Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody (The Pianist) was the newbie of The Darjeeling Limited group and he didn’t mind it one bit. Brody had never worked with writer/director Wes Anderson before or had the chance to share the screen with either Owen Wilson or Jason Schwartzman prior to tackling The Darjeeling Limited. Yet Brody, Wilson and Schwartzman had no problem portraying bickering brothers on a spiritual journey through India in the Wes Anderson comedy.
Brody had met Wilson and Schwartzman before signing on to The Darjeeling Limited but to call their existing relationship brotherly would have been vastly overstating their relationship. Prior to getting together for Darjeeling Limited they’d just known each other casually. “I think just the key was that everybody was great to be with,” explained Brody as to how they developed the sibling bond. “We all approached this with a very positive attitude. We were all there and we were all happy to be there. We lived together in this big house.”
Newcomer Brody says he felt honored to be welcomed into this group. “It was like a theatre company,” said Brody. “I felt like being a part of that was a gift, because they already have their routine. They already have their way of working. I’m pretty malleable [and] I can adjust. Because I’ve worked on so many different sets with different kinds of directors and kind of direction, I know what I have to do to protect my character and myself, and then I’m game to play the way they want to play within that. This was really fun because Wes wanted the preparation that I came with, and then he had this fun, high-energy approach. It was just kind of all-in all the time. Everybody’s working, there were no trailers, there were no distractions. We just were working and joking around in between takes.
We were on an adventure together and that was beautiful. I think that is very present in the film, and the fact that we were all going through this kind of journey is visible. It has a really special quality that we wouldn’t have been able to contribute if it was done in a studio in Burbank. It would be a very different movie unfortunately. So that’s the advantage of those kind locations.”
Wilson plays oldest brother Francis, the boss of the group and the guy who has to be in charge of organizing everything. We all know the type. Schwartzman is Jack, the youngest brother who’s actually the most stable of the siblings. Brody takes on the role of the troubled middle child, Peter. And as with most families, the dynamics between the fictional brothers in The Darjeeling Limited is a constantly shifting thing. One tells a secret and swears his brother to silence. That same brother turns around and shares the secret with the brother who was initially left out. To say these brothers have issues is oversimplifying things.
“They all have lots of things that they’re dealing with, and lots of things to overcome,” explained Brody. “I think it’s obviously a dysfunctional family. I see them as fragmented human beings. They’re under-developed, and I think a lot of it, the qualities of my character for instance, and all of them in a way, are very boyish. They haven’t matured, especially this affinity for poisonous snakes. That’s me when I was 12 completely. I would definitely have bought a cobra if I could [something his character does in the film]. I wouldn’t have considered any of the repercussions. I just would have bought that cobra and taken that cobra home.
But together, they end up becoming more whole and more complete and so that’s the journey. I think Peter has a hard time dealing with things that feel overwhelming. They are overwhelming to him, I think, and he just blocks them. I know people who are like that. It’s certainly easier not to deal with things, but that doesn’t mean they go away. That’s why drugs aren’t a solution. They would feel great and if you could just take it and just not deal with the problems, everybody would be on drugs. That’s why a lot of people are on drugs, but the second you get off drugs, those problems didn’t go away. You’re stuck dealing with them and now you’re stuck with the fact that you now need a drug on top of that. That’s the big dilemma. Essentially that’s what these guys are trying to do, escape the pain of life and the problems and get past it until they have to face it head-long and then they face it and grow. That is the journey, I guess.”
Brody went into the film expecting there to be some improvisation, however there wound up being surprisingly little. “I know it does look like [there’s adlibbing]. That’s a credit to good writing and relaxed actors because I think Wes created a wonderful environment where the writing was succinct, but real and fun,” revealed Brody. “No, the style in which he shoots is pretty specific. Because we’re shooting these masters, these moving masters, you can’t mess up anything. If one thing doesn’t work in that sequence, the whole scene’s dead and you’ve got to do it again. You don’t want to be the one that screws it up, and I think there’s a need for everybody to be very on the ball. I think the physicality and the humor, the silent kind of gestures, that’s all improvised and that’s changing constantly, based on what the other person just did, or how they said their line. But the actual dialogue itself remains intact. So it’s good, it was a good way of working.”