No, you’re not see­ing things. That’s com­edy wor­ry­wart Al­bert Brooks play­ing the tough guy, writes Neala John­son

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

Tougher than your av­er­age co­me­dian.

AL­BERT Brooks was wrap­ping up a meet­ing at di­rec­tor Ni­co­las Wind­ing Refn’s house.

The pair had been talk­ing about the pos­si­bil­ity of Brooks – best known for wordy, wor­ry­wart com­edy – play­ing a Los An­ge­les mob boss with a mean streak in Refn’s new project Drive.

Brooks ( pic­tured) badly wanted the job. ‘‘ I’ve wanted to play this kind of a part for a long time,’’ says the star of films such as Pri­vate Ben­jamin,

Broad­cast News and Find­ing Nemo. But how to prove to Dan­ish film­maker Refn that he re­ally could play so much against type?

‘‘ As I was walk­ing out the door I thought, ’ should I do this, should I not do it?’ I just wanted to show him phys­i­cal strength, so I pinned him up against the wall by his neck,’’ says Brooks, 64.

‘‘ I’m telling you, he’s al­ready the whitest per­son you ever saw . . . he turned al­most clear! I said very qui­etly, ’ just so you know, I’m phys­i­cally very strong’ and he said ’ OK, OK!’ It could have back­fired but it was right for this.’’

Per­haps it’s a tech­nique Brooks should have tried on a few movie ex­ecs ear­lier in his ca­reer . . .

‘‘ Oh, don’t get me started! Not for au­di­tions, af­ter the movie came out, af­ter they didn’t do any­thing to pro­mote the movie, I would have loved to have choked them,’’ he pon­ders. Suf­fice to say, Brooks got the part. He is clearly en­joy­ing his time as a hard man – and not just for the mur­murs it might bring him some gold booty come awards sea­son. Tell him you’re a lit­tle fright­ened to talk to him af­ter watch­ing Drive and he says: ‘‘ That’s what I was hop­ing for!’’

A dyed- in- the- blood- soaked- wool in­die film, Drive stars Ryan Gosling as Driver, a stunt driver for the movies who moon­lights as a get­away driver for crim­i­nals.

Brooks, as Bernie, en­ters the frame when Driver needs fund­ing to be­come a pro­fes­sional race car driver. But when Driver takes the wrong wheel­man job, Bernie quickly comes gun­ning for him.

Though not filled with a con­stant spray of bul­lets, in the se­lect mo­ments where it does get vi­o­lent, Drive leaves no skull un­crushed.

‘‘ I showed it to my kids, I was hop­ing for some re­spect,’’ Brooks cracks.

But he ac­tu­ally did show it to his kids, aged 13 and 11.

‘‘ They wanted to see it very badly. My wife thought it was OK. The vi­o­lence in this movie is al­most like video game vi­o­lence. I ex­plained to them how it was done and they weren’t afraid of that. My son, who’s 13, was much more afraid of The Ex­or­cist which I showed him about three months ago – that freaked him out. This didn’t bother him.’’

Brooks can’t say that he wasn’t both­ered by the on- set pre­tend­ing of the vi­o­lence.

‘‘ Ni­co­las does 30- 40 takes, so if you do a vi­o­lent ac­tion to some­body it’s dis­turb­ing over and over and over again. You’re cov­ered with that blood, you’re stab­bing some­body – there’s re­ally noth­ing en­joy­able about it.

‘‘ Af­ter a while you work your­self up into a tem­per. It’s like be­ing in a real fight with some­body – the more you get punched and the more you punch, the more you get riled up. I didn’t find it en­joy­able at all – I guess that’s a good sign that I’m not a killer in real life.’’

How­ever, the big­gest up­side to Brooks’ newly found hard- man sta­tus is that 35 years af­ter his film ca­reer be­gan, it may give him the chance to go ‘‘ off the beaten track’’. ‘‘ Drive is just mak­ing its way into the Hol­ly­wood con­scious­ness and I don’t know what it will bring. If it brings some­thing in­ter­est­ing, that would be fan­tas­tic,’’ he says.

‘‘ This year, I wrote a novel [ 2030] and that was a brand new feel­ing; I didn’t know that I could do it but it turned out very suc­cess­fully. Hope­fully, I’ve got some roads left to travel.’’

He’s not ready to look back on his ca­reer: ‘‘ On my deathbed, which I hope is not im­mi­nent, I prob­a­bly could give you an an­swer.’’

Still, he ad­mits there have been frus­tra­tions along the way. Hence the dream of chok­ing some movie mar­ke­teers.

‘‘ But any­thing worth­while, for any­body, there’s strug­gle in­volved,’’ he says. ‘‘ Noth­ing is given to any­body, I don’t care who you are.

‘‘ I think if you’re still stand­ing and you’ve got a few friends and maybe a kid who likes you, you get an A. That’s all.’’

Those mar­ket­ing Drive should have no fear of Brooks’ strong grip. He reck­ons they may have had a hand in the spread­ing of the story of a US wo­man su­ing af­ter the Drive trailer made her think it would be more like

The Fast and the Fu­ri­ous.

‘‘ Oh that’s the sil­li­est thing I’ve ever heard. It makes me want to sue ev­ery movie I’ve ever wanted a re­fund for. Ev­ery film should have that,’’ he says.

‘‘ I could have had a great law­suit on my film De­fend­ing Your Life: ’ That’s not what hap­pens when you die, my cousin died and he told me!’

‘‘ I wish I had thought of that.’’


Now show­ing State and Vil­lage cine­mas

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