Adrien Brody. Oscar-winning Adrien Brody. Oscar-winning Adrien Brody meets the predator? In the jungle? Really? In what must be one of the most interesting casting decisions of the year, an actor not exactly first in mind for an action film has leapt into Governor Schwarzenegger's muddy combat boots to effectively reboot a much-loved, but recently much-maligned movie series. Buzzine's own Izumi Hasegawa jumped into the fray to chat with Mr. Brody about physical acting, working with monsters and the unquenchable love the 14-year-old version of himself has for the original Predator...
Izumi Hasegawa: I know that part of acting is being physical, but how much of this new Predators movie involves you guys rolling down hillsides: it seems like a lot?
IH: You almost took your eye out? I think I remember talking to you once for another movie years ago…
AB: Where I almost took my eye out?
IH: You got knocked off a truck or something like that. Could it have been the movie where you played a photojournalist?
AB: Harrison’s Flowers. I remember that. That film, actually, they blew a wall out in a narrow corridor and they forgot to give me ear protection. That has had an effect on me. But they were using full-on gas-can explosions and blowing trucks up which leveled us and knocked us to the ground. I think that’s what we’re talking about.
There’s something very exciting about shooting with practical effects, and I remember distinctly in that film because it was kind of lawless and we were shooting in Eastern Europe, and certain safety restrictions didn’t really apply and things were burning — I was in burning buildings. They blew a candy glass wall out on me, but candy glass is very sharp. It’s not candy — it’s a very hard, plastic-like consistency. But what I try to do is embrace any element of risk or danger and heighten mistakes and, for the most part, you’re safe, and occasionally things happen.
IH: And you’re thinking, “I’m doing this because…”
AB: I love it.
IH: Were you a fan of the Predator movies before this one?
AB: I’m a huge fan of the original and of the series itself. I distinctly remember going opening weekend when I was about 14, when this thing came out, and I remember my friends and I doing our Schwarzenegger impressions for the rest of the week. I think I was even smoking in the front row. You kind of got away with that then. We were the key audience group then. It was such a hardcore action film, even for the ’80s. The action sequences were relentless, and the firepower they had, just the level of suspense, that was really fun, and I think we had an opportunity to tonally tap into that and create something different as well.
IH: At the age of 14, when you were doing that, were you thinking of going into acting then?
AB: I was already an actor, but I never would have imagined that the gauntlet would be passed to my skinny ass. The objective is to be a chameleon and to exist truthfully in any genre, and that’s something I’ve worked consciously on my entire career, and I think I’m very grateful for the success of The Pianist, but I think that had such an impact on many people and was such a powerful story that I have been linked to that film, and it’s difficult, sometimes, for people to see beyond that, whereas I had been working professionally 17 years before that – many films. I think the dilemma for actors is that you are often given opportunities to repeat yourself, in some capacity, because you’ve proven yourself. It’s very difficult to say to a studio, “Yes, I possess the qualities that are right for this role. I will bring something that has perhaps not even been seen in this genre and yet have not had that opportunity.”
It’s the same thing. It’s very difficult to get an agent when you start as an actor. There are a lot of talented people that can’t get representation because they have nothing to show the agent, so the agent isn’t inclined to send them out to get work in the first place. But at 14, it would have been difficult to imagine myself getting this specific opportunity. But when I was in college, I was very fit and strong; strength wasn’t the issue. It’s about, again, where Hollywood has conventionally gone – the direction they go in for contemporary leading men — and I’ve made a conscious effort to constantly try to bring a level of truth to those roles and have access to play them as darker, flawed human beings rather than something that is superhuman.
IH: This story seemed to do away with back-story to get the ground running – for instance, preferring to have the characters learn about each other at the same rate as the audience. Did you find any freedom in that?
AB: It’s not necessary to spell it out to you, but it is important that we’re intimate with what makes our characters tick.
IH: It struck me that the characters are all very different, but it seems that these are all people that would have super-sharp instincts and operate from that in a strange place. But how much did you guys get to decide what they’d do? How much came from you and how much came from the script?
AB: We do have a script; we do have story structure that is there. There was room for a bit of improvisation and amending certain things and making things feel more truthful. I know that Walton [Goggins] and I both have had opportunities, and you don’t always have that luxury, to have the support of Nimrod (Antal) and Robert (Rodriguez) and the studio to play with certain things. Structurally, I think it’s established. You have to then make sense of that. Just because my character ends up in a leadership position isn’t enough for me. I have to investigate the qualities and skill sets that would put that man in the leadership position. I felt it was very important to be well-versed in a lot of military and para-military and tracking skills. It’s not just a level of confidence that puts him in that position; he’s the most well-versed, and I think the interesting dynamic is that it’s a group of lethal individuals. But what differentiates Royce is that he himself is a hunter, and a hunter of man, and that’s a very powerful position because he knows how to protect himself from the enemy, because he is that.
IH: Can you talk about working with real monsters — guys in costumes in scenes? How does that heighten the experience as opposed to working with a tennis ball on a stake?
AB: It’s very exciting, especially in this case, because I think somehow, deep in the recesses of my subconscious, these predator creatures, the image of them, still lurked because it did have such an impact on me in my adolescence. So to find myself battling them out and encountering them is a powerful experience. It did adrenalize me. First of all, the actors that are portraying these predators are strong, imposing guys themselves. They’re almost seven feet tall, practically, and very fit, and that costume is an armor. I ripped my knuckle off at one point, accidentally hitting his suit, and when you have a chance to interact at anytime, as an actor, with anything with a practical effect, it’s going to have a more powerful effect on you and feel more truthful.
I’ve had a lot of green screen work with nothing in the room, and it’s very challenging. It’s much more difficult than I had anticipated because you still have to connect to something truthful, and there’s nothing there. So it’s challenging. But it’s an exciting thing to get to play with these guys, then you find yourself sitting on director’s chairs in between takes with predators and hanging out, and that’s a whole other surreal aspect of this.
IH: I’d like to ask about your upcoming project The Experiment, written and directed by Paul Scheuring of Prison Break…
AB: I have a few things that will hopefully come out this year. The Experiment is done. It was a film I did with Forest Whitaker about a sociological prison experiment that is conducted in a state prison-like environment — a fascinating premise. I have a few films that will come out. High School, which is a bit more than a stoner comedy but a very broad, comedic role for myself, which should come out this year as well. Wrecked is also completed, which is amazing. It was interesting to follow this into another survivor story. I play a man alone in the woods trying to fend for himself. It’s very extreme. Stans comes in and saves the day.
'Predators' is in theaters now from 20th Century Fox.