The problem with a press conference concerning a film about con men is you never know who, exactly, is telling the truth. Such was the case with Tuesday morning’s raucous presser for The Brothers Bloom, which debuts Tuesday night at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The first audience question, about director Rian Johnson’s website, sparked calls from co-star Adrien Brody that the journalist was actually a plant.
“She’s in on it,” insisted Brody. “Actually, he paid her to ask it.”
“This is all a con!” said Johnson.
Brody and Mark Ruffalo star as the titular brothers, though in the film Brody is addressed by his last name while Ruffalo is saddled with an actual first name, Stephen. These siblings aren’t dirty rotten scoundrels but rather gentlemen con artists, living the high life in Europe with fine wine, impeccable clothes, and good company. Of course, they decide to go for the perfect con; in this case an eccentric, epileptic photographer, pseudo-hermit played by Rachel Weisz. However, in their attempt to con this mark out of a cool million or so, Brody goes and falls in love with her, threatening to ruin the entire plan.
Johnson’s first feature was 2005’s cult film Brick, which also featured the hyper-stylized dialogue prominent in The Brothers Bloom. But while that film took the film noir genre and applied it to a suburban high school setting for a topsy-turvy murder-mystery, his latest offering combines madcap comedy, whimsical romance, and the art of the con.
“I had always been a huge fan of con man movies,” said Johnson. “What really got me interested in this was the challenge of doing a con man movie with a real heart.”
“What’s Rian’s done is created this netherworld” Brody said a bit later. “It’s rooted in some level of reality but yet it is fantastical.”
The actors heralded Johnson’s work, calling him a “maestro” and an “auteur.”
“The script was delicious and charming and unusual,” said Weisz. “None us knew how it would turn out.”
Ruffalo concurred: “You read it and it could go a hundred different places.”
The cast and crew went to a lot of different places, too. The film was shot in Belgrade, Romania, Prague, and Montenegro.
“We were like the characters,” said Weisz. “We were packing our trunks and going on the road. We were going on a – it wasn’t a world adventure – but it was an eastern European adventure. We were a traveling circus.”
And there were plenty of adventures, though, it was hard to tell what was truth and what was fiction. Ruffalo said they had to bride guards to allow the film’s production trailers over the border (“This was back in the States, actually,” said Johnson.) And there was the time that Ruffalo, between takes, piloted a Schwinn bicycle down a steep hillside, much to the chagrin of a supervising producer. Or another occasion, Brody recalled, where he and Ruffalo were hiking in the mountains near Transylvania and Brody mentioned how he’d never seen a bear in the wild. Twenty minutes later he encountered four of them hanging outside a restaurant, where locals fed them bread.
“Bread is the gateway drug to humans,” said Brody.
For her role as the peculiar Penelope, Weisz had to learn how to juggle, break-dance, play the accordion and perform magic tricks (odd, yes, but it will make sense if you see the film.) She also had to “learn” how to kiss, as in the movie her character shares her first-ever kiss with Brody.
“[It took] a lot of rehearsal,” said Brody. “It was just something that you had to gauge just right.
“Unfortunately, he rehearsed with me,” said Johnson.
[Actors Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody (R) attend a news conference for the “Brothers Bloom” film during the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival, September 9, 2008. Credit: Mark Blinch/Reuters]
PS: Pictures are on the way.