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How Adrien Brody Prepared For His Role In 'The Pianist'

Chris Ogden

| Last updated 

How Adrien Brody Prepared For His Role In 'The Pianist'

Roman Polanski's Holocaust drama The Pianist is known for being a harrowing film, not only to watch but also to make.

The film starred Adrien Brody in the role of Wladyslaw Szpilman, the real-life concert pianist who spent two years hiding in the ghetto of Warsaw during the German occupation of Poland in World War II.

Brody's commitment to playing Szpilman clearly paid off as he became the youngest person ever to win the Oscar for Best Actor in 2002, aged just 29. He also won a César Award.


Credit: PA

Despite his high profile, Brody hasn't starred in many big studio films since. He has instead preferred to concentrate on smaller roles and painting. Perhaps the main reason for this is the serious amount of effort Brody put in to preparing for the role.

Not only did Polanski make Brody practice the piano for four hours a day until he could do a spot-on impression of Chopin, Brody decided to make a lot of personal sacrifices.

Brody felt that the only way to really inhabit a man who lost everything was to strip his own life down to its absolute basics - so that's what he did, leaving his girlfriend and giving up pretty much everything else.


"I gave up my apartment, I sold my car, I disconnected the phones, and I left," he said, according to the BBC in 2003. "I took two bags and my keyboard and moved to Europe."

Szpilman had been forced to scavenge for food in Warsaw's ruins, so Brody embarked upon a crash diet to lose weight fast.


Brody lost 30 pounds to play Szpilman, eating just two boiled eggs for breakfast, a little chicken for lunch, and a small amount of fish or chicken with steamed vegetables for dinner over a six-week period. At his lightest he weighted just 130 pounds - dangerously underweight for a man of his 6'5" height.

"There is an emptiness that comes with really starving that I hadn't experienced," Brody said. "I couldn't have acted that without knowing it. I've experienced loss, I've experienced sadness in my life, but I didn't know the desperation that comes with hunger."

While doing all of this, Brody immersed himself in Szpilman's memoirs while educating himself on the sheer horrors of the Holocaust.

Filming The Pianist was clearly not just a physically gruelling experience, but also a mental one, and the darkness didn't stop even once the film was over. Happy Wednesday.


"I was depressed for a year after The Pianist," he told IndieWire this year. "And I don't suffer from that, generally. It wasn't just a depression; it was a mourning.

"I was very disturbed by what I embraced [in making that film], and of the awareness that it opened up in me. But how much these things take from you changes project to project."


Nowadays, Brody is more enthusiastic about starring in long-form television series, and is currently acting up a storm in roles such as his most recent one as the mafia boss Luca Changretta in the fourth series of Peaky Blinders.

For better or worse, Brody will never get the anonymity of his early career back, and that's all down to his massive method acting effort for The Pianist.

Featured Image Credit: The Pianist

Topics: Entertainment, TV and Film, Depression

Chris Ogden
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