The 2002 biographical war drama The Pianist is the reason most of us have heard of Adrian Brody. Before appearing in that movie, the American actor had been in prominent movies like The Village, by M. Night Shyamalan but he hadn’t made his mark. He was still a young guy though when he took on the leading role of Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist. At 29 years old, he was the youngest actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. Brody took on a new outlook to life after fame came his way but this doesn’t seem to have benefited his career as he was never the same actor after The Pianist.
Some actors like Christian Bale shed weight to play a part. Others like Tom Hardy gain bulk. Some don’t shower for days if that’s how their character lived. That’s something Shia LaBeouf did for the 2014 film Fury. Brody had the same mindset as these other guys and in order to understand his character, he had to become his character. For a movie called The Pianist, that meant learning how to play the piano. That meant he could perform the Chopin pieces included in the film. He spent several hours a day at the piano but he didn’t stop there. In the movie, Szpilman survived without food for a month. Brody had to lose weight to portray a starving man so he lost over two stone. He got down to a weight of nine stone. “There is an emptiness that comes with really starving that I hadn't experienced,” he told an interviewer for the BBC. “I couldn't have acted that without knowing it.”
To achieve the same sort of mindset as his character, Brody isolated himself from everything. All creature comforts were abandoned including his car and his luxury apartment. This intense dedication to his craft caused a strain in his relationship and he eventually broke up with his girlfriend because of it. “I was in a very dark, sad, raw place, all day, every day” he told Parade.
The self-sacrifices that Brody went through helped his understand his character but they had many side-effects that he probably didn’t expect. One major issue he faced as a consequence of his art was depression. He spent months of his life thinking about nothing other than the horrors Jewish people, including his own ancestors, went through during the Nazi reign of terror. And he was given the responsibility of representing that on screen in a major Hollywood movie, so no wonder he suffered from mental illness and exhaustion during and after the shoot.
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