Adrian Brody talks about being the prey in ‘Predators’
BY TODD GILCHRIST
Even Adrien Brody knows that he is not the first person people might think of when compiling a list of contemporary action heroes. “I know I’m not the obvious choice,” Brody said at a press conference on Saturday. “I get that. I know I probably wouldn’t have even been on the studio’s list, let alone down at the bottom.” And yet, thanks to his enthusiasm and commitment, Brody is right at the top of the list of names on the call sheet for the upcoming film Predators, director Nimrod Antal’s intended direct follow-up to Predator which is being produced by genre luminary Robert Rodriguez.
“You can ask Robert – I’m very persistent and I’m very focused,” Brody explained. “I give my word that I know what I need to do to deliver a level of truth and authenticity with a role like this, and also make it fun and exciting. I put on 25 pounds for this role, but that wasn’t the point. They didn’t hire me to be a bodybuilder. It’s not the physical strength that outsmarts an alien with energy-based weapons and high tracking skills and a culture of hunting, and trophy hunting,” he said. “You have to outsmart them.”
As an actor, Brody has successfully outsmarted his opponents for years – emerging seemingly out of nowhere to win an Oscar for his performance in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, and then going on to play a remarkable variety of roles that completely reinvents his screen persona each time. He confessed that in Predators, perhaps an unlikely choice for such a typically serious actor, he saw this as an opportunity to continue that string of silver screen tranformations. “I approached this with a level of focus I would approach any of the roles that I’ve been given an opportunity to play,” Brody said. “I think the intention of hiring me to play Royce was to delve into a kind of flawed, tragic hero and not this kind of typical overtly physically imposing character.”
That said, Brody admitted it afforded him some unique chances to immerse himself in both the physicality of the character and the geography of the story. “I did put on a substantial amount of muscle mass for the role, and the physical training was a big part of building to that character,” he observed. “But I think to prepare psychologically, I had the luxury of [the fact that] we shot in Hawaii and we shot in thousands of acres of tropical rainforest. I’d gotten permission from the owners of the state to let me stay on the property, so I isolated myself. I stayed on the property. I didn’t stay in a hotel, and came out to work out and eat. My nightly ritual was like pouring over survival manuals and military and paramilitary training books.”
“I was reading Sun Tzu, I was studying meditation, I was on a very strict diet, I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t eating sugar, I wasn’t having sex,” he said candidly. “I was very focused. I had to kind of go there for me because this is a tremendous opportunity for me. I’m a huge fan of the brand and I’m a huge fan of the genre and the original film. I know that I have a big responsibility to covey a sense of truth in my performance and it was very exciting. It was a very exciting process for me because all the technical stuff and the Rambo-like qualities of the character are really awesome. As a kid I loved these stories so it’s an excuse for me to seriously go there.”
Friday night in Austin, Antal and Rodriguez hosted a screening of footage from the film, which included a truly memorable moment in which Brody’s character Royce found himself the designated target for dozens of Predators’ iconic three-pronged laser sights. Brody said that the filmmakers beautifully and meticulously created the world that would give that scene gravitas. “That was an amazing day in and of itself just because they created the atmosphere,” he gushed. “The physical atmosphere that we were in was so intense. It was a smoke-filled contained space. The entire crew has these masks on except us and I’m hyperventilating on there. They have these chunks of some supposedly nontoxic material that wouldn’t come off my boots for a month. This stuff is blowing through the air and it was just epic. Flames bursting. It just was so exciting.”
Despite Brody’s seeming disinclination to leap into shoes once worn by someone like Schwarzenegger, the actor indicated that the chance to be in Predators felt like the fulfillment of a wish he never knew to make. “This is a dream come true for me because when I was a scrawny little 14-year-old, there’s no way that I could have ever envisioned being passed the gauntlet to play this character in a film this visceral an action movie.”
Key to that, he continued, was the ongoing collaboration of both Antal and Rodriguez.
“I’m greatly appreciative of both Robert and Nimrod because both of them championed me,” he said. “They’ve both been incredible collaborators. They’ve been very receptive to my thoughts and ideas. Robert as a producer I think has been a very big creative force and allowing all of this to happen and in a contained space. Here we are, we shot a studio movie but it was very much like independent terms, which is a remarkable thing which actually is very similar to King Kong. Peter had a very similar operation going, which is wonderful; you’re given a lot of creative freedom within that, and also trust from the studio.”
Although Antal is still untested as a director of films on this scale, Brody asserted that he had confident control of the film, and helped shepherd the actor through his first role as an action hero. “Nim’s really looked out for me in this process and I appreciate that,” he explained. “He’s constantly tried to keep the focus very, very much on what needs to be there, what the moment needs and not lose track of that in keeping the Predator a serious threat where there were techniques I would come up with in my reading. ‘How about this? How about if I set this kind of trap? Would this work if we did this?’”
Perhaps expectedly, Brody said his tendency was to think – and maybe overthink – some of the strategies Royce might use. But he indicated it was Antal’s sure hand that not only kept him in touch with what was best for the character, but what ultimately the film needed most for it to be as good as the original. “[Those ideas] might work, but we had discussions of it might kind of weaken my own character if Predator fell for a certain trap,” he confessed. “So there were things it was great to have Nim’s insight in the overall picture where I’d get carried away with ‘I know how to blow the guy up this way, this way.’”
“So it’s great – it was really wonderful,” Brody said conclusively. “I’m very excited.”