Adrien Brody is a serious actor. After all, he won an Academy Award for his portrayal in The Pianist of a Polish Jewish musician struggling to survive in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. And after lending gravitas to the Beyoncé vehicle Cadillac Records, the 35-year-old stars as the more serious sibling opposite Mark Ruffalo in the seriocomic con artist caper The Brothers Bloom. Brody will, however, lighten up a bit for his gay fans — just as long as you steer clear of homo hypotheticals. Seriously.
The Advocate: I hope you’re in a good mood today for some silly gay questions.
Adrien Brody: I’m in a good mood, but let’s see if I’m still in a good mood at the end.
We’ll ease into it. Are you aware of your gay following?
Well, I’ve lived in West Hollywood, Chelsea, and right off Christopher Street — all largely gay neighborhoods — and I was aware of a number of people there who were fans of mine, so I guess that’s a nice thing. You’re aware of it?
Sure. Let’s talk about 1997’s The Last Time I Committed Suicide, in which you played a character patterned after gay beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
You know, that’s so funny, because [my publicist] sent me an e-mail about possible interview topics like gay roles, and I thought, I haven’t really had the opportunity to play a gay role. But yes, I did. I forgot about it; it was so long ago. Let’s talk about it.
How did Ginsberg’s sexuality inform your performance?
Obviously, the character had an intense physical attraction to the character based on Neal Cassady, but Neal didn’t share the same feelings. As an actor, an emotion is an emotion regardless of who it’s for. It’s challenging to do any role where there’s a great deal of physical intimacy, but I haven’t had to deal with that [opposite another man].
At 13 you made your acting debut in the off-Broadway play Family Pride in the Fifties as a working-class kid who wants to be a ballet dancer. Did you think that character was gay?
Oh, good, you did some research! A part of the conflict there was that the father struggles with his son’s sensitivity. I was very young, so I guess I didn’t give it enough thought, but perhaps he was a gay character as well. We’re racking ’em up. [Laughs] I once had an opportunity to play a transvestite who wasn’t gay and was actually somewhat homophobic. It was a very complex story, but the script wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be. It would’ve been challenging, but part of what attracted me to the material was how difficult it was.
What conversations did you have with director Spike Lee about your character Richie’s sexuality in Summer of Sam?
[Laughs] Spike doesn’t like to discuss those things. I think Spike would probably have a different point of view from mine. Richie was a guy who was all about experimenting and exploring, breaking all the things that were imposed on him by society. Spike didn’t particularly have a ton of direction with that, but I think Richie’s homosexual encounters were purely based on monetary gain. He was selling himself. The character was based on a person that I knew, but I don’t think that he was really attracted to men; he was basically just willing to do whatever was necessary.
Did you go to any seedy gay clubs to prepare for the role?
I did hang out in that world. But, I mean, I’ve gone to gay bars before. It’s not like that’s something I would only enter for a role. Obviously I’m not there to pick up anybody, but I’m not afraid to hang out in a predominantly gay establishment.