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Adrien Brody on India, 2007 – Out of the Archives

Golden Globe nominee Adrien Brody portrays playwright Arthur Miller alongside Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe, in Blonde, premiering at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
Brody was nominated for Best Actor-Motion Picture-Drama for The Pianist (2002) directed by Roman Polanski and spoke to the journalists of the Hollywood Foreign Press in 2007 about what he learned from traveling in India while shooting The Darjeeling Limited directed by Wes Anderson.
Brody said he did not know why Wes Anderson cast him, an only child, to play one of the three brothers in The Darjeeling Limited, written by Wes, Jason Schwartzman, and Roman Coppola, who is Schwartzman’s cousin, plus Owen Wilson, who has two actor brothers, Andrew and Luke, and is like family because he went to school with Wes in Texas. But he felt welcomed among them: “Jason and Roman are related, Owen is not related, but they’re old friends, they go way back, so it was very much a family environment, and I felt really honored to be part of that team. They were incredibly generous people, and everybody was there for the right reasons, so I didn’t feel left out in the least, I felt very much embraced.  In fact, not just the actors but the entire crew felt a sense of camaraderie on this film, it was a very free experience for everybody. I could see myself really as a brother with those guys, we had a lot in common, so it made sense to me; I definitely often felt that there were four brothers and Wes was the unseen brother, but I didn’t feel like an outsider.  And it was a big honor because I really am a fan of Wes’ work; he’s a great guy, he’s young and creative, thoughtful and intelligent, his specific sensitivity is beautiful, and it translates in his film work.”
The actor said it was an amazing experience to shoot on location in India, with the local colors and smells, and not in a Hollywood studio: “In India, they use a lot of vivid colors, so all of the colors in the movie are natural and very much a part of the life, the culture and the way people express themselves. We painted some elephants on it, but the actual trains that run today are exactly that color blue. Wes in my opinion has a very astute visual sense, so the look of the film is obviously deliberate, and the luggage is definitely something that he designed; but the colors appealed to Jason, Wes and Roman on their trip to India, when they came up with the story.  And the fact that we were on a moving train for most of the day throughout that whole sequence was really amazing, we weren’t having to act that we were in India while in a studio in Burbank, we were on a train with the doors open, cows, real people, Indian food, the heat, the smells and sensations.  So that lends itself to a reality that hopefully translates in the film and that definitely was inspirational to me and I am sure to the rest of the gang.”
Brody had traveled to India the year before. He even knew he would be making a movie there, but this time he understood something different about the spirit of that country: “There’s a tremendous amount of beauty in India, but it’s a difficult place to adjust to if you’re not open-minded. The previous year I took a trip there on my own and explored, but I was probably in a less open state of mind and I was more aware of the sadder aspects of it, such as the poverty in the inner cities.  This trip opened me up in a way that I took with me, partially because I didn’t feel like I was working; I had the structure of having a job to show up to, but it was very carefree, and I wasn’t monitored. I traveled around India with my girlfriend on a motorcycle and that’s very rare that a film will let you do that, so I tried to be as careful as possible. I realized that there’s chaos and yet within all that chaos there is a sense of harmony, which is very hard to describe in words until you experience it.  And that was because you saw how precarious life is and how so many people were in these perilous situations, and yet they are all full of life and somehow mostly safe. There aren’t the safety standards that exist here, and yet there’s something to be said for that, because there may be too many rules in our society.  Rules are necessary, they’re there for a reason, but when they’re enforced so much, you start to live within those parameters, while people in India don’t even know that those parameters are there, so they’re freer.  There’s a sense that, even though there is a lot of poverty there, people are very happy, there’s a lot of people that don’t have anything, but there’s not a lot of violent crime. There’s a sense of goodness that I felt there, which was inspirational, so I felt very privileged to be there.”
This is how Brody described the profound effect that shooting a movie and traveling in India had on his life: “I wouldn’t use the term healing, but I would say it was an awakening, because I wasn’t looking for it, and sometimes when you look for things, you can’t really find them. What inspired me so much was the sense of freedom that I found in so many people there and the lack of material possessions was the antithesis of society in places like L.A. for example. I am not saying everybody is happy in India, but there was a lot more prevailing happiness than I see here with people who have so much.  We were well taken care of on the set, but our food sources were limited, for example, so it was not like being here, but at the end of the day you don’t care as much about things that you thought you might need, and that was a clearer awakening for me. It reminded me of what’s important in life, it made me realize how happy I was with the simpler things; so miraculously my experiences on this adventure have taught me a lot about life, in a more real sense than hanging around here in L.A.  When I left India, I felt very free and alive, very grateful and connected in a sense.”
Brody admitted still getting angry sometimes, but he had learned the value of calmness from his father Elliot, a history professor: “Sure, lots of things make me angry, but I try to be rational most of the time. My father is a very wise and calm human being. He has studied Eastern religions and he’s knowledgeable, he’s a very honorable person, he tries to do what’s right all the time, so I admire him, I see his influence on me and I appreciate that I value it.  I think wisdom comes with age and experience, and some people don’t ever mature, but it’s about realizing that.  When I was younger, I expended a lot of energy on getting angry about a lot of things that didn’t deserve all the anger. I’m a passionate person and I have embraced that I’m emotionally led by my emotions, but I’m also able to be a little more analytical these days. If you realize that we’re all going through something very similar and my bad day can give you a bad day, then you try not to take it personally, and that may be an Eastern philosophy. I learned a bit about Eastern religions in India, because I try to be open-minded and absorb elements from all sources, so I can go with whatever feels good and right.”