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Interview

4 Tips From Brady Corbet on Being an In-Demand Actor

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4 Tips From Brady Corbet on Being an In-Demand Actor
Photo Source: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

At the mere age of 24, Brady Corbet has already worked with some of the most distinguished filmmakers in film today. He appeared in films like Michael Haneke's "Funny Games" and Lars Von Trier's "Melancholia." The actor can currently be seen in the title role of "Simon Killer" from writer-director Antonio Campos, which follows a recent college graduate in Paris to get over a bad break up. Corbet is earning raves for his performance of the charming Simon, who soon shows a sinister and violent side beneath his pleasant facade. The sought-after actor and filmmker spoke to Backstage about his rapidly rising career. 

Find a new take on a familiar trope.
One of Corbet’s first major film roles was in 2007's “Funny Games,” in which he and Michael Pitt played a pair of sociopaths who systematically torture a family they’ve taken hostage. But Corbet says there is a big difference between that character and the amoral Simon. “The thing about ‘Funny Games’ that’s so odd is that it’s really Laurel and Hardy,” he says. “Haneke would shoot our coverage in that film as a comedy, and then he’d shoot the reverse on the family being terrified. What we were shooting was intentionally cartoonish. Its roots are not in reality.” On the other hand, Simon is all too realistic. “He’s a person. I felt much more responsibility to be true in the representation of something like this. We never wanted to glorify his behavior or make him seem cool or sexy.”

Get drunk with your directors.
Corbet says he’s done hundreds of auditions in his life, and still isn’t very good at it. “I’m really bad at tests of any kind so I’m bad at auditions,” he notes. “I consider myself educated most of the time, but when I’m under the gun I just fail. I can’t just stand in the middle of a space with someone behind a camera saying, ‘Dance monkey, dance!’” So many of his recent roles have come about through relationships he’s made over the years. For example, he met Campos through a mutual friend in 2008, but the two truly bonded at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Recalls Campos, “We had one really great drunken night and went back to where he was staying with a bottle of Jack Daniels and literally fell asleep talking.” As a result of their relationship, he didn’t have to audition for the Campos-produced “Martha Marcy May Marlene” or “Simon Killer.” Corbet also admits to getting drunk with Von Trier and Haneke. But, points out Campos, “I don’t think it’s Brady’s secret weapon per se, it’s just that directors drink a lot.” Says Corbet with a laugh, “I’m a pretty sociable guy. I’ve never really thought about it, but I’ve gotten drunk with some of my heroes.” And who can drink him under the table. Without hesitation, he responds, “Lars. He is a god among men.”

Choose who over what.
When asked how he chooses his parts, it’s surprising to learn Corbet puts little stock in the script. “It’s only the filmmaker. The script is really, really second. And there’s a huge gap between filmmaker and script for me,” he says. “I almost don’t care about the story that they’re telling, I really only care about who wants to tell it.” As an example, he points to the film “Paradise Lost,” which he recently made with first-time director Andrea Di Stefano. “When it was sent to me, I wanted to make sure I was right for it. I had some hesitations because it was unlike anything I’d ever done. And five minutes on the phone with the filmmaker, I knew he was fucking amazing. He was so sweet and human and thoughtful. Then it was a no-brainer—‘I will take the trip with you.’” If a filmmaker doesn’t win him over, Corbet says he has little interest in a project, admitting, “I have walked away from a lot based on how I felt about the filmmaker.”

Learn from the mistakes of others.
Corbet hopes to make his feature directorial debut next year with the “The Childhood of a Leader.” Set in France following World War II, the film is “a dark fable about a young boy present for a significant part of world history—the six months leading up to the signing of the treaty of Versailles.” Having worked with so many esteemed directors, what has Corbet learned most? “The thing I’ve taken the most away from them are the mistakes,” he reveals. “Because all the mistakes I’ve seen people I love and admire make are the mistakes I would have made. And I’m going to make different mistakes. It’s been a beautiful, validating thing for me to see that someone can fuck something up and the movie will still be okay.” Even more importantly, Corbet says watching so many great filmmakers struggle helped take some of the mystery out of the process for him. “What I realized is that I could do it; it became tangible and palpable for me. If you’d talked to me 10 years ago, it would have felt out of reach.”

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