at just 25 years of age, adrien Brody has collected credits with an awesome group of directors: Barry Levinson (Liberty Heights), Spike Lee (Summer Of Sam), Steven Soderbergh (King Of The Hill), Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line) and Ken Loach (Bread And Roses)."I've worked with great directors not because I'm actively pursuing great directors, but because I look for inspirational material," he says on the phone from Boston. "I'm seeking something that moves me or makes a socially relevant statement, and it tends to be the great directors who make that sort of film."
Enter Roman Polanski, who cast him in The Pianist (see review, this page) as Wladyslaw Szpilman, a young Polish piano virtuoso who saw the Nazis arrive and managed to survive the Holocaust.
Brody, a young actor with a great profile in the film industry -- but not with the public -- seems an odd choice to play a Polish classical musician. Most of his roles have been as Americans, for starters.
"The problem with the industry is that you see someone play something well, and that's how that person is seen and typecast. Roman saw me working in Paris and thought I had the discipline to play this character."
The discipline involved losing almost 30 pounds, and no one has ever described the gangly Brody as anything but thin. He also had to work on the piano so that he could be seen playing it, even if the piano soundtrack was dubbed in afterwards.
"I'm passionate about music. I use a sequencer and keyboard and had some training as a kid. That helped a lot. Roman insisted that I actually play, and it really gave me an understanding of the intimacy between a performer and the music and the composer. During the production, the piano became my escape from the hunger I was experiencing losing the weight."
Brody is quick to credit Polanski for the subtlety of his performance, which has a genuinely aristocratic quality. It's one of the toughest things for an American actor to manage, that sense of languid entitlement that Brody captures in the film's early scenes. He got some of his understanding of that sensibility from observing his director.
"Roman gave me a tremendous amount of experience and insight. I grasped Szpilman because of who Roman is. I would try to absorb qualities from Roman that I thought were right for the character."
Though Brody does attract a lot of attention from A-list filmmakers, he doesn't rush into a project. Since The Pianist, he's completed a role in Keith Gordon's adaptation of The Singing Detective, which will premiere next month at Sundance. Beyond that, things are pretty wide open.
"I'm waiting for inspiration," he says, obviously between mouthfuls of lunch. "I need to find something that's a journey I feel like taking, so I'm being patient."reviewadrien brody strikes a chord in the pianist
THE PIANIST directed by Roman Polanski, written by Ronald Harwood based on the book by Wladyslaw Szpilman, produced by Polanski, Alain Sarde and Robert Benmussa, with Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay and Maureen Lipman. 148 minutes. A TVA Films release. Opens December 25. Rating: NNNNwinner of the palme d'Or at Cannes this year, The Pianist offers the peculiar spectacle of Roman Polanski, the dark imp of post-1960s European film, standing up as one of the last bastions of humanist cinema. Opting not to go with autobiography (if reports are to be believed, Polanski's childhood in wartime Poland was much like the life depicted in Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird), Polanski has filmed the memoir of pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, who survived the war in part because the local Polish Gestapo guy admired his playing.What Polanski captures better than any other director I can think of is the way the Nazis succeeded because of the sheer perfection of their racial insanity. Events are presented not merely as shocking or horrifying but as unbelievable, even to the people to whom they're happening. Recreating in Berlin's Babelsburg studios the perpetually shrinking Warsaw ghetto of the film's first hour and a half, Polanski manages a near-documentary precision that throws the almost surreal horror into more startling relief. The performance of Adrien Brody, the young American actor best known for his work in Spike Lee's Summer Of Sam and Ken Loach's Bread And Roses, anchors The Pianist. And Polanski somehow persuades us that the characters played by his multinational cast (English, German, Polish, American) actually belong together.