Adam Brody is a lot like Seth Cohen. Slightly awkward and neurotic, his sentences are unleashed in a klutzy frenzy with sporadic renewals of enthusiasm. He is neatly dressed in a tucked-in, button-down shirt paired with skinny jeans, and his trademark Jew-fro has some serious bounce. Seth is, of course, the character on Fox’s popular teen drama “The O.C.” that turned Brody into an unlikely pinup idol whose poster may or may not have graced your little sister’s bedroom wall(s). Dubbed T.V.’s sexiest geek by the Los Angeles Times, Seth was Zack Morris for the Apple generation – a pop-culture savvy comic book nut who still managed to score the bombshell (co-star Rachel Bilson, on and, for three years, off screen).
Before the show wrapped in 2007 after four seasons, Brody had been quietly attempting a career transition into film. He was cast in a minor role as – you guessed it – a computer geek in director Doug Liman’s 2005 spy film “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (Liman served as executive producer of “The O.C.’s” first season). Brody’s first starring role was in the coming-of-age drama “In the Land of Women” opposite Kristen Stewart. It was supposed to be his breakthrough role, but the tone-deaf film was a critical and commercial misfire. Entertainment Weekly gave the film an ‘F’ saying it flaunted “dialogue so fakey-cute it makes your ears hurt.” He also appeared in minor roles as a wisecracking talent agent in 2006’s “Thank You For Smoking” and 2008’s “Death in Love.”
In 2009, it looked like Brody would finally vault himself to Michael Cera status. He was cast in the starring role of a heartthrob singer with cruel intentions opposite Megan Fox in the Diablo Cody-written “Jennifer’s Body.” The dark comedy was too dark, however, and failed to find a fanbase.
Brody’s latest film, THE ROMANTICS, isn’t likely to propel him to Hollywood star status, but it’s a step in the right direction. Directed by Galt Niederhoffer, and based on her novel of the same name, the film concerns seven college friends who reunite six years later for the wedding of Lila (Anna Paquin) and Tom (Josh Duhamel). However, the shit hits the fan when the maid of honor , Laura (Katie Holmes), and the groom try to revive their long-dormant romance. Brody plays a 30-year-old writer – his real-life age – who is grappling with failed expectations. The film, which also stars Elijah Wood and Malin Akerman, opened on September 10 with the week’s highest per-screen average of $22,764 at 2 theaters, and will expand on September 24.
MMM sat down with Brody to chat about his upcoming role in “Scream 4,” his slow transition from TV to film, and his music/movie picks.
Brody is out on the balcony of the brand spanking new – and still in the latter stages of construction – Gansevoort Hotel on Park Avenue South in Lower Manhattan, snapping photos of co-stars Josh Duhamel and Elijah Wood as they share a smoke. Brody enters, and places his Nikon film camera on the table.
MANHATTAN MOVIE MAGAZINE: Have you always been into photography?
ADAM BRODY: No. It’s pretty new. You know, it’s a new hobby. It’s fun, it’s a little artistic, and you can take it on the go. I have a film camera. When you don’t know what you got, it’s fun when you’re dropping [the film] off.
MMM: Cool. So how did you get involved with “The Romantics?”
BRODY: I got involved through the traditional ways of agent/meeting. I thought it was a smart script and it seemed like a blast, and it was. It’s a nostalgia piece that tries and captures a moment. And I just liked the group being together so much. It’s such a fun group. It’s one of the most fun times I’ve ever had making a film.
MMM: So you all hung out and bonded.
BRODY: Yeah. We were in Long Island and it was off-season, so we were certainly the only tourists in town, and really had it to ourselves. We were really isolated in a great way. We went to dinner every night at this place called The Frisky Oyster – there were other good restaurants, but that one was choice. And then we made a movie. Hung out on the beach… autoerotic asphyxiation. There was a lot of that.
MMM: When you signed on was Liv Tyler still cast in the lead role?
BRODY: Yes, I believe so.
MMM: What do you think Katie Holmes brings to the role that Liv couldn’t?
BRODY: I think they’re both great, actually. What’s cool about Katie is you haven’t gotten to see her do as much of this. She’s so good in this movie and it’s been a minute since she’s been the lead. It’s really a nice return to form for her. So, I think there’s a freshness to it that she brings that’s kind of exciting.
MMM: What drew you to your character?
BRODY: Coming to terms with failed expectations. Again, it’s a small thing. I was mostly there for the drinking and hanging out. [Laughs] But what I like is I see a lot in movies of “Oh, I could have been a great architect or writer. I am. I’m just afraid to go for it.” I’m a little more pessimistic and I would say that most of the time it’s not a fear of trying as much as a lack of skill; for all of us. So here’s a guy who wants to be a writer and he’s coming to terms with the idea that he’s finished it, and the book might not be very good. It’s a very depressing but adult view to have.
MMM: I know you worked indirectly with Katie Holmes on “Thank You For Smoking,” since you two didn’t share any scenes together. Had you met Katie before?
BRODY: No. I never met her before this.
MMM: And what makes you so good at playing a talent agent? You’ve now done it well twice, in “Smoking” and “Death in Love.”
BRODY: I don’t know? I think, honestly, they’re talky and I have a mouth.
BRODY: [Laughs] No. I didn’t try – nor did the filmmakers try – to do any one guy, specifically. But there are pieces of Adam Levine [of Maroon 5], Brandon Flowers [of The Killers] and Jared Leto.
MMM: How do you think it’s gone so far transitioning from television to film?
[Brody gets silent]
BRODY: Um… it’s good… Pretty well. It’s slow… Slow-going. Slowly but surely? Is that the phrase? It’s gone ok. It’s gone fine.
MMM: Is film a medium you’d like to stay in?
BRODY: Well, there’s something to the schedule that is appealing. Also creatively constantly changing it up. But at the same time, you get to do a lot more acting on television. Even if you’re doing movies all year long, you’re not doing that many scenes. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to do a play. But, I don’t know. There’s no master plan.
MMM: Did you and Katie ever talk about how you’ve shared similar career paths from teen TV drama to film?
BRODY: Yeah! Television, to movies, to Tom Cruise. [Laughs] No, not necessarily. We haven’t had too many “Dawson’s Creek” vs. “The O.C.” conversations, sadly.
MMM: You’re about to co-star in a big franchise, “Scream 4.” Could you talk about your character in the film?
BRODY: I play Deputy Ross Hoss and myself, Anthony Anderson and Marley Shelton are now underlings of Sheriff Dewey, played by David Arquette. It’s a surreal experience being on the “Scream” set with Wes Craven directing, ghost face walking around, Sheriff Dewey, Gale Weathers, Sidney Prescott all in the same room. It’s funny. I think it’s been like 10 years since the last one but they’re still there with the main characters, which makes it so iconic, in a way.
MMM: So are the original characters still the leads, or are they essentially passing the torch to a new generation of actors?
BRODY: They’re sort of sharing the duty. It’s half them and then there’s a new high school crop, and there’s us cops who sort of bounce back-and-forth. We’re really just guarding the perimeter.
MMM: Are they trying to reboot you at “Dewey 2.0?”
BRODY: I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s what they’re doing. I have one more day of shooting, but everyone has been lovely. We were filming in Michigan, which is really nice. A lot of mild-mannered crowds watching the filming. It’s been a pleasant summer job.
MMM: Were you the one who convinced Anna Paquin to cameo in “Scream 4?”
BRODY: [Laughs] No! In fact, we haven’t spoken about it. I haven’t seen her and I wasn’t around when she filmed her stuff, but I was very excited to hear about it.
MMM: When you play such a memorable TV character, how difficult is it to shake the audience’s perception that you are Seth Cohen?
BRODY: I don’t know. I mean… I think they can shake it to the degree that it’s true. I’m not him. But, a lot of me is him and that’s just the way it is. Hopefully they’ll want to see Seth in some other projects. I don’t worry about it too much. What we have in common is there and it’s not going anywhere, and what we don’t… it’s not hard to not be him.
MMM: Was your evil character in “Jennifer’s Body” a conscious effort to shake the Seth Cohen image?
BRODY: No. Not really. I have a terrible singing voice so I was hesitant to do it at first. I was like, “I can’t sing!” And [the filmmakers] were like, “We’ll figure it out.” In hindsight, it’s one of my favorite roles. I love the movie and I’m so happy I did it. But, stupidly, I was actulaly hesitant about it at the time. It wasn’t a real conscious effort but it worked nicely. Maybe for a year I was running from that character. But Seth Cohen doesn’t haunt me. I’m really proud of him. I like that little fucker. I’m happy that him and I shared some time together.
MMM: You’ve shared the screen with some high-profile young actresses – Kristen Stewart, Megan Fox, and now, Katie Holmes. What’s it been like to act with these young women who are so present in the public consciousness?
BRODY: These people are nicer than you’d ever think, for starters. The only dicks are the ones you wouldn’t think would be, and they’re just raging assholes.
MMM: Like Elijah Wood? [Laughs]
BRODY: [Laughs] Like Elijah Wood. Maniac. But all the ingénues, they’re all as sweet as can be – so far. They’ve all been really nice.
MMM: Your “O.C.” character Seth was very pop-culture conscious, and you seem to be as well. What sort of bands or other things are you into these days?
BRODY: In theaters, the last movies I really liked were “MacGruber” and “Greenberg.”
MMM: I liked “MacGruber” too. I don’t know why it didn’t really connect with audiences. It’s a unique, immature brand of humor, I suppose. I thought the same thing about “Hot Rod.”
BRODY: I liked “Hot Rod” too, but not as much as “MacGruber.” “MacGruber” has me like crying, actually. And bands – The Black Keys album is probably my favorite album of the year, although I’m no connoisseur of hip music. I just listen to the big hits. And I’ve been trying to educate myself in the older stuff lately – my parent’s films. I saw “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” recently, and that’s really stuck with me. I saw “The Conversation” for like the third time, but that really works for me right now. I’ve been playing a little music with some friends. I have my drums in my living room so I can just have an impromptu session anytime I want. That and writing. I think every actor writes in their spare time, a little – screenplays, erotic poetry. [Laughs] You have to. You have so much creative downtime as an actor – unless you’re method and living in a cave to get ready or whatever – you’ve got to put it elsewhere, too. So, yeah – a little writing, a little music.
THE ROMANTICS is now playing in New York and Los Angeles and expands to theaters nationwide on September 24th.
They don’t make them like this anymore. Dubbed the “American Olivier” by New York Times theater critic Frank Rich, Kevin Kline has embarked on a magnificently erratic film career since his halcyon Tony award-winning days.
The Juilliard and Shakespearean-trained Kline burst onto the scene with his critically-acclaimed film debut, “Sophie’s Choice.” Since then, in addition to stellar dramatic work in films like Lawrence Kasdan’s “The Big Chill” and Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm” –Kline has garnered a reputation for creating some of cinema’s great oddball characters. There’s his doppelganger Commander-in-Chief “Dave,” outed schoolteacher Howard Brackett in “In & Out,” and, last but certainly not least, his Academy Award-winning turn as idiotic thief Howard Otto in “A Fish Called Wanda”—where Kline unloaded, in my estimation, the best onscreen orgasm in cinematic history.
But his latest role may be his strangest yet. In THE EXTRA MAN, Kline plays Henry Harrison – an “extra man” who squires wealthy older women around the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Harrison rises to dance daily at 7 a.m. in sweat pants in his disheveled apartment, claims Hassidic women “really get it” when it comes to sex, and is “to the right of the Pope” on matters of sexual politics. Part chauvinistic pseudo-aristocrat (“I’m against the education of women,” Harrison boasts) and part fantasist, Harrison plays mentor to Louis Ives (Paul Dano), a cross-dressing teacher and aspiring writer who sublets Harrison’s New York apartment. Harrison soon teaches Ives the ropes of being an “extra man,” and along the way encounters a cute co-worker, played by Katie Holmes, and a crazed homeless man, played by John C. Reilly. Adapted from a novel by Jonathan Ames by filmmaking duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who helmed the celebrated 2003 film “American Splendor,” THE EXTRA MAN is a demented celebration of New York’s eccentricities.
MMM sat down with talented thespian, raconteur and enunciator Kevin Kline to chat about his oddball gigolo in “The Extra Man,” the sketch-comedy state of comedy films, and his diverse array of film roles.
MANHATTAN MOVIE MAGAZINE: Paul Dano said you took your mentor role very seriously.
KEVIN KLINE: Bullshit!
MMM: [Laughs] He said you would feed him Shakespeare quotes and scold him when he didn’t know them.
KLINE: Yes. But did I ever give him acting notes? Never.
MMM: Because he didn’t need them?
KLINE: I wouldn’t say that… [Laughs] Because I don’t do that. Paul is very well read and authoritative on Russian literature. He’s quite literate, Paul. And when he claimed to love Shakespeare, I wasn’t testing him, but certain things would pop up and inspire a line. I’d say the line and then ask, “You know what it is, right?” “No.” “You don’t know what that line is from?!?” So, I was in character that way. That started the first day and carried on throughout.
MMM: Your character’s name was Henry Harrison, and all I could think of was Henry Higgins [“My Fair Lady”] and Rex Harrison.
KLINE: Oh, interesting! Similar. I wonder… I asked Jonathan [Ames] about that and he said that may have been his inspiration. Something along those lines… He’s just this curmudgeonly, perfectionistic, professorial fellow.
MMM: Your character is very odd and misogynistic, saying he’s “to the right of the Pope” on most sexual issues.
KLINE: And obsessed with sex! He says, “Well the real problem is: all sex.” And [Louis Ives is] writing for this green magazine and [Harrison] says, “Well, it’s probably just a front for pornography.”
MMM: So what attracted you to this unique character?
KLINE: Because he’s so hyper-eccentric. He’s not just a type. He takes the eccentric character another step. And probably because it’s based on a real guy. It’s very biographical. Jonathan said the things that came out of this guy’s mouth he just kept writing down and he knew he had his next novel. I find the things he says and does contradictory. There’s something quixotic and delusional in a way, but he’s created this bubble around his existence that I find quite heroic. This is a guy who came from money and now he has nothing. He just has this symbiotic relationship with these wealthy people – the world that he knows – and he’s refined this parasitic, extraneous role, “the extra man,” into an art. He’s unique.
MMM: If he’s such a master manipulator, why is he incapable of making money?
KLINE: He’s an artist. That’s the problem. He’s a playwright. I don’t think he’s going to give that up. Why do a lot of artists never quite peak? It’s a thing that’s very human that has to do with success and failure. He can manipulate people and he’s certainly a forceful personality. He could be a film director! [Laughs] Because he’s so outspoken, he alienates a lot of people. He’s a very talented writer but an impossible human being.
MMM: Is it difficult to play such a curmudgeonly, unattractive character?
KLINE: I love characters who, however unattractive and unbearable they can be at times, speak their mind. That’s one of the joys of acting in these roles. You’re given license to be as cruel, as honest, as destructive as you want… with impunity. And you love him because he’s not trying to be nice. He doesn’t care if you like him. He’s a struggling artist and his own man.
MMM: And so fleshed out.
KLINE: Oh, that’s just a part of my genius. [Laughs] Layering, yes. [Laughs] In retrospect, yes, you get a good script, do a scene, give it it’s due and trust your instincts. You try to find the right tone and not make it one-note.
MMM: On an independent film like this, do you just get two takes to nail a scene and then it’s on to the next one?
KLINE: Two takes? We were rushed so much on this movie. There’s one scene where I’m painting my ankles, and we had to stop at nine o’clock because the man from the bond company was there saying, “You can’t go to 9:05. You must stop at 9:00.” So it was 8:40 and we had to do the scene. I ran over to my dressing corner, changed and did the scene. We had time for maybe two takes and I was painting my ankles and I had to start at the top of each ankle so we didn’t have to wipe it all off each time. It’s a guerrilla filmmaking style you don’t have a lot of time to overthink it. You hit the ground running. It’s raining so let’s use it. We can’t use the windshield wiper because there’s a lighting rig, so do a squeegee. And it’s perfect for the character.
MMM: So when you have two takes, does the spirit of your theatre background really come to the fore as opposed to a big film like “Wild Wild West,” where you get many, many takes to do a scene?
KLINE: Yes, you have the luxury of added schedule. I know working with Ivan Reitman on “Dave,” he’d say, “Just do something different.” Bob Altman would say, “We’re supposed to do a scene here in the dressing room but, you know what, let’s go out into the lobby of the theatre and you and Maya [Rudolph] just improvise a scene. As long as you get the important plot points. Maybe open a bottle of champagne.” “OK.” So I actually popped it and it hit Bob across the lobby who was sitting by the monitor. And it was so much fun!
MMM: Speaking of Ivan Reitman, you’re working with him again on this secretive, ‘Untitled Ivan Reitman Film.’ What’s that about?
KLINE: Yes, the ‘Untitled Ivan Reitman Film.’ It was really quick. It was a week’s work. It was fun. He loves actors to just “do whatever you want.” I play Ashton Kutcher’s father who we find out is having an affair with Ashton Kutcher’s character’s ex-girlfriend, who is 23. I play a Hollywood actor who had a big hit television series and is now taking a lot of drugs. It’s a Hollywood-type. [Laughs]
MMM: What was it like working with two directors on “The Extra Man?”
KLINE: Twice the fun! [Laughs] I wanted desperately to pit one against the other. I’d say, “Well, Bob told me to do just the opposite.” But they never really [went for it].
MMM: You’re a fixture on the NYC theatre scene and Paul said you went to a few Upper East Side restaurants to try and spot ‘extra men’…
KLINE: We went to one! [Laughs]
MMM: [Laughs] Well I’m just wondering if you have encountered any ‘extra men’ in real life?
KLINE: I never met Jerry Zipkin but I did my research. I read about him. Interesting stories about him. But he was wealthy and very generous. And women loved him! He went down to Washington once a week to have lunch with Nancy Reagan, but he could say things to women not unlike Henry could say – “your ass is too big,” etc. This outspoken quality. I’ve seen men over the years who were companions to wealthy widows but I don’t think they live quite under the conditions that Henry does. That’s one of the great things about New York City. You could look in a restaurant, stop, and ask, “How many of you live in a really crappy apartment and have a roommate?” But they’re all dressed up and look great. They put on the fancy costume and go to the restaurant like we all do. But what do they go home to at night? We don’t know.
MMM: And your character, Henry Harrison, really seems to be from a bygone era. In this new era in comedy films, where everyone comes from sketch comedy backgrounds, do you ever film you are, as a theatrically-trained actor, from a bygone era?
KLINE: Yeah! Sure. I know when I’m doing a film, I’m not going to work with a lot of actors who do Shakespeare. But you work with a lot of actors who’ve never done theatre period. I once worked with a director who told me, “You know, I worry that, in my lifetime, theatre is going to be like vaudeville. It’s just going to die.” Everyone always says, “Broadway is dying.” But it’s not going to do in our lifetime – the theatre. In fact, it may flourish the more people stay at home in front of their glowing screens, downloading, uploading or sideloading any number of things onto their computer. They need to go out and see live theatre. But the short answer is, yes, I do feel like I’m from another era. Well, I am from another era!
MMM: Was “A Fish Called Wanda” improvised at all?
KLINE: Well, there were some adlibs, but no. The writing was wonderful. I used to add things. Actually, he encouraged me and [Jamie Lee Curtis] to do that. The whole line about the uptight British came from improvisation.
MMM: You’ve got some interesting upcoming projects lined up. Did you recently wrap shooting on Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator?”
KLINE: Oh, that was months ago. That was two weeks work. I play Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War. I just heard last week it’s going to be at the Toronto Film Festival.
Robert Redford called me and told me about this project and the he spelled it out it sounded interesting and like nothing I’d ever really done.
THE EXTRA MAN opens on June 30th in New York and Los Angeles.