|Actor, Producer, Camera, Film & Tape, Music|
|April 14, 1973|
LATEST NEWS AND BLOGS
Born on April 14, 1973 in New York, NY, Brody was raised in nearby Queens by his father, Elliot, a painter and retired history professor, and his mother, Sylvia Plachy, a noted photojournalist. From birth, Brody was the subject of thousands of his mother's photographs, which allowed him to be comfortable in front of a camera from a very young age. He also accompanied his mother on numerous photo shoots for The Village Voice, and upon meeting one of the paper's writers, was introduced to what became a long fascination and, later, a vocation - magic tricks. When he was six, he hung around Timothy Leary's apartment while his mother photographed the counterculture icon. As he got older, however, Brody began running with a tough crowd, prompting his parents to encourage him to take up acting. On Saturday mornings, he began taking classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan. When he was 12, Brody was taken on by an agent, who had him cast in an experimental film for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, followed by a turn as a wannabe ballet dancer in the off-Broadway production, "Family Pride in the 50s."
When he was 13, Brody's career began to develop when he starred as an orphan being transported across the Old West to be adopted in "Home at Last" (PBS, 1988). Also that year, he was accepted into the famed LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts to study drama. Brody had his first taste of the bitter reality of show business when he landed his first regular series role on the short-lived sitcom "Annie Maguire" (CBS, 1988), playing the stepson of Mary Tyler Moore. The show was axed after a handful of episodes, leaving the family - which had relocated from New York to Los Angeles - to head back to the East Coast. Meanwhile, he made his feature debut in the Francis Ford Coppola-directed "Life Without Zoe" segment of "New York Stories" (1989). After graduating from LaGuardia in 1991, Brody tried his hand at college; first attending the State University of New York at Stony Brook before transferring to Queens College for a semester. Deciding that going to college was not the right path, Brody quit school and moved back to Los Angeles, dedicated this time to making his stay permanent.
Though he had agency representation and a few credits under his belt, Brody still struggled to gain a foothold in Hollywood. Roles in little known features like the unfortunately titled melodrama "The Boy Who Cried Bitch" (1992) failed to make his case with serious filmmakers. But he did manage to attract the attention of director Steven Soderbergh, who cast him in a small part as a delinquent who serves as a role model for a boy left alone by circumstance (Jesse Bradford) in "King of the Hill" (1993). After a motorcycle accident in 1993 that left him recuperating for several months, he had minor roles in "Angels in the Outfield" (1994) and "Jailbreakers" (Showtime, 1994). Brody received praise for his turn as a gambler who gets in too deep in "Nothing to Lose," which premiered at the 1995 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. A battle over the title led to a delay in its theatrical release, which eventually occurred three years later called "Ten Benny." By that time, Brody had played Mickey Rourke's junkie brother in "Bullet" (1995), a computer whiz in "Solo" (1996), and a homosexual poet modeled after Beat Generation icon Allen Ginsberg in the independently made drama, "The Last Time I Committed Suicide" (1996).
Brody's career progressed steadily, though he still had yet to find that one true breakout role. Reuniting with "Nothing to Lose" director Eric Bross, Brody earned more critical acclaim for his performance as a former alcoholic who bartends and struggles to make it as a playwright, while also coming to terms with losing his girlfriend (Lauryn Hill) in "Restaurant" (1998). Brody was poised for stardom after he filmed "The Thin Red Line" (1998), Terrence Malick's metaphysical look at the futility of war set during the brutal Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II and adapted from the James Jones' autobiographical novel. Brody was cast as Private Fife, the main character in Jones' novel who served as the author's narrator and alter ego. After spending six months filming in Australia alongside such heavy hitters as Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, John Cusack and Woody Harrelson, he started to receive a considerable amount of press, including a cover of Vanity Fair, prior to the film's release. But when he attended an early screening, Brody was shocked and embarrassed to learn that his part had been whittled away to practically nothing in the editing room. Humiliated, Brody was forced to regroup.
Brody managed to reclaim his status as a fast-rising star when Spike Lee tapped him to play a bisexual punk rocker suspected around a Bronx neighborhood of being the serial killer, Son of Sam, in "Summer of Sam" (1999). He displayed an ability to go over to the dark side with a remarkably unsettling turn as a murderous psychopath who buries alive a kidnapping victim (Laila Robins) while eluding an alcoholic detective (Maura Tierney) in the thriller, "Oxygen" (Cinemax, 1999). He next gave a fine starring performance as a young Jewish man who falls for an alluring Catholic girl (Carolyn Murphy) in Barry Levinson's semi-autobiographical "Liberty Heights" (1999), a drama set amid social unrest in mid-1950s Baltimore. The busy actor followed with a leading role in Kenneth Loach's "Bread and Roses" (2000), a fact-based chronicle of California labor union struggles in which he played a lawyer and union agitator who falls for a young Mexican woman (Pilar Padilla). In "Harrison's Flowers" (2000), he had a supporting role as the colleague of a war zone photojournalist (David Straithairn) who is reported dead, leading his wife (Andie MacDowell) to go to war-torn Yugoslavia to find him.
By the time the millennium rolled along, Brody was finally finding some career traction, particularly by the time he played a European count married to a duplicitous 18th century woman (Hilary Swank) plotting to steal a spectacular 2,800 carat diamond necklace in "The Affair of the Necklace" (2001). Brody finally had the breakthrough he was looking for when he delivered a riveting performance in "The Pianist" (2002), playing famed Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman. Directed by Roman Polanski, the film was an intensely personal look at Nazi atrocities in the Krakow ghetto as seen through the eyes of Szpilman, who managed to escape and go into hiding. In true method actor fashion, Brody dropped 30 pounds from his already wiry frame and learned how to play piano, including Frédéric Chopin's "Ballade No. 1," which was featured in a beautiful scene where Szpilman unexpectedly confronts a Nazi officer (Thomas Kretschmann) while trying to open a can of pickles. Brody astounded audiences with the depth of his sensitive, melancholy performance and earned a wealth of critical plaudits, as well as an Academy Award for Best Actor, which he famously accepted by dipping and kissing presenter Halle Berry.
Brody was next seen in a small role in "The Singing Detective" (2003) that was filmed pre-Oscar win. His first post-win performance was in writer-director M. Night Shyamalan's disappointing thriller, "The Village" (2003), in which he played Noah, a village idiot in a 19th century-style community isolated from the outside world and subject to a pact with mysterious creatures living in the surrounding woods. Brody next starred in the thriller "The Jacket" (2005), playing an amnesiac man convicted of murder and forced into a morgue drawer while confined in a straight-jacket, where he sees a vision of the future that prompts him to free himself with the help of a woman he has yet to meet (Keira Knightley). Brody made his bid for action hero when he scored the leading role in Peter Jackson's CGI-laden remake of "King Kong" (2006), playing a playwright and screenwriter who accidentally joins a voyage to remote Skull Island, where a film crew discovers dinosaurs roaming about and a giant gorilla that takes a special liking to a struggling vaudeville actress (Naomi Watts).
In the celebrity biography and ode to crime noir, "Hollywoodland" (2006), he portrayed Louis Simo, a down-on-his-luck private investigator who digs into the tawdry life and mysterious death of "Superman" actor George Reeves (Ben Affleck), whose apparent murder leads to dark and complicated revelations about the famed TV actor, while he learns about his own connection to the events. Though most of the praise went to Affleck for his surprising turn as Reeves, Brody, nonetheless was cited for his strong turn as a man on the fringe. In 2006, Brody filmed "Manolete," a Spanish-made look at the famed 1940s bullfighter who had a passionate love affair with tempestuous actress Lupe Sino (Penélope Cruz) until he was killed in the ring in 1947. He next joined forces with acclaimed indie filmmaker Wes Anderson for "The Darjeeling Limited" (2007), the director's rather uninspired dramedy about three brothers (Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson) who embark on a spiritual journey across India following their father's death.
Brody next played real-life record producer Leonard Chess in "Cadillac Records" (2008), a highly fictionalized look at the man who launched the careers of Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), Chuck Berry (Mos Def) and Etta James (Beyoncé Knowles). Despite director Darnell Martin's liberal use of creative license - she ignored facts about Chess not paying his musicians and even removed his brother, with whom Chess formed his record company, from the equation - the filmed was cited by several critics for award-worthy performances, particularly from Brody. Meanwhile, he starred in the caper dramedy, "The Brothers Bloom" (2009), playing a successful con artist partnered with his brother (Mark Ruffalo) and their sidekick (Rinko Kikuchi), who falls for a beautiful heiress (Rachel Weisz) while trying to relieve her of $2.5 million.