Adrien Brody

The Pianist

Interviewed by Ian Johnston

Twenty-nine-year-old Adrien Brody takes on the most demanding role of his career in Roman Polanski's Palme d'Or-winning biopic "The Pianist".

Brody portrays Wladyslaw Szpilman, a gifted Jewish pianist who bears witness to the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.

How did you come to take on this role? Not many people have heard of Wladyslaw Szpilman...

I hadn't either. First and foremost it was an opportunity to work with Roman [Polanski]. That's what I jumped at. I was lucky to find a role like this which goes through such a journey - an emotional, physical, psychological transformation. When I first met Roman I didn't even see the script. I just took the opportunity.

The resemblance between yourself and Szpilman is quite remarkable...

Yeah, it's pretty good. It wasn't necessary, fortunately, because he wasn't that well known.

How long does it take to prepare for a film like this?

There was a lot to do, but I only had about six or seven weeks. In that time I lost 30 pounds on a crash diet. I had to learn to play Chopin and work out a dialect. Obviously I also had rehearsals, research, documentary footage to watch, and read the memoirs. Plus I'd practice the piano, three or four hours a day.

In what ways did Polanski help you with this incredibly demanding role?

First of all, he'd experienced a lot of what had happened. He and Szpilman shared similar things. So having him guide me through was invaluable. I had a great deal of trust in his vision. He knew what he was talking about and that's really important. He's very specific in what he wants. And, fortunately, he's able to convey what he wants.

Like a certain look or style?

A look, a style, a specific interpretation of certain moments. But the advantage was that they were equally as valid, if not more so, than my own. Therefore perfectly acceptable and valuable choices. He was very helpful.