Adam Brody

From resident O.C. geek to waspy playboy operator

Although he’s starred in a number of films since laying to rest The O.C.’s resident hunky geek (Thank You for Smoking, Scream 4, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), Adam Brody still hasn’t exactly found his groove as a post-TV-teen thespian. After all, the quick-witted, shoe-gazing Jewish nerd he played on TV struck a chord with a huge cross-section of tweens and full-blown adults. His encyclopedic pop culture knowledge and irreproachable taste in indie music clued in many people to bands such as Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins.

That’s all set to change this year, as distributors roll out five films the now 32-year-old actor plays in. Among his most anticipated will be his turn as the Movember-worthy, ‘stache-sporting porn star Harry Reems in the adult film industry biopic Lovelace. Will that permanently scar the dreamboat-next-door image he cultivated for a generation of girls weaned on Seth Cohen’s brand of flirtatious sarcasm? Jury’s still out on that one.

First up on the docket is Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress, a smart, whimsical comedy set in a grungy East Coast college, where a group of high-minded gals (among them mumblecore queen Greta Gerwig and model-cum-actress Analeigh Tipton) set out to rescue their peers from depression and the unsightly pitfalls of teenage life…with doughnuts and tap dancing therapies. Brody plays a mysterious, waspy student who’s quickly pegged as a “playboy operator”, after repeated attempts at wooing more than one of the girls.

The articulate Brody, who relished at the chance of starring in cult director Stillman’s (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco) first flick in 13 years, spoke with ION last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival about subverting stereotypes, skipping school and the legacy of Seth Cohen.

A lot of comparisons to seminal teen movies have been thrown around, one of which being Amy Heckerling’s soft satire of Valley Girl culture, Clueless. Would you compare Damsels to Clueless for a new generation?


There are definite similarities, but I still think this is closer to Jane Austen. Clueless is broader in its language and its commercial character arcs, whereas I think this is still more of a heightened reality, they still speak in a more specific and pretentious manner. Someone also compared it to Heathers, which I found to be pretty apt, but again, the language being so unique, even though it has similarities in plot to both of those, it’s still closer to Whit Stillman. That’s what I love about it: it’s very hard to pinpoint one thing that it’s like. I don’t know that it’s going to have the broad appeal of Clueless, as a matter of fact, I can’t imagine that it would. At the same time, I think it’ll have a deserved cult following.

Playing college students is something you're quite comfortable with, and yet you yourself were never a big fan of school.

No… Back then I wasn’t, anyway. I went to a public high school, and in all fairness, public high school in the U.S. is boring. They’re underfunded; it’s not that stimulating… Not for me, anyway. I know it’s a blanket statement – I’m sure many people had great teachers and wonderful experiences, but… I wasn’t even interested in the subjects, let alone the way they were being taught at the time. I am now, so that’s the irony. I think I would enjoy it now, but it’s not to be.

Damsels’ script features a teen movie convention – the all girl clique – but then subverts it by having them be supportive and understanding of each other, instead of Mean Girls-malicious. Is that classic Whit?


Yeah, I think what Whit does so well in all of his movies is to subvert the stereotypes and he has such empathy for all his characters that there’s hardly ever a villain. Maybe Metropolitan has one villain, but in all his other movies, everyone that’s bad is really not so bad.

Let’s stop pretending I won’t ask one token O.C. question: do you think Seth, the nerdy and self-deprecating teen you portrayed on the hit soap opera, helped pave the way for the proliferation of geek culture?


I mean, to be fair, Woody Allen did it first. He was womanizing for many years as the ultimate geek – all of his movies are about falling in love with multiple women, and his early ‘70s movies were really pervy! I think it was a case of right time, right place. I don’t think I was the originator of anything. I got in on the ground floor, certainly, and it was a happy coincidence. In the same way indie music has become “mainstream”, The O.C. was one of the first shows to use lesser-known bands on a network program. Then, all of a sudden, every show was a soundtrack show. So it was the first in a lot of ways. I also think it was one the first soap operas to have humour. 90210 was kind of funny, but you had much more comic actors and jokes on The O.C. than 90210 or Melrose  lace, so that was a new paradigm as well.


You’ve said in interviews that if you don’t direct a movie at some point, you’ll feel as though you’ve failed personally.


That’s true.

So how are you doing on that front?


Slowly, but surely. I wouldn’t want to make something just to make something. You start talking about it, and even a really small budget, you’re talking about spending someone’s two million dollars – who knows if I could get it – and all of a sudden, that’s a big responsibility, and I wouldn’t take that lightly. I would really want to deliver. I have a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time, which I’ve been working on, and I know it’s worth telling. I’m just trying to see if I can get it to a place where it quite literally is. As an actor, you get so many opportunities to observe. I’m sure I’m a more talented actor than I would be a director or am a writer. However, if I could sort of be reincarnated as anything, I would prefer to be a great director. It seems like a more thrilling job.

 

 

Damsels in Distress
 In theatres now | sonyclassics.com/damselsindistress

 

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