This story is part of , our podcast featuring interviews with actors, artists, celebrities and creative types about their work, career and current obsessions.
For his latest film, Clean, Adrien Brody took on a starring role but also wore a number of hats off camera. He co-wrote the screenplay, produced the film for IFC and composed the music. On, Brody shared how he even used his own car, a Buick Grand National, for the independent movie.
Brody plays a tormented garbage man called Clean who tries to live a quiet life of redemption. But when Clean becomes the target of a local crime boss, he must reconcile tensions by using the violence of his past. The film is a brisk 94 minutes that’s part gritty ’70s crime drama, part action-thriller, with themes of social inequity sewn throughout.
But what makes Clean compelling, aside from Brody’s ripe intensity and flair for portraying someone with a haunted soul, are the personal touches that only an independent film can have. Brody had a hand in pretty much every aspect of the film. He shared that writing and making Clean was a long complex process that he wasn’t sure would ever get completed.
“I’ve been doing this a lifetime. And this is the first time I’ve poured everything into one project,” said Brody. “It’s been a very long road. We’ve had a lot of obstacles, all of us, through this time. And so for Clean, to come together, I have a lot of gratitude in my heart.”
Along with Brody, Clean stars RZA (Wu-Tang Clan), Glenn Fleshler (Barry, Billions) and relative newcomer Chandler DuPont. During our discussion about Clean, Brody opened up on what it was like witnessing other actors inhabit the roles he created and say the words he wrote.
“It’s more strange to watch others bring something to life and to share a vision of what something means,” said Brody. “I get how writers are precious about certain things because I’m an actor, and sometimes I need to change certain things to feel more honest to me. But at the same time, in this case, we had so many wonderful actors, and they just responded to the script.”
During our conversation, Brody also talked about starring in Succession; his upcoming role as Pat Riley in the Adam McKay series Winning Time for HBO Max; and why transforming his physicality is integral to his approach as an actor. For Clean, Brody got down to zero percent body fat, despite nursing a back injury.
“You can’t act emaciated, and you can’t act being overly muscular. You have to do the work to get there,” said Brody. “I had strained my back and still had to train for this and be ready to do this in a very limited time frame. We shot in upstate [New York] in the middle of winter, and it was a very cold winter and I had no body fat. But that discomfort adds a level of suffering to the character, it adds to a truth that I can’t put into words.”
Clean debuts in theaters, on video on demand, and is available to rent starting Jan. 28. Listen to my full interview with Brody in the podcast player at the top of this article. Subscribe to I’m So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Connie Guglielmo or I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about work, career and current obsessions.