News Column

For Adrien Brody, Houdini is heroic

August 27, 2014

By Patrick Ryan, @PatRyanWrites, USA TODAY

As an actor, Adrien Brody has never allowed himself to be put in a box. Unless, of course, he's escaping one as master illusionist Harry Houdini.

Since winning the best-actor Academy Award in 2003 for The Pianist at age 29, Brody has flirted with blockbusters (King Kong, Predators) and shined in close friend Wes Anderson's movies (The Darjeeling Limited, The Grand Budapest Hotel). But he has flown under the radar in the past few years, appearing in smaller features.

His career is getting a second wind as he tackles the title role of Houdini, History's two-part miniseries chronicling the life of the legendary escape artist. The TV movie is not only his chance to reintroduce himself to a wider audience, it also has inspired him to take a firmer grip on the reins of his career by starting his own production company, Fable House, earlier this year, which did not produce Houdini but will develop projects for the actor to direct, produce or star in.

"I want to go further creatively and really be more hands-on from the inception of the project," Brody says as he sits in the modest Houdini Museum of New York, with Houdini's wooden escape coffin behind him. "That was partially from my experience on this that I really need to keep pushing harder and not just wait for something to happen."

After all, Houdini would never let others dictate how to live his life. Freeing himself from handcuffs and straitjackets, prison cells and water-torture tanks, the performer was driven by his morbid fascination with death.

His drive "is something I can relate to," Brody says. "You push the envelope of things that intimidate you." Houdini was "much more obsessive than I could ever be but it comes from not wanting to fail."

In his mind, Houdini's triumphs over adversity -- poverty, anti-Semitism and the stigma of being a European immigrant at the turn of the 20th century -- make him "the superhero we all look for in every Marvel movie," but one grounded in reality.

Todd Plitt, USA TODAY

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Source: USA Today

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