Adam Brody on The Romantics, the Agony of Jennifer's Body and the Ecstasy of Scream 4

romantics_ensemble_jcrew_500-1.jpgAdam Brody showed up for our interview toting an old-model Nikon camera and some heady memories of his time on the set of The Romantics, a sprawling ensemble dramedy about marriage, unmarriage, post-college malaise and the families we make of our friends. Starring as Jake, the engaged would-be novelist who may or may not catch the cold-feet bug going around his pal Tom's (Josh Duhamel) wedding (time alone in an attic with Malin Åkerman would do that to anyone, let's be honest), Brody brings his customary wry deadpan to the subject of fading ambition. He elaborated on this and other topics -- including the "surreal" qualities of Scream 4 and the failure of last year's Jennifer's Body -- this week in New York.

What's the camera for?

I bought a film camera. I thought there might be some nice light up here to document some memories with friends. It might be the last time... Well, not the last time, but... I mean, it's cool that we filmed this movie like a year ago. It's a really short turnaround for an indie. So because of Sundance and because of this, as a group, we all like each other and we get to hang out a bit. I'm not saying this is the last hurrah or anything, but it is the last official gathering.

Is it bittersweet?

Yeah! Yeah it is. On one hand, yeah, it's totally bittersweet because it's such a fun group. On the other hand, it's so nice to have that fast turnaround given the size movie that it is. For an indie like this to be in theaters in under a year isn't unheard of, but it's rare.

I remember when I read about this film coming together, and it just kept adding cast members, I thought, "Wow." At what point did The Romantics come to you?

I had involvement from sort of early on, actually. I had met with Galt and Daniela [Taplin Lundberg], the producer, early on, and we all really liked each other. I was sort of in it for a while assuming the cast was good. Obviously it was. I don't know if I was the first, but I was on board very early.

What struck you about it and made you want to do it?

I know this isn't the most artistic answer, but first it seemed like a lot of fun. But that's what the movie is, too. First and foremost, it's fun. But they make quality pictures at Plum Pictures. I wanted to be in business with them. And as all of these actors signed on, I was a fan of all of their work, so it just just got more exciting. But I think a nice generational movie about a bunch of friends who are around 30 seemed like a blast.

As a 30-year-old making it, what about that generational theme did you want to explore?

Everyone's very idealistic, but with my character I kind of found the cynicism. My character more than most has... I mean, you leave college -- not that I went to college -- but you've got a bunch of dreams, and once you hit 30, you might be taking stock of a more realistic picture of what's happening. What I like about my guy is that he's dealing with the fact not as far along as he might like to be -- nor might he really like whatever exists for him. He wants to be an author, but I like the idea that he wants to be, but he's not. It's not that he's good enough but he's afraid to try, which never feels organic to me. It's that he tried, but he might not be good enough. It's more depressing, but it's more true.

It seems like everyone in this group is facing their last chance at something. Is this his last chance at accomplishing this? Or at least the faith that he can accomplish it?

Well, I think that's often in the background. He's got to get married, but the one thing he does is have a quick romantic tryst -- totally morally objectionable, or not a big deal, depending on the viewer. Regardless, he has -- pre-marriage, anyway -- his last romantic fling. So I'd say that's what that is.

You've worked in several ensembles previously. What's that dynamic like, and what do you do to try and fit in? How do you develop relationships?

It's really fun. It's like going to a new school every time. You check in, and... It's great. It's weird. You kind of check everyone out and more often than not, I've become friends with most people I've worked with. I've worked with an overwhelmingly high percentage of good people in the ensembles I've done, and in this one there's really not a bad apple in the bunch. But it's like school -- they're just small, selective schools, and I like the kids who go there.

I know you've historically brought some improv chops to your roles as well; how does an ensemble influence that part of your performance -- that looseness?

Some of it was looseness because they just kept rolling: "I don't even want to go on, but I guess I have to because they're not cutting." So there's that. Some of that is in there, though I haven't seen the newest version. And then we talked about it a little, and a little, little, tiny bit was written out beforehand. Galt and I were tweaking lines, perhaps; she was so receptive to that. And I always bring it up in everything I do. I always have specific dialogue thoughts -- every actor does. And Galt was receptive to that. I mean, she wrote the book, she wrote the adaptation, and part of the reason I was on board early on was because from the get-go, she was so open creatively with it and so open to any ideas or dialogue tweaks I had. I was kind of blown away by it.

What about your sick dance moves?

That came from watching House Party a lot. I was a big, big House Party fan. That came when they weren't cutting, so I kept going. Yeah. I was not good that day.

Now, you're from San Diego originally, and you spent a lot of time on the beach growing up. The beach in this film just looked cold.

Weirdly, that makes the movie for me. The way it reads is that it doesn't take place in the fall; it's a summer wedding. It's beautiful, it's calm, it's idyllic, this summer wedding looking out over the ocean. And I think metaphorically, it's like, "Here's this wedding that's kind of doomed." It's like winter's coming! The storm is coming, it's going to rain. You're staring out at the roiling sea... And also, it just made it so much better not just thematically but also the idea of...

It's weird. It seems very lonely out there, like it's gray and it's just these guys. But we were sort of isolated out there, and that's what made it such a memorable shoot as well. I don't know if it's a tourist town or not, but I do know they do a lot of their business in summer, and we were there not in summer. So to have this place to ourselves -- and this beach to ourselves, and the one good open restaurant in town to ourselves -- was such a funny experience. It made it really special to me -- and the movie, too. I love the idea that we're in these dark colors, and we're at the beach, but it's gray and almost more like a ski chalet party or something.

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  • bess marvin, girl detective says:

    Hmm, interesting because I think besides the horrible promotions, "Jennifer's Body" was poorly directed by Karyn Kusama. The exurbs of Vancouver do NOT look like some podunk town, the use of that horrid emo soundtrack and lastly, Megan Fox, fails at her attempt to wink at the audience with her portrayal as a literal man-eater. Neither she nor Seyfried handled Diablo's dialogue in the adept fashion that Ellen Page, Olivia Thirlby and Michael Cera did.

  • Brian says:

    The studio did a terrible job of marketing this movie, but it was doomed to fail at the box office for one simple reason, women dislike each other. Miss indier than thou who posted above is a perfect example of why movies made by women, written by women, and starring women, do poorly at the box office. Women won't support other women, and men don't want to see "chick" movies. The exception is the rom, which women love to see. However, deviate from the rules of the rom, and women will not see your movie, but will post snarky remarks about your film on forums.
    By the way, the exurbs of Vancouver are nondescript enough to be pretty much anything you want. They aren't run down, but Kusama clearly didn't want to film a bunch of shacks with outhouses in the backyard. Megan Fox wasn't winking at the audience, she played the role straight. The soundtrack had a lot of emo in it because the band in the movie was emo. JB is not Juno, Juno was a comedy, JB was a teen drama with some comedy and horror thrown in. The dialogue in the two movies was very different, so comparing the delivery of the actresses in JB and Juno is absurd. Same writer, two very different types of movies. Also, water is wet, 2+2=4, and the short dial tells the hour, while the long dial tells the minute. Just thought I'd clear up some other things you are likely confused by.

  • Elsa says:

    It's a good thing Brian's here to explain things to us ladies! Here I was thinking that I was sick of movies that portray all female friendships as catty, hateful competitions, when it turns out that I actually didn't like the movie because I AM a catty, hateful bitch! Like all women, AM I RIGHT?!
    Thanks Brian!

  • tim says:

    the movie was kind of a mess--there were some good scenes though and megan fox proved she can act.