The world according to Brady Corbet
Hollywood has been trying to get Brady Corbet onside for years, but he’s having none of it. “I was always passionate about movies, not about being in them,” says the star of Simon Killer
We’re two days away from the Cannes Film Festival and actor Brady Corbet is bustling around his Parisian apartment and packing for the occasion. A passionate and articulate cinephile, in common with most Cannes regulars, Brady is just a little underwhelmed by this year’s slate.
“There are films I am very curious to see and it’s a really solid selection. But last year was a lot more exciting. We had Carlos Reygadas and Leos Carax. This year there’s nothing that looks super-radical. At least upon first glance. I am sure something special will pop up. There are a ton of films on in Un Certain Regard I know nothing about.”
Corbet credits his mother, a rabid film fan, with kick-starting his own love affair with the 10th and liveliest muse.
“My mom worked in the mortgage industry but she has always been a cinephile,” he says. “She was a single mom. It was always just the two of us. Movies were our thing.”
The Corbet clan’s unrivalled knowledge of the medium ensured that Brady Corbet has always made acting look cool. His first big break came in Catherine Hardwicke’s hard hitting Thirteen . His subsequent career has taken in hip tunes (including a video for Bright Eyes), a hip anime series ( I My Me! Strawberry Eggs ) and even hipper movies ( Martha Marcy May Marlene ).
He remains close to his mother – even though work has lately taken him around “Panama, New York, Oslo, Miami, Austin and then back to Paris” – and is proud to describe himself as a feminist. His latest film, a second collaboration with Martha Marcy May Marlene producer Antonio Campos, is Simon Killer , a scathing, unforgiving, and merciless anatomy of a misogynist.
Simon Killer has provided young Mr Corbet – the film’s titular star and co-author – with his most challenging, not to mention challenged, role to date.
“I do think of it as a feminist film,” he says . “From the very beginning, it was made with feminist pretentions. I grew up with a single mother. My thinking has always been feminist. My reaction to people crying misogyny – which happened early and which surprised us – is that, if anything, the film takes the trouble to shed light on this issue and does not glorify the character. It only portrays him as a hapless coward. We wanted to look at that issue now. That’s why there is so much contemporary pop and contemporary technology in the film, all these things that in six or seven years time will be obsolete. We were trying to make it a period piece.”
As with Harmony Korine’s all-out assault on pop sexism in Spring Breakers , most of Simon Killer ’s detractors are either faux feminists of the slut-walk genus or men.
“It’s interesting that most of our film’s fans and champions are women,” says Brady. “We never wanted to do a single thing that made you approve of this character. And we thought about how often have we sat across the dinner from a friend and she has introduced us to her boyfriend and he’s a complete fucking loser. You’re like “Really?” This guy? It happens. So it was crazy when we heard the word ‘misogyny’ applied. For me that’s worse than being called a Nazi.”
For a brief moment in the mid-noughties, Brady Corbet looked all set to be the next big teen sensation, a shiny, new movieverse pin up to rival the N’Sync lads or Backstreet crew.
Instead, and with even more determination than his Mysterious Skin co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the young actor has consistently veered away from the prospect of stardom in favour of roads less travelled.
“Im not a particularly vain character,” notes Brady. “My appearance has never been a preoccupation”.
He’s not kidding. For more than a decade, the 24-year-old has been courted by studios and suits. Corbet has – to be fair – said yes to bigger, brasher projects on occasion; he was Alan Tracy in the 2004 reboot of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds and had a recurring role on the fifth season of 24 playing the son of Jack Bauer’s girlfriend.
But more than Johnny Depp or James Franco or any of the stars who have determined to kick their teeny bopper audience to the kerb, Brady Corbet is a fan of weightier themes and ‘difficult’ cinema. Having worked with Lars Von Trier on Melancholia , Michael Haneke on Funny Games and Greg Araki on Mysterious Skin , it’s fair to say that Brady is an auteur’s actor. Indeed, as we’re talking, his phone lights up with a call from feted enfant terrible Gaspar Noe.
Hot dog. We’re suitably impressed.
“I’m definitely an auteur-driven actor,” says Brady. “And I am auteur-driven as an audience member. I am interested in making the kind of movies I’d actually like to see. I was always passionate about movies, not about being in them. I started out loving punk rock and wanted to work with shocking material. that has evolved into something else as an adult. Being involved with film was always a secondary motivation. I just wanted to be contributing in some way.”
Does he find that such, admittedly, very different artists as the ones on his CV, do indeed radiate some indeterminate quality that marks out the auteur from the regular old, common garden film-maker?
“Lars certainly does,” laughs Brady. “You have the sense that you are in the presence of somebody truly great. He’s a very special person. In the presence of Haneke you know you are with somebody fiercely intelligent. Michael is very academic. He projects a different kind of energy. Lars is the kind of person you cant put your finger on. He breathes creativity.”
Having just completed work opposite Benecio del Toro’s Pablo Escobar in Paradise Lost , Brady is gearing up to direct his first feature.
“It’s something I’ve been writing for years. It’s called the Childhood of a Leader . About a family of three who attend the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and about the family’s little boy who acts very peculiar on their arrival on France. ”
We can hardly wait to see what film-making evolves from working with all those auteurs.