Adrien Brody is not exactly known for his comedy. The 43-year-old actor, who won an Academy Award for his performance as an emaciated, Chopin-playing Holocaust survivor in The Pianist, is deadly serious about his craft. Which makes him the perfect foil for Andrew Dice Clay in tonight’s episode of Showtime’s Dice.
With no warning or rationale, Brody pops up in the show’s second episode with a mission: to study and subsequently “become” Andrew Dice Clay. As he explains in the opening scene, he is preparing to star in an off-Broadway play that focuses on “masculinity.” As a “method actor,” he wants to follow Clay around and learn what makes him tick, a proposition that is flattering at first but ultimately deeply disturbing.
Before the episode airs Sunday night on Showtime, Brody spoke to The Daily Beast about how he ended up playing himself for the first time ever on Dice and discussed his not-so-secret love of comedy. Believe it or not, he took the whole thing very seriously.
Below is an edited and condensed version of our conversation.
How did you end up playing yourself on Dice?
They created the concept in the screenplay and they assumed I’d find it as funny as they did. And I did. And you know, I’m a fan of [Andrew Dice Clay] and I thought, what an interesting idea. It’s a very complex way of playing a character, because I’m creating a character of myself and at the same time creating an interpretation of him and playing it from the perspective of myself. And all of that is just so funny to play with. Also, because I’m very serious about my work, it’s an opportunity for me to do a broader comedy, which I love and appreciate. But it was also a chance to poke fun at a certain perception of how I might be.
Is this the first time you’ve played yourself on screen?
That’s a good question. Probably. There may have been one time — I don’t think so, actually, this might have been it.
So, what considerations did you make about how you wanted to portray yourself?
Well, we didn’t change anything really [in the script]. We enhanced it by having a lot of improvisation and a playfulness of how we both interpreted ourselves. Dice is also playing a character, playing a version of himself, not entirely himself. And it’s about that dance. He’s wonderful to act with.
What was your relationship, if any, with Andrew Dice Clay before this?
We may have seen each other or bumped into each other somewhere, but I didn’t know him at all. I loved his earlier stand-up bits growing up, when I was in high school. I remember running the cassette tape of his into the ground, I just thought he was hilarious, as did most of my adolescent friends. He’s a really great guy and was really fun to collaborate with and we’re friends now, so that’s cool.
As you said, you’re not known for comedy, which makes this performance so surprising. Did it spark in you a desire to do more comedy moving forward?
Well, I’ve always had it. The odd thing is how, I think, the intensity and devotion to my craft and the intensity of certain performances or types of roles I’ve played overshadow the comedic stints that I’ve had. Darjeeling Limited is a comedy, The Brothers Bloom is a comedy. I’ve done myriad smaller independent films. Dummy, which is a wonderful film that I did with Vera Farmiga years ago. Playing Dalí in Midnight in Paris is a comedic turn. The issue is, it’s a perception thing. I love comedy and I think it’s so much fun. There are different challenges and it requires a similar kind of focus. But there are levels of freedoms in it that are not often afforded to me in a more serious dramatic role.
In the show, you describe yourself as a “method actor” and that’s why you’re following Dice around, to learn from him. Is that the type of thing you’ve done for actual movie roles in the past?
Yeah, sure, that’s one aspect of it, but I’ve done many things to help create a transformation that is authentic to me. The more I have a sincere connection to something, the less acting is required. And the more it’s about creating the space to feel that connection and to feel that shift from yourself. And start interpreting things through new eyes. And the only way to do that for me is through quite a bit of work and research and associations from another perspective. And really living that for a period of time, like a meditation. You start to be able to key into things, like a way of responding that’s instinctual to a character and not your own instincts. It’s necessary. Some roles require less and some roles require a great deal of commitment.
Can you think of one role that stands out to you that you did a ton of that kind of research for?
I’ve done it across the board on many films. The Pianist would be a perfect example, where I taught myself to play Chopin and simultaneously lost a tremendous amount of weight and inundated myself with historical details of the time. And omitted all modern music in my life and sold my car and put my stuff in storage and disconnected my phone. It was very extreme and I was able to do that at that point in my life, but I basically had nothing comforting to return to or dream of. They were gone. I basically disconnected and reconnected in that phase as that character. And then had to slowly try to climb back into my life, which took a long time.
That obviously paid off in terms of awards, winning you the Best Actor Oscar. Your friend Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar this year. Have you given him a hard time about beating him to it by 13 years?
[Laughs.] Definitely not. No, I’m very happy for him. We just spent time in Sumatra fighting the deforestation in the rain forest there. And I was fortunate to get to experience that and learn about the impact on the biodiversity of that region. And I admire all of those efforts that he makes and try to do my share as well.