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The Darjeeling Limited - Adrien Brody interview

Adrien Brody in The Darjeeling Limited

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ADRIEN Brody about getting to work with Wes Anderson on The Darjeeling Limited, shooting on location in India and fitting in despite not having brothers of his own.

He also talks about the ease of finding roles since winning an Oscar for The Pianist and why he now wishes that every movie could be like the Darjeeling experience…

Have you always been a fan of Wes Anderson’s work?
Adrien Brody: I was a big fan of his work actually. I used to say to a couple of my friends who were also admirers of his work that I would love to be in a Wes Anderson movie. I think they’re incredibly unique and he has a wonderful body of work. The characters are just special. There’s an oddness to them but at also something that you can really relate to and they have a sense of humour without being superficial. It was something I’d been looking to find as an actor, so I was very excited when I heard that he wanted me.

What did you like about the story?
Adrien Brody: Well, it boiled down to being an opportunity to work with Wes initially. But what attracted me to the story was partially the adventure of it – that we would be shooting in India and that we’d be shooting on a moving train. But there were a lot of elements that appealed to me, such as the struggle with the brothers – that they love each other but they can’t really relate to each other and feel estranged from each other; the aspects of loss and again the humour, because there is a broad comedy to it and that’s something I enjoy working on. It’s rare to find a movie that allows, or has room for both. I always try to find material that inspires me and it’s the kind of movie I would go and see, so all of that fit the criteria.

You were the newcomer to the Wes Anderson family, if you like, so how did that feel?
Adrien Brody: Well, I’ve been asked that question a lot and I think the advantage is that I was the only person who had to fit in, as opposed to everyone. The normal routine is always the same thing whether it’s on a new movie or a new job – there’s always a process of getting to know one another. I think part of what makes movies special is that it is a relatively intimate environment and it’s pretty short-lived – you get to know one another very quickly and I think being on location you’re all on a journey together.

In this case it was very extreme and they had a routine. Owen [Wilson] and Jason [Schwartzman] hadn’t worked together – they’d both worked with Wes obviously – so the three of us were working together for the first time and it didn’t feel strange. It was kind of a gift in a way because Wes has a very intimate working environment, more so than most films. We all lived together in a big house and the train was very close quarters but I felt very welcome. His ensemble didn’t feel at all about having to fit in; we were all there to do the same thing, we all had similar sensibilities and it was all about the work. We had a lot of laughs, so it was great.

How easy was it to relate to the brother dynamic given that you don’t have brothers of your own?
Adrien Brody: I’m fortunate to have good friends that are like brothers and piss me off as much as a brother might. We’ve fought like brothers and we’ve travelled, so I can relate. I think definitely it was helpful for Jason, Wes and Roman [Coppola] in writing a story about brothers to have brothers themselves to relate to and draw from. But as an actor it’s very easy to understand the difficulties of a family dynamic.

Were you very different in the way all three of you approached the characters, or in your acting styles?
Adrien Brody: Yeah, I would say so. Most actors are different in styles – everybody has their own approach. There was a lot of choreography to this because of the nature of the shots, the close proximity and the timing was so important, so everybody had to be very prepared. So I guess depending also on what my job requirement is, my techniques change. If something is incredibly difficult to connect to, and painful, then I have to do a lot of work to connect to that and not joke around or lose sight of my job. In this case, that wasn’t a burden that I had to deal with. I had perhaps a different approach than normal, which I appreciated. I think the key no matter what anyone’s technique is to get there, is to be present. If everybody is present, you’re winning. If you’re with someone that’s not present, then you have to act with them and try to be present knowing that they’re not and that’s very challenging.

Did you have to think about giving each other room, so as not to make any gesture that would detract from any key moment?
Adrien Brody: I think you have to be fair with one another. It’s unfortunate when someone does something that’s not authentic, or not there for any reason other than to draw attention. But none of us were in that state of mind and nor was there a competitiveness on the set. We just played off one another. The pace was very quick and there wasn’t a lot of room for anything like that – it wasn’t like anyone needed to be centre stage anyway. Anything anyone would do was acceptable. I have worked with actors who do things deliberately and it’s a drag because you’re aware of it and either the director may not be aware of it or he may encourage it. But it’s counter-productive and it probably stems from insecurity. I think the trick is to be less self-aware in those moments.

I felt on this movie that I wished more movies were like this, even though it was difficult at times. We were up very early in the morning working very long hours. The trains would travel six hours in each direction and we filmed the entire time but it was so inspirational. If we finished a little early we’d be on the train coming back and there were no rules. I’d be hanging off the side of the train and there were no PAs being worried that I was going to hurt myself. I had a motorcycle while I was there and I was careful because it’s kind of insane to ride a motorcycle in India, but they let me be and it was an amazing adventure, so all of that excitement was present every day. It felt like what perhaps making a movie should feel like without the elements that can happen. I think a lot of that has to do with the environment that Wes created and the environment that India creates. I think we were all very touched by it. It affected me very deeply in a positive way.

How hard is it to then let go of a character and experience like that? When it came to the end of filming was there a sense of achievement tinged with regret that the adventure was coming to an end?
Adrien Brody: Yeah, but I think there always is even if it’s a painful shoot – there have been a few where I was like: “Thank God I’m getting out of here”! But for the most part, it’s kind of sad to let it go. It’s something you’ve become very familiar with, especially by the end of filming. This is a difficult character for me to really analyse because the process was different for me and when I would ask Wes about he, he essentially wrote it with me in mind. I didn’t know if that was a compliment or an insult [laughs] because I didn’t quite see what had inspired him in me! But then when I see the character, even though I’m very different from what he’s going through, I see a lot of myself in him – more than I see in most roles that I’ve played. So it means I was very connected to it [the character] I guess. I like having a reminder of my state of mind then, which was not dissimilar in terms of the journey our characters took.

Since you won the Oscar [for The Pianist] is it easier or harder to find the right parts?
Adrien Brody: Well, it’s complicated. I’m very grateful that I have more opportunities presented to me but then there are more opportunities to take the wrong roles as well, and different possibilities to the ones you were dealing with before. But I’m thankful that I feel confident that there is work around the corner and that I can also take breaks. That’s something I didn’t feel confident about when I was struggling as an actor.

I now try to pace myself and not work for the sake of working and stick to what inspired me prior to receiving that recognition. I also try to maintain a presence in the larger scale films and also do independent films that inspire me along the way. That’s my process and it hasn’t really changed. So, while there are more opportunities it doesn’t mean that there is an infinite amount of brilliant material and there are also actors who have access to that material before I do. But it is better and I’m grateful for that.

b>Read our review of The Darjeeling Limited

b>Read our interview with Jason Schwartzman