Few Hollywood actors can match the driven perfectionism of Adrien Brody. His legendary dedication to method acting includes losing 15kg of weight in just six weeks to portray a Holocaust victim in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist – a turn that led to him becoming the youngest ever recipient of a Best Actor Oscar – and living for weeks in isolation in the jungles of Hawaii to play a ruthless soldier in Predators. His latest role, in low-budget indie flick Wrecked, is another disturbingly intense character – a man who wakes in the middle of the forest in a crashed car with no recollections of how he ended up there. To prepare, he spent a night alone in a freezing Canadian forest and lived (briefly) on a diet of insects. Despite a reputation for fervent dedication and intensity, we found him incredibly affable as he chatted about returning to the UAE (he was last here to promote The Brothers Bloom) and his penchant for harrowing roles.
Why was Abu Dhabi chosen for the world premiere of Wrecked?
The producers submit the film to a number of festivals and then they decide where to take it, where they feel it would be well received. But I was here at the film festival two years ago with my mum and she’s coming back with me, so I can’t wait to get back and go on the water slide at Emirates Palace! Also, this is director Michael Greenspan’s first feature, so it’s an exciting adventure for us all to come and explore this city.
What drew you to working with a first-time director on such a small-budget film?
I do a lot of independent movies as I tend to respond to the material rather than the size of the budget. Unfortunately, the calibre of the role is not always commensurate with the cost of the production, and usually the more emotional and compelling storylines come with the smaller films. In this case, what attracted me was that it’s one man’s survival story and the search for identity. This is the most universal concept to explore in a character as it clearly illustrates that so much of who we think we are is based on what we’ve been told or how people react to us.
How did you prepare for the role?
First I spent a night alone in the forests of Canada in February. Being on your own with no comforts is pretty horrible as I was just shivering all night, but my character in the film is in the same situation, but has a broken leg and can’t remember who he is. There’s also one scene where my character eats insects, so I actually had a go at it. The director had scripted this really beautiful shot where I was trapped in the car and – it was kind of metaphorical – I was watching ants crawl across the dashboard and then escape through a crack in the windshield. So I just improvised and reached out and ate one. The producer was like: ‘If he’s willing to eat an insect, let’s put it in,’ so we ran with it.
Were they tasty?
Don’t touch worms – they’re disgusting – but ants are delicious. They almost taste like raspberry vinaigrette. They’re very fruit-like, almost like a berry. But they do bite back; they were chewing on the inside of my cheek as I ate them! But yes, I’d highly recommend eating ants if you’re ever that hungry. I wouldn’t make a habit of snacking on them, but if the role required it, sure. I’d do it again.
How hard is it, after putting yourself through such hardships, to return to your normal comfortable home life?
Well, The Pianist was such a disturbing role it took me about a year to recover from it; in fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever fully recovered from such a harrowing role. But I don’t think this is necessarily such a bad thing as it’s given me a sense of gratitude and comprehension of how much suffering does exist in the world, and how valuable it is that we are not afflicted by that kind of pain and loss.
Do you ever wish you could do, let’s say, a romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston?
Yeah, that would be fantastic. I know Jen well and I actually told her many years ago that I’d love to star in a film with her. It would be great to do a broad comedic character it would be a reprieve from the usual weighty roles I’m drawn to. Sometimes, if you’re successful in showing how well you can go in one direction, you need to push yourself in other ways. That’s why I did Predators. There was a lot of scepticism when it was announced that I had taken the Arnold role. But I received a lot of endorsements from people I know. That’s what filmmaking’s all about – being outside your comfort bubble and pushing yourself to the limits.
Abu Dhabi Film Fest
Formerly entitled the Middle East International Film Festival, this year ADFF will be screening 170 films from 28 countries, including 12 world premieres. Running from October 15-22 at Emirates Palace, screenings include Juliette Binoche’s Certified Copy and the John Malkovich-fronted racehorse drama Secretariat (the opening film), alongside Indian, Emirati and Egyptian films and many more. As usual, organisers are remaining tight-lipped about which stars will be attending beyond confirming Uma Thurman and Adrien Brody, though we’ve heard Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Scarlett Johanssen’s names mentioned. There will also be a string of workshops, Q&A sessions with stars and directors, and even a Family Day on October 23, featuring international cartoons.
ADFF tickets cost Dhs20 for regular screenings, Dhs40 for galas, or Dhs300 for a pass to all regular screenings. Available from Emirates Palace or online at www.adff.ae