We’ve seen a lot of Adrien Brody recently — from Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” to a guest spot in the most recent season of “Succession.” Now, fans will get to see Brody in his own arena, one he built from the ground up.
For over two decades, Brody has had the idea of playing an action anti-hero named Clean. On the surface, Clean is just a quiet New York City sanitation worker who keeps to himself. But after coming to the rescue of a young girl, Clean finds himself on the run from the Russian mob. Now pushed to breaking point, he finally reveals he’s was once an assassin and returns to what he’s good at — killing.
“I’ve always loved the action genre,” Brody told Insider over a
chat this week about his inspiration for the character. “I have always wanted to play a Charles Bronson kind of character. They’re fun.”
We see Brody’s dream character come to life this weekend as the manic thriller “Clean” opens in theaters and is available On Demand beginning Friday.
Along with being the movie’s star, he also produced it, co-wrote the script with the movie’s director Paul Solet (“Bullet Head”), and created the movie’s hip-hop-infused score.
Insider spoke with Brody about the long journey it took to bring “Clean” to the screen, why he decided now was finally the time to showcase his skills as a musician, and how losing financing just before filming began forced him to bankroll most of the movie himself.
Brody says he had to put up his own money to save the movie after its main investor fell through
Insider: You have spent decades thinking about playing this character. But what was the moment when you were like, come hell or high water I’m making this movie?
Adrien Brody: Hell yeah, there was a moment. There were many moments along the way where I had to shit or get off the pot, for lack of a better expression. [Laughs]
Give me one of those moments.
Well, part of my responsibility as a producer is to raise funding. My main investor fell through and we were well into prep. But this was my window: I trained for this to get pretty jacked, I had to do this now. We were short a lot of money. So I had to man up, and in addition to doing all the rest of the work, had to invest in the project and it was very challenging.
So how much did you have to pony up?
That’s too personal. [Laughs] You kidding me? I was all in.
Brody believes there’s enough space in the action genre for him and Keanu Reeves and Liam Neeson
“Clean” is very much in the vein of “John Wick;” a bad guy who tries to set out on the right path but something triggers him. When you saw Keanu Reeves in that movie, did you think, shit I missed my window to make “Clean?”
Oh, not at all. I love Keanu. That role is groundbreaking. I love “John Wick.” That’s a different movie. There’s room in this space. There’s room for Liam Neeson, and Keanu, and Adrien Brody. [Laughs]
People will be surprised to know that you did the musical score for this movie. Music is something you’ve been making privately for years. Was that the hardest thing to do for this movie, to go public with something that’s clearly a passion of yours?
There are challenges with that, yes. Not in a creative sense; I’m constantly striving to create. I paint and I make music when I’m not working. I find living through the pandemic, we all have made big changes in our lives to pursue more wholeheartedly our passions.
This is 30 years in the making of me locking myself in my room making music. I’ve had other opportunities to showcase it but didn’t have the time or I shied away from doing them. But this movie, it felt right. I would come home from shooting and create tracks that felt right for this.
Putting his own music in the movie ‘felt right,’ Brody says
So you initially didn’t set out to score the movie?
It evolved through post-production. This wasn’t a grand vision. I had in mind a friend of mine, who is a great composer, scoring the film. The plan was to have a classical piano score; a solo piano score. And director Paul Solet had other ideas on how the music should be done.
But ultimately, I feel the music that comes out of me comes from the same tap that created “Clean” and understands the landscape. So with music being such a personal passion of mine this just felt right to do, it was the most honest way for me to further enhance the storytelling.
You have one of the greatest music producers of all time in your movie, Wu-Tang Clan member RZA, who plays a pawn shop owner. Did you ever slide some music his way?
RZA and I have talked about making music, but I wanted him in this because I respect him as an actor. I brought in people that I really love and admire. But he’s heard a lot of the stuff that I’ve done.
Brody says he has ‘aspirations’ to one day direct movies
So do you feel “Clean” can be a franchise like “John Wick,” and if so do you want to direct a sequel?
That’s a lovely question. I would love nothing more than this movie to catch on in people’s hearts and minds and be something. I dream of this character still. I’m so involved in it. We worked on this through the entire pandemic.
I do have aspirations to direct. I’ve been working quite a bit of late as an actor. So the difficult thing about directing is it’s a multi-year endeavor, so you have to put down everything else in your life to devote what is necessary to do it properly — especially a directorial debut. So I’ve been cultivating. I just haven’t applied it yet.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.