Adam Brody on 'Ready or Not' and His Lost 'Justice League' Movie
[This story contains spoilers for Ready or Not.]
Sixteen years ago, Adam Brody became an overnight sensation when The O.C. premiered on Fox. The actor’s portrayal of the quick-witted comic book aficionado and foster brother, Seth Cohen, is often credited for helping to usher in a new era of leading men. The 39-year-old actor has worked consistently since Fox’s pop-cultural phenomenon ended its run in 2007, but, 2019 has reintroduced Brody to generations past and present thanks to Fox Searchlight’s Ready or Not and Warner Bros.' superhero hit Shazam!
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In Ready or Not, Brody is part of the wealthy Le Domas family, who have a disturbing family tradition: hunting new additions to their family on their wedding night via a dangerous rendition of hide-and-seek. In Shazam!, Brody played the adult version of another comic-book-loving foster brother, Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer). However, Shazam! was not Brody’s first brush with superhero films, as he was famously cast as the Flash in George Miller's Justice League: Mortal.
"The draft I read was very good. Game-changing? No. Just very solid and very fulfilling," Brody tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It had the perfect tone, I thought. It captured exactly what you want out of this movie, and everyone was cast fantastically for their roles."
Brody spent several weeks on the Australian set in 2007 before the film fell apart due to the writers’ strike and tax credit issues.
In a recent conversation with THR, Brody shares more details on Miller's Justice League, his reunion with Justice League co-star D.J. Cotrona on Shazam! and the comparisons between The O.C.’s Seth Cohen and Shazam!’s Freddy Freeman.
The poster for Ready or Not is rather beautiful. Do you feel like today’s movie posters are lacking compared to the posters of our youth and long before that?
Certainly there’s a joy in the posters of the ‘80s and earlier. Putting the ensemble in really paints the storybook picture of the movie, which obviously this one evokes. But I do think enough people are using that idea now; there’s enough throwback posters. I would put this one in that category, although I like that it’s not too much of an homage to it; it’s also its own thing. I think there’s people pulling from our youth, enough to satisfy me, but at the same time, there’s some fresh ideas, too. I don’t know if it was better back then, but I do think oftentimes — and certainly in things I’ve been a part of — the vision is lacking, or at least the daring to make a bold choice.
I probably like movie trailers better than movies, and I probably like posters better than trailers. The most distilled joy of a movie to me is walking through a movie theater and seeing the posters; it’s at least tied with trailers. I just love a good poster, and I’m very happy with this one. It’s a highlight. That said, I don’t want to get too political, but it’s not lost on me that the coolest poster I’ve been a part of — one where I’m proudest to be on — prominently features me holding a gun. I have some conflicts about that, but what can I say.
Ready or Not is about an unusual family tradition, to put it mildly. Did you have any family traditions growing up that you were hesitant to introduce to friends?
None whatsoever, really. My family doesn’t hang on to tradition too much. I grew up in a suburb of San Diego that had very few Jewish occupants. I had one Jewish classmate, maybe two, in all of my elementary school and probably high school. My parents, although not being religious at all, because they were raised in Jewish households in a different era, felt duty-bound to impart some of that tradition…. Basically, I had to get bar-mitzvahed, which is what I’m trying to say. (Laughs) I had to go to a Sunday Hebrew school to learn what I had to do, and at the time I was pretty upset about it, because I didn’t know anyone. It just felt so alien to me, to my friends and to anyone I knew. It seemed like such an odd thing that I had to go do. While never becoming a religious person myself, I moved to L.A. and met a lot of Jews. (Laughs) From there, I embraced much more of my cultural heritage.
A priest has to bless each and every Conjuring set due to a documented history of bizarre occurrences. Did Ready or Not have any unusual happenings on set?
Not to my knowledge. This was a remarkably pleasant and civilized experience. In my short stint with horror, sometimes I find that horror sets are actually the more civil and pleasant sets. There’s something about the material. Also, when you’re making it, it can be so inherently goofy and funny that it becomes a good time in that way. I just think horror directors are pleasant. I don’t know about across the board, but in my experience, I think they get their anger out through the work. But, no, no supernatural or sadistic games on this set.
Do you think the vibe is lighter in order to counterbalance the darkness of the material?
Yeah, I definitely think that’s the case. Again, part of it is just the nature of what you’re doing, and out of context, it’s just hysterical. I bet a lot of people would attest to this, but in my limited experience and completely generalizing, the temperament of your average horror director is probably lighter than the temperament of your average comedy director.
When it comes to the motivations of your character, do you think Daniel hit on Grace [Samara Weaving] before the wedding as a last-ditch effort to create a scene and postpone the wedding for the sake of her and his brother, Alex [Mark O’Brien]? Or was he not that many moves ahead, despite how conflicted he appears to be?
Let’s put it this way: I certainly didn’t play that. I just think he’s a lush and doesn’t have many boundaries. As much as he was hitting on her, or at least as much as she says, I think he loves his brother too much to actually do that. Although now that you mention it, could he try to break up their marriage to save her? Maybe! If so, I think that would be much more subconscious. At the end of the day, I think he thinks that she’s probably not going to pull that card. Maybe subconsciously he felt like he could flirt with that idea because either way it would be good for him.... Ultimately, I think the safest answer is, he loves his brother too much to truly sleep with his wife. (Laughs)
I don’t think he had any intention of acting on his advances; it just seemed like a last-minute attempt to protect Grace, Alex and himself from the possibility of playing a game that has likely haunted Daniel since his youth. This leads me to the scene in the woods: Do you think Daniel would’ve let Grace go had his father [Henry Czerny] not been watching in secret? After all, he helps Grace again just moments later at the house.
I do, I do. I think by then he would. I think it’s a real misdirect, and the reveal of the dad being there puts his loyalties in a very different light. A similar thing happens earlier, where he’s talking to his brother and then his dad sneaks up on his brother. The questions could be: Did he mean what he was saying, or was he doing it for his dad’s benefit? That one is a little murkier to me; I don’t know if he’s come to the same conclusions then. Although, maybe. I’d say even then, if his dad wasn’t in that room, I’m sure his brother could’ve convinced him to help him then. But as for the woods, I do think that was just for his dad’s benefit.
The film was shot at the same Canadian mansion as Billy Madison. Did you or your castmates happen to quote that film in between takes at that location?
Yeah! I think I said, “Peeing in your pants is the coolest.” (Laughs)
Do you show up to set with your performance set in stone, or do you account for the on-set variables before committing to anything?
Both, I think. You’ve gotta account for on-set variables, and you’ve gotta hope for them. Your work is never going to be complete if you’re not working off of the environment and the other people. However, I probably start baking in my performance too early. If I’m reading something and I’m looking at the part for myself, I’ll start mouthing it as I’m reading it for the first time. I wish I didn’t, actually. I start almost picking my rhythms or trying to figure out how to say it right away. I guess it’s served me well, but still, I wouldn’t mind turning that part of my brain off and reading a script for the first time much more objectively and not at all starting to mouth my performance in the very first time I’ve looked at it.
While I was watching Shazam!, I kept thinking how Freddy reminded me so much of a young Adam Brody. So you can imagine my surprise when you appeared out of nowhere as Superhero Freddy. How much did you know going into that audition?
I knew I was auditioning for a superhero version of a kid, but I didn’t know which one or who was playing him. In fact, they made some phony sides that had nothing to do with the movie. I kind of liked the scene I auditioned with; it seemed to be a Cable Guy-esque sort of scene. If I remember correctly, some referee or ball boy gets to join the game and bark orders at all the players. It was very goofy, even goofier than Shazam!. I actually quite enjoyed it, but yeah, I had no idea it was for Freddy.
I asked David Sandberg if your casting was purposeful, since Jack’s Freddy must’ve reminded somebody else of you — as well as for the fact that Freddy was a comic-book-loving foster brother to a troubled kid, which is a role you know a little something about. Much to my surprise, Sandberg told me it wasn’t a predetermined casting. Did you immediately notice the similarities between Freddy and Seth Cohen?
I instantly noticed it when I read the script. I got the part, and then I read the script. Instantly, I started reading, “He’s a comic book aficionado,” and at first, I was like, “Uh-oh — wait.” But then I embraced it, and it worked out very well. I think it was a very happy accident. I don’t know what David said, but I imagine he had no idea…
Yeah, I got the impression that he was unfamiliar with The O.C.
I figured. So, it seems more organic that way. In the same way, I’ve also been asked if it was at all purposeful to cast me and D.J. Cotrona because we were in Justice League: Mortal.... Fuck no, it was a great coincidence, but in no way was there any forethought about that. From what you’ve just said, I’ve heard that reaction a lot. I’ve seen it on Twitter a lot. A lot of people have watched that movie and felt, “When is Seth Cohen going to show up?” It seems to be a good thing. From what I’ve heard or gathered, it’s a very nice match, and in fact, a lot of people seem to be patting themselves on the back for guessing — in a good way.
Did you get a head’s-up that D.J. Cotrona was also cast in Shazam!, or did you bump into him at a costume fitting?
I got a head’s-up when I got cast. My agent told me. So that was exciting.
When the two of you first saw each other, did one of you joke, “This thing is totally getting shut down now”?
(Laughs) We didn’t, but when I first bumped into him at the airport on the way up to Toronto, I think he was talking to our lead stunt guy from ten years ago, an Australian guy [Kyle Gardiner], and he was headed up to Toronto with D.J. But, funnily enough, [Kyle] was also gonna be D.J.’s stunt double as Superman ten years ago. So they knew each other from the George Miller thing as well. So, a little Justice League reunion.
When you were in Australia for Justice League: Mortal, did you wake up one morning and get a call that said “It’s over,” or was it more complex than that?
It was much more of a fade-out. We were there for a couple weeks; I think D.J. and Armie [Hammer] were there longer, but most of us were just there for two weeks before Christmas. The idea was, even before we went, we were gonna go for two weeks before Christmas; we’ll all go back for Christmas break, and then we’ll come out two or three weeks later. So we did, but you could tell the writers’ strike was happening, you could tell that they lost the Australian tax credit, even though creatively, it felt really good. You could tell business-wise that something was up. We were all gonna go home for Christmas and then come back in two to three weeks…very soonish…and then it just didn’t happen. But, yeah, it wasn’t like we got a pink slip.
In relationship terms, I have to assume that Justice League: Mortal is the one that got away. While I don't mean to rip off the Band-Aid again, did Mad Max: Fury Road reopen that old wound?
Yes and no. It’s definitely not a wound. It doesn’t hurt. But I did realize how fantastic it could’ve been. I’ve said this before, but the script was very good. The draft I read was very good. Game-changing? No. Just very solid and very fulfilling. It had the perfect tone, I thought. It captured exactly what you want out of this movie, and everyone was cast fantastically for their roles.
Then the writers’ strike happened, so they asked for this “kitchen sink” draft because no one was going to be able to do rewrites for the foreseeable future. So, they’re just like, “Look, write every idea you have in this script. That’s the one we’ll go off, and then we’ll pare it back.” So we got there, and the script was 30 to 40 pages longer — and all for the worse. You pulled on too many threads, and it was a fair amount messier. I’m sure we would’ve pared it back and they would’ve figured it out, because, again, it was already really good and done, I thought. So we were working with a little bit more of an unwieldy script. Still, it was a very solid script, particularly to begin with, and the cast was aces. I was very excited to work with George Miller, because he’s a legend, but who knew? I didn’t know that he hadn’t even reached his peak. So seeing Fury Road and seeing what a forward-thinking visionary he still is — it was just beautiful. It’s a beautiful marriage of old-fashioned, streamlined storytelling with modern visuals and world building.
Anyway, I still wouldn’t say it hurt; it just made me realize, “Oh, that Justice League movie actually would’ve been fucking epic.” It didn’t really even hurt much at the time, to be perfectly honest with you; I wasn’t crushed. I very much took it in stride. I also got the part fairly smoothly. So it didn’t feel like I got this big lottery ticket. I waltzed into it, and I waltzed out of it.
A Shazam! sequel is already in the works, as THR has reported. Given the comics, you’ll likely have a key role moving forward. Did you approach Shazam! as a multi-film project from day one?
Yes, but only in success. No one’s in the business anymore of making $100 million movies that aren’t made to be worlds. Even trilogies aren’t enough; they’re not even the model anymore. I’m not even saying this as a bad thing. Real success is a trilogy plus spinoffs. Real success is creating full worlds. Anything with that budget is made to make more of in success, which is exciting. That’s the thrill. In a way, it’s like doing a huge pilot.
I binged Gilmore Girls not too long ago, and I didn’t realize you were on it for nine episodes. However, due to The O.C., your character [Dave Rygalski] disappeared suddenly, without any fanfare. Was there ever an attempt to bring you back for a proper send-off?
No, not as I recall.
Your O.C. contract probably made it impossible.
Yeah, and I don’t know that I would’ve had the time. We made so much of The O.C.; it was very all-consuming.
Did the Pallladinos, who are known for fast-talking characters, have a hand in your deftness at up-tempo dialogue, or did you already have that skill?
I think I had that skill. That’s one of the things I do naturally well, and I probably don’t do the opposite so well. I’m not great at playing taciturn or a man of few words, but I do love a ream of dialogue. In terms of developing it, they wrote tons of great dialogue, and the notes seemed to mostly be “say it faster.” That was the main note, and they were very exacting, as they deserve to be with such good dialogue. So, in that way, yes, although it’s naturally probably what I do best, actually.
You have FX’s Mrs. America coming up with Cate Blanchett. What’s the elevator pitch, besides Cate Blanchett?
It’s the battle for the Equal Rights Amendment, and it’s really about second-wave feminism in the ‘70s. You’ve got Gloria Steinem in one camp, and Cate Blanchett is playing Phyllis Schlafly, battling against it on the other side. So, it’s really a look at second-wave feminism in the ‘70s through the eyes of people on opposing sides of the issue.
Ready or Not is now in theaters.
by Sheraz Farooqi
by Graeme McMillan