Known as one of the world's sharpest comedic minds and performers, Albert Brooks took a dark and dramatic turn for his role in this year's indie favorite, "Drive," directed by Nicolas Winding-Refn and starring Ryan Gosling. Brooks earned a Golden Globe nomination for his work, playing an organized crime boss constantly struggling between his sense of humanity and the dirty reality of his criminal underworld.
Brooks spoke with The Huffington Post about the film, his next role in Judd Apatow's "This Is Forty," the ever-growing Hollywood awards season, and Gosling, who plays the film's soft-spoken, violent anti-hero. Brooks' wife, artist Kimberly Brooks, is the Founding Arts Editor at The Huffington Post.
Congrats on getting nominated.
I was hoping it'd get film and everything, because I really loved it. But listen, I'm glad people are still talking about it in December and I think it's a movie that's going to stick around for a long time. I know it comes out on DVD next month and my gut feeling is it's one of those movies that's going to chug along for a long time. I really believe that, it's a very cool piece of work.
It's a bit of a morally ambiguous film; ostensibly, Ryan Gosling is the hero, but he's an anti-hero, and your character is more likable. It's a subtle role.
It certainly doesn't bang you over the head morally. You can leave there thinking a lot of things. Part of me felt the Ryan Gosling character was just totally insane, but I didn't consider my character that, because my character just wanted to be left alone. All of this was forced on him.
How'd you get involved in the film in the first place? It's a foreign director, a small film and a role you might not usually play.
I got a call, the casting director called my manager and said I know that Albert is looking for something different, you should read this, this is happening quickly. And Ryan Gosling was already involved and Nicolas was involved. I had seen 'Bronson,' which I loved, it's one of Nicolas' movies, and it was just one of those things where the initial people involved, I love Ryan Gosling, what's not to like? The part looked like something I hadn't done before, so it was like, great, let's all sit down and see if we can make this work.
Does getting nominated for a part you might not usually play make it especially rewarding?
I guess. This year, 2011's been a lovely year, because I had a novel and I never wrote a novel before and that went well, and I put a fork in a guy's eye, and people liked it, so I have to say it's rewarding, yeah.
The graphic violence in that film, it was played up so much, it was kind of fun in the theater.
It almost got laughs, from what I saw a couple of times, you almost laugh at it. When you see that these billion dollar video games, when you see how violent Call of Duty is, you almost can't even come close anymore in a movie. At least if it's done beautifully and it's photographed well and scored well, it's okay. I'm not a big violence person in movies, but I found myself being pretty interested in the way he shot this.
You're going back to comedy with Judd Apatow's "This Is Forty." Is that a weird transition back?
No, because that's what I've always done. I think it was weirder playing Paul Rudd's father because it made me feel older than I feel. It was easier to kill someone than pretend I had a 40-year-old son.
I saw your tweets yesterday about the Screen Actors Guild Awards. (Brooks was not nominated for a SAG Award.)
I had one more this morning. I thanked the Golden Globes and said if I had a health plan, I'd leave SAG altogether.
That speaks to the sheer number of awards and nominations and things that happen now. Does that get overwhelming? Do you value some over others?
Here's the thing: With each passing year, and with many more outlets that want to talk about it, it really becomes like a big Vegas poker game. So if you're not careful, you can get caught up in the whole odds of it. It has nothing to do with the acting anymore, now it's about "he's 2:1, he's 4:6, he's 3:2," it becomes like a horse... I think you can go and bet, you can go to Las Vegas like you can a football game.
Some people campaign for awards; does it feel like you're forced to do those things now?
Well, you know, listen, I haven't been here every year where it's tiresome. I'm happy that the film is still standing, and I'm happy that people want to talk about it, and I'm happy that they like it. So for me, this year is fun. If your'e someone who does this every single year, maybe you feel like, I haven't been overwhelmed with it. It's fun for me.
You won the New York Film Critics Circle Award.
And I'll go back there and have a dinner and that'll be nice. I won an award from them as a writer for my movie "Mother" and I still remember that the dinner was a lot of laughs and it was enjoyable.
Do you follow it all? The blogs, all the awards that come out? Or do you just keep away from it?
Well, you know, it's told to you. The film company says, "You won the Boston Film Critics Award," you're going to listen. It's like, great, why not? You don't have to go look it up, somebody will call you and say, "Hey, congratulations." All that's good. It means that it's working. I've been in a lot of movies where there's been no discussion in December, and the truth is you'd rather have discussion. It's like a ball team. What ball team doesn't want to get into the World Series?
Does it frustrate you that that's what people focus on instead of the actual movie?
I think that if the initial movie isn't giving them something to focus on, then it never leads to this anyway. I know exactly what you're saying, but I think, I don't know, 30 years ago people talked more about movies in general, just about the movie. It's only been a recent phenomenon when, I think USA Today started many years ago publishing the weekend grosses and people that didn't even care about grosses, somebody at the gas station would say, "Oh look at that, 'X-Men' only made $14 million." And I don't know that that was a positive change, but that's it, we all live in a world of first place and everybody has to go through that.
There's this term, Oscar Bait, where people are playing a big historical character in a drama that they think will win them an award. Do you think that happens a lot, people take roles that are designed to win?
I don't know. I think you've got to be really careful doing anything like that, because generally it backfires on you. There's no guarantees about anything, and my answer is, I don't, I don't think people take roles based on that.
Your co-star in this film, Ryan Gosling, just got two nominations for other films. How was it working with him in this film, especially seeing as it was so much different than the other things he did this year?
Well it was fine, you know, his character didn't say anything. So I was sort of like, every day, I did it in character, I'd say, "You going to fucking talk to me or what?" He just didn't say anything. But he's a great guy. We had dinner, and listen, I like the guy. I like his acting, I like the movie choices he makes, I think he's trying to take it seriously.