Adrien Brody cover story - ELLE Men China
Writer / Creative Director / Producer: Dana Poblete
Photographer: Rene Habermacher
At first sight, there is something immediately striking about Adrien Brody, which is to be expected considering his magnetic onscreen presence. In person, the allure is tangible, as he emerges from inside a black town car on a cobblestone street in Paris, looking more natural in the act than any typical American, let alone a neighborhood guy from Queens, New York. Fresh from Milan men’s fashion week, where he walked the runway for the Prada FW12 show, today the Oscar-winning actor is in Paris for a premiere of his latest drama, Detachment—a film that explores the culture of public education and the emotional lives of the teachers and students within. From here he’ll go to China to film his next project, an epic period film by Feng Xiaogang.
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DP: You’ve said that Roman Polansky made you tougher. In what ways?
AB: Roman has experienced so many hardships for one human being. He possesses a real strength; not a hardness, but a strength. The character that I had to portray was also a real survivor, and had a lot of elements of [Roman]. So I really had to understand that quality. Roman had such high expectations of me and of everyone. And I, too, had high expectations and felt tremendous responsibility. I felt that there were things that I had to not resist in order to excel. I had to do it enough times that I let go of certain things that might have prevented me from moving forward. That was very valuable. There was a scene where he wanted me to jump out of a window down the top of a roof and onto a little blue mat, and it was a real old structure of a house, and they were going to shoot at me and I was supposed to fall. I questioned him, I said, ‘Did anybody try this?’ He said, ‘Don’t be a Hollywood actor.’ He went up the building, he climbed out of the window and he slid down the roof and jumped down the mat. He said, ‘There you go, somebody did it, now you do it.’ So from then on I felt like that’s what he expects, and I can relate. I think there’s something to be said for that. It’s one thing for a director to tell you to go do something that’s dangerous. If he’s willing to go jump in there and do that, you can’t really be squeamish, you have to just do it. But then I had to do it 10 times, and I did it face-first to upstage him [laughs], so I had all these bruises on my ribs from the tiles of the roof. But it was exciting.
DP: Can you describe the feeling you got when you won that Oscar?
AB: Um…That was a phenomenal moment. It’s hard to describe. I was preparing myself to not be too disappointed. I understand the nature of things, and I understand that I was a real dark horse in the race. I’m very grateful for all the awareness of the film and my work. But when that happened it was really a profound gift. I was there with both of my parents and they’ve been very supportive. I had been working professionally for 17 years already before that. To a lot of people, I was an overnight success. My success on that level was overnight as a result of that. But it was such a long road, and I felt it in that moment. It became apparent. All the sacrifices I made and good fortune that I’d had, and decisions that I’d made, whether they were right or wrong, and paths that led me to that moment. It’s more than winning the lottery. To have an opportunity to be pulled from relative obscurity as an actor, in association with a role that had such a profound effect on me as a human being – for the world to see, to share with my parents – was epic. Everyday I’m grateful for that. I’m here as a result of that. It was just remarkable. And then I got to top it all off with a little kiss with Halle. It was a good day in LA [laughs]! Pfff…crazy [laughs].
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