He's best known for his Oscar-winning turn in The Pianist, so why is Adrien Brody stepping into Arnie territory?
ShortList is making bizarre clicking noises down the telephone. At the other end is one of the greatest Hollywood actors. We’ve convinced Adrien Brody that we do an impeccable impression of the Predator, from the 1987 movie of the same name, and he’s hearing us out. Brody is responding with a strong impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger, star of said flick. “Get to dah choppah,” he grunts in between our alien noises. “Ruuun!”
We reckon we out-impersonated him but Brody won’t lose much sleep over that. His latest role in the new Predator film, imaginatively entitled Predators, is anything but an impression of Arnie’s character. How could it be? This is, after all, the man who at 29 became the youngest-ever recipient of the Oscar for Best Actor for his turn as a Jewish man who survives the Holocaust in The Pianist. This is the only American to win France’s prestigious Best Actor César Award. Arnold Schwarzenegger this ain’t.
“I was a huge fan of Predator,” explains Brody. “I’m incredibly impressed with Schwarzenegger and what he’s built from his dedication to his physique. He’s an amazing person to watch and in that role specifically he was iconic, so obviously there are fans that are going to compare Dutch [played by Arnie] and Royce [Brody’s character]. But what are you going to do, hire someone that’s just as buff as Arnold? That’s going to do a Schwarzenegger rip-off, but nowhere near as good? Or go in a completely new direction and take it somewhere different? That’s a much smarter decision. That’s what we did.”
A different direction? Yes, but the plot doesn’t stray too far from the original. Royce is a mercenary leading a disparate band of killers through a jungle as they are hunted down by the same type of alien that stalked Arnie and Co. The major difference? These guys have a whole clan of the suckers on their backs.
You’ll see a major difference in Brody, too. This isn’t the 130-pounder who starved himself to portray Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist in 2002. It’s not even the 160lb Brody you’ve seen in films such as The Darjeeling Limited and King Kong.
“There was physical transformation that was necessary,” he says. “I put on 25lb of muscle. The most important thing for me, when considering that so many young people today are either serving in the military or have ties to loved ones that serve, is that I create a character that is truthful and that they can relate to. I wanted to play a character with an inner and intellectual strength. Someone who’s a true leader. So I studied a lot of military manuals, paramilitary books and isolated myself in the jungle.”
For weeks Brody hid in a bungalow in the same Hawaiian jungle where the film was shot in a bid to encapsulate the character. Something tells us Arnie didn’t do that pre-Predator. In fairness, Arnie had one up on Brody. He didn’t need to hit the gym.
“I was training and dieting six days a week. Very heavy weights and high-rep circuit training was the key along with hundreds of push-ups a day. I was eating the right things obsessively, six-plus meals a day. Very lean protein-based foods, complex carbs, yams, lots of chicken, no booze, no sugar, no sex, no nothing.”
Back up a sec. No sex. Why no sex?
“If you look at fighters and people that are training for something that requires that level of intensity — I mean I was doing everything in my power to harness ferocity and I felt that I needed to keep away from all distractions and all the things that erm... drain you, if you know what I mean?”
All this work to bulk up, it’s little surprise that Brody is currently batting off constant questions about being a strange choice for the role.
“OK I get it,” he says in mock frustration. “To be honest it surprises me to hear journalists level that at me, because the whole objective of being an actor is to be malleable, to be a chameleon. I understand that I wouldn’t be the first choice because actors are often given opportunities based on what they’ve already proven they can do, that’s why many get typecast. I’ve consciously made an effort not to do that and to find roles that have an element of risk and are challenging.”
So what was more difficult, shedding pounds for The Pianist or piling on muscle for Predators?
“Predators was far easier psychologically. With starvation it affects you in an emotional level in a very negative way. That’s why people work out. They feel good, burn off stress, look better and feel more confident — all positive things — but strip away your nutrition and you constantly feel empty inside. Plus I was embracing a very negative mind space. The Pianist was very difficult. Part of what attracted me to Predators is that I can have my discipline and focus but not take home that level of tragedy.”
Feeling a little uncomfortable with the intense level of conversation, we panic and ask: “Must be pretty cool to see yourself on the big screen shooting one of the universe’s most deadly killers though, right?” There’s silence on the end of the phone.
“Man,” says Brody with the friendliest chuckle we’ve heard since we called. “It’s f*cking awesome.”
Predators is released on DVD on November 1