Interview: Adam Brody Talks "Damsels In Distress" And Letting Go Of Seth Cohen

The actor dishes on working with Whit Stillman and looks back at starring on The O.C..

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Adam Brody has starred in a grip of movies since 2007, including Jennifer's Body, Cop Out, The Romantics, and The Oranges. Despite how prolific the San Diego native has been, most people still remember him as The O.C.'s resident geek, Seth Cohen, the boy who put an entire generation onto indie bands and '80s movies, despite the fact that the show has been off the air for five years.

With his new film, Damsels In Distress, which hits theaters today, we're witnessing the end of "Adam Brody, that guy who played Seth Cohen." The quirky comedy, which focuses on three girls on a quest to rehabilitate their depressed classmates via tap dancing, is cult director Whit Stillman's (Metropolitan, The Last Days Of Disco) first movie in 13 years and stars Brody as the mysterious yet kooky playboy, Charlie.

During the film's busy press day in NYC, Complex sat down with the actor to chat about working with the acclaimed director, his provocative next film (the adult film industry biopic Lovelace), and his retrospective feelings about The O.C..

Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino

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How did you land the part of Charlie in Damsels In Distress?
A producer I worked with on The Romantics knew [Whit Stillman] and recommended me. Then I had a meeting with him and I ended up auditioning in the same meeting unplanned and he gave me the part there. I was the last one cast, so he was really looking for a Charlie.

From your perspective, what is Whit Stillman like?
Well, he’s just charming and funny. He’s kind of an enigma because, weirdly, I got to know him better since the movie. The movie was kind of a blur because it happened so fast and he was wearing so many hats that he didn’t have that much time. But I found that he’s very inquisitive with everyone. He’ll ask you a lot of questions but he’s not that forthcoming about himself. So he was like this charming, incredibly busy guy.

Do you empathize with Charlie at all?
I do in the sense that he’s trying to better himself and perhaps is a bit insecure with his place in the world, so he tries to bolster that by making up a fictitious job and name. I haven’t done that, exactly, but I do relate to insecurities or will; if it’s to my advantage and it’s not really hurting anyone, then I’ll tell a lie.

But I also think that Whit’s such a sympathetic writer. He really likes all his characters and they’re all very human and there’s just no bad guys. Everyone’s flawed but everyone’s deserving of love, I think. And just very human. For me, it’s really easy to relate to Charlie, but also every other character in this movie.

Charlie starts off showing more interest in Lily (played by Analeigh Tipton), but that’s blurred when he seems to click more with Violet (Greta Gerwig). What do you think it is about Violet that captivates him?
I think they’re both very idealistic. They both romanticize the past and are sort of longing for a time where there was a bit more social etiquette and perhaps romance was even greater because things were a bit more beautiful. And, they both are a bit kooky and have both invented new identities for themselves. They’re both OK with trying to reinvent themselves literally to present something to the world.

Also, your character has a pick-up technique where he sends a drink over to a girl from afar. What’s your pick-up technique?
I’ll normally have my mom go over and break the ice with them. I think that seems to soften them up. I’ll send my mom over as my wingman. Bars, clubs, house parties, wherever there are females, I’ll take her.

Does that always work for you?
No, it can’t. But if you bat .300, then you had a good night. You can’t hit a home run if you don’t get to the plate. So with my mom and me, we’ve decided it’s a numbers game and just cast a lot of nets.

Speaking of women, what was it like working with your co-stars Greta Gerwig and Analeigh Tipton?
They’re both incredibly smart and so lovely. They’re so nice and very talented and very funny. I think you can see on screen that it was just a joy and there was not a difficult moment.

You’re in the new Lovelace movie and you play Harry Reems. Was it a challenge for you playing an adult film star?
No, in a way, it’s been a challenge to play everything but a porn star. This was actually the time where I could finally just be me.

Did you grow your own mustache?
I did grow my own mustache, which was something I’d been longing to do forever and never had a good enough excuse. It takes a lot of courage to do it on your own and you gotta take a lot of shit for growing a mustache but if it’s for a part, hey! I liked a lot about making the movie but that was maybe my favorite thing about it. It was sort of a nice security blanket in a way.

Just like there are two Snow White movies, there’s a competitor to your Linda Lovelace film, though I don’t think it’s filming yet.
[Laughs.] Yeah, we beat ‘em. In a way, like with the two Snow Whites and the two Capotes, you’ll have a clear victor at the end of the day, which is kind of interesting and a little competitive and fun. Also, it helps raise awareness for both.

The tone between the two Snow White films are completely different, as well. What would you say about the tone of your Lovelace film? Is it a bit more Boogie Nights?
Yeah, I’d say what they were going for was a bit more Boogie Nights, definitely. My stuff would be the much lighter stuff, like the John C. Reilly stuff of Boogie Nights. But, you know, there’s also issues with rape and so it’ll be very dark as well. I know, at least with my stuff, they had quite a sense of humor about it all.

It’s cool that The O.C. is a shared memory for myself and a lot of people because so much stuff I do that I really like, not a lot of people see, so there’s definitely something to the idea that I got to reach a lot of people in some way.

Did you have to get naked for that movie?
Not fully naked, but I had to get as naked as I’ve been. Being a guy, it’s a little unfair almost because it feels like nothing is that sort of exposing unless you go full-frontal, which I didn’t. Short of that, it feels like whatever. [Laughs.]

You know, the show that most people still associate you with is The O.C.
What is that?

Well, it’s this show that stands for Orange County about the drama of teen life.

The O.C. was a series that, in a sense, defined a generation and a lot of girls held your character Seth Cohen as their standard. What do you think about that?
I commend them on their good taste. [Laughs.] It’s great and it’s flattering. I don’t think about it that much. It’s nice and it makes sense because it’s a big teen show about romance, so of course, if you’re a teenager at that time, you’re going to identify. As much as it’s a reflection of my talent, I’m flattered. As much as it’s a reflection of like, my hair being on a show, I don’t care. And it’s hard to differentiate what’s what, you know? I feel weirdly some responsibility to live up to it. Only in that like... I mean, I don’t hold onto the character.

As in, you don’t listen to Death Cab and watch The Goonies?
[Laughs.] Yeah, it’s not so much me being a “crush” necessarily, but I do think it’s very cool to be a part of people’s lives in that way, to have been on sort of a meaningful show for them in a critical time in their life. I certainly have my shows and characters that mean so much to me from when I was very impressionable.

It’s cool when I’ll see stuff online that’ll be like, “Remember when?” It’s cool that The O.C. is a shared memory for myself and a lot of people because so much stuff I do that I really like, not a lot of people see, so there’s definitely something to the idea that I got to reach a lot of people in some way.

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