Brady Corbet has long favored challenging cinematic experiences. From his big screen debut in 2003's Thirteen, through 2004's Mysterious Skin, 2007's Funny Games, 2011's Martha Marcy May Marlene and 2013's Simon Killer, Corbet's maintained his status as one of the most exciting up and coming actors working today.
Corbet plays the titular character in Antonio Campos' unflinching, uncompromising and unpredictable Simon Killer, a film that defies categorization and, to some degree, explanation, as you ride shotgun on Simon's dark journey back into the light. ETonline caught up with Brady Corbet to talk about this slightly misunderstood movie, to find out what attracted him to the role and to learn how all those aforementioned movies prepared him to take the director's chair for the first time.
ETonline: What was your main objective with this role?
Brady Corbet: My major preoccupation was with being as true as possible to this fairly despicable young man's demeanor. It was all about making everything feel organic and clumsy and ugly and just honest. Although, that's a preoccupation of mine with every role.
ETonline: How do you find the truth in a character who seems to be defined by his lies?
Corbet: I treated every scene in the film as an isolated incident. I only thought about the arc of his downfall in the third act. During the first two acts, whatever he's saying is true for him in that moment. He's a guy who is just acting on a whim all the time. What's so disturbing is it seems like he has a real connection with Victoria, and you see how quickly he throws that away when he runs into someone else he was previously attracted to. I think that's something a lot of men do. I know a lot of married men who seem to really love their wives, but then they're away on location for three weeks and it all goes out the window. So for me, the way to find truth in a deceptive character is to be true moment to moment because he's constantly rewriting his history to suit whatever situation he's in.
ETonline: I was surprised that a film with "killer" in the title was so free of violence.
Corbet: One thing Antonio and I spoke about from the very beginning was omitting as much violence from the film as possible. When dealing with a character who is this deeply misogynistic, if the film indulged in what the character indulged in, you'd be in pretty tricky territory. We never had any interest in glorifying the character’s actions, so we couldn't give the audience the expected release that would result from it.
ETonline: You received a co-writing credit on this film, and I read that this was the first time you actively sought out reviews. Were those two things related?
Corbet: I mean, I'd read reviews of mine before -- but only good ones [laughs]. But with this movie, I read everything. We realized early on we'd have to give the movie a great deal of context. It's quite easily misunderstood; our intentions are frequently misunderstood, so it was important for me to see everything and to know what to talk about as we addressed people's concerns. I mean, we made an occasionally abrasive work of art. We want people to know why we made it. I don't want people to think we were trying to f*ck with them. We'd never behave in such a juvenile fashion.
ETonline: You're poised to direct your first feature film. Do you feel like the last decade of working with Michael Haneke, Lars von Trier, Sean Durkin, Catherine Hardwicke and Gregg Araki has served as the world's best pseudo-schooling?
Corbet: I have. Part of that is by design and part of that is good fortune. I choose the films I work on based on who is making them. The story and character certainly are important, but they come second for me when I'm looking at a script. As for the movie I'm making, it takes place during the Paris Peace Conference after World War I. It's about a political assistance family that relocates to France in the six months leading up to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. I was compelled to tell this story because it's about the death of God for a little boy during a very politically charged period of world history, and a document that inadvertently paves the way for fascist uprising. The road to hell is paved with good and vengeful intentions. It's an ambitious film. It's going to be tricky. But I'm excited.
Simon Killer is now playing in theaters and on VOD.