‘Drive’ Star Albert Brooks Does a Bad, Bad Thing
Photo by FilmDistrict
Photo by FilmDistrict
Thelma Adams: So, Albert, when did you put it in "Drive"?
Albert Brooks: I got a call that this Nicolas was in town for three days. They sent me the script, saying "Albert's looking for an interesting bad guy and he should read this." I knew Ryan Gosling was onboard, and I had seen "Bronson" and I really liked it, and we did this weird little dance. "Why do you think you should do it?" he asked. I said, "You can use the same six people everyone uses. Then, everybody knows what's going to happen. It's always nice in the first 10 minutes when you don't know what the character is going to do."
TA: How did Refn know you could go to the dark side?
AB: He said that he saw me yell at my wife in "Lost in America."
TA: And how did you seal the deal?
AB: I stood at the doorway of his rented house, and as I was leaving, I grabbed his collar and I pinned him against the wall. I can't say he turned white. He was Danish, so he was already white. He turned paler. And I said, "I just want you to know I was a guard on a football team and I have physical strength even if I don't often show it." I thanked him and went on my way, thinking if it doesn't work, if I hurt him, he's probably calling a doctor.
TA: So did he sue you?
AB: No. He and Ryan had already come to the conclusion that I would be the right person. The whole point of the meeting was to see if I could talk them out of it.
TA: Would you agree that the craft of comedy is underrated?
AB: When you look at actors who've been around forever, like Jack Nicholson, he's more of a comedy actor than a serious actor, but he hovers on the fence. People forget that. Actors that have stayed around -- Jimmy Stewart -- have always been able to do both.
TA: Why is that?
AB: It's grounded in playing a realistic character. It works if your characters are real enough that you believe they're real. If you didn't buy me as an ad guy who dropped out of society, you wouldn't have bought "Lost in America." To become physical or intolerant, go look at "Modern Romance." That character was one drug away from prison. When he was driving around her house all night, one extra benny and he's in that house.
TA: How much did you rehearse Bernie Rose?
AB: When I got the part, we spent a lot of time with the other actors rehearsing with Nicolas at his house. It was the whole thing of Bernie the Knife, Bernie Rose; we knew early on that using knives and utensils had to bring you up close. That was the kind of man that he was. Maybe he had killed as a young man, but his personality was not wait behind a wall and shoot you with a gun. He needed to confront his victim.
TA: How did you go from that realization to planting a utensil in a guy's eye?
AB: The fork came about three and a half weeks into the rehearsal, but it wasn't written in the script. The fork in the eye was developed when we got on set at the restaurant. There were initial rehearsals with the kitchen knife, but it was so far away it wasn't working because of the blocking. The good thing about Nicolas is that he is intentionally looking for something you haven't seen. He liked the knife aspect of Bernie Rose because it forced Bernie to come close to his victim.