nerve with anyone you met during the course of filming Hollywoodland?
Adrien Brody: It’s interesting because normally there’s a tremendous amount of research done into the details of a case like this. But Alan [the director] and I felt that because Simo wasn’t the greatest detective, I tried to keep my investigation to purely an understanding of [studio boss, Eddie] Mannix and more of the way studios control and the level of that control rather than the details of the case.

Q. Do you find that the ruthlessness of studios still exists – but in a different form nowadays?
Adrien Brody: I think every individual’s experience is different. I’ve had both wonderful and not so wonderful experiences with the way a studio took care of me, or decided not to and throw me to the wolves, so to speak.

Focus, who produced this film, took wonderful care of me in the process of The Pianist, which I had to pretty much single-handedly go out and increase awareness of. At the time, of course, I was not really well known outside of the industry and I really appreciated that. It was a very thoughtful process and there was kindness, even though it was a business transaction. I didn’t feel alone even though I was alone – Roman [Polanski] wasn’t able to travel on behalf of the film. So it was my duty.

My experience with The Thin Red Line, in contrast, wasn’t so wonderful. I’m sure there was some awareness that I wasn’t going to be in the film – although I’m not sure because Terrence [Malick, director] had a lot of control over it. But they ultimately didn’t tell me that I wouldn’t be in the film. So George Reeves and I both have been cut out of James Jones movies!

I felt a particular level of empathy for him in that moment as he watched the scene play out in his premiere because I had a similar experience. I was being touted as one of the leads – not the lead – which the character was in the novel, yet I was essentially omitted. I had already done a substantial amount of press, I was on the cover of Vanity Fair‘s Hollywood edition which was publicly humiliating in a way.

It really didn’t reflect anything to do with me but I don’t think they were concerned about the repercussions that might have had on my career as an actor. I don’t think it was quite the same as what George experienced but I definitely don’t think there was much regard for me and for what I had contributed to that.

Q. George Reeves felt a need to be validated for his work. Is the same true of actors nowadays?
Adrien Brody: It’s nice when people have nice things to say about your work, I don’t deny that. For me personally, I try to find material that inspires some kind of growth in me and that allows me to push beyond a safe barrier. I’m trying to take risks for myself. So, part of it is exposing those risks – I may or may not be successful and I have to accept that. But the more well-known you are, the more people have pre-conceived notions of how you are as an actor and as a human being.

I feel that it’s a difficult question because I try to base my choices for my own benefit – but obviously there is a part of me that would like it to be well-received. You don’t want to do work that people aren’t moved by. More than a favourable review or a comment, I want people to walk away from a film of mine having connected to my character. If I’m able to do that, I feel I’m doing my job. And the way you know that is from what people say to you as a response to it and your own feelings about it. I’m relatively objective and self-critical.

Read our verdict on Hollywoodland