It's been eighteen years since Adam Brody appeared in his first feature film, as "High School Guy" in American Pie 2. Three years later, he scored his star-making role as Seth Cohen on The OC, the hugely beloved teen drama. Since then, he's worked steadily, starring in everything from Mr. and Mrs. Smith to a film adaptation of the show CHiPs. And still, all these years later, Adam Brody gets excited for a movie premiere.
"It was great," he says over the phone the morning after the debut of his latest, the horror film Ready or Not, in theaters now. "I love seeing what we put together, I love seeing it with an audience, and you get to see all the people you worked with and made friends with. And also, let’s be honest, if the movie’s good, you get to be celebrated. You get to be prom king for a night." Plus, he got to bring mom and dad. "They had a very nice time," he said. "They really liked. It was sort of late so I wondered if they’d fall asleep. I was actually was more curious about my mom because she’s not the biggest horror fan, but she wasn’t nearly as squeamish as I was expecting. I was kind of disappointed."
It would be easy to write off Ready or Not as a generic, late summer gore-fest that you'll maybe watch on FX one hungover Sunday a few years from now. But that's not the case. Currently, the film holds a 90% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes; the consensus reads: "smart, subversive, and darkly funny, Ready or Not is a crowd-pleasing horror film with giddily entertaining bite." That alone should sell you. So should the fact that it stars Brody, as a cynic with a heart of gold. The plot of the film is simple, if offbeat: a newlywed, played by Samara Weaving, marries into a family that owns a board game empire. They demand that she play hide and seek on the night of the wedding, and things soon turn murderous.
"I liked the script and certainly wanted to do it." Brody said of what drew him to the project. "But let me just say, it’s a Fox Searchlight movie. They make really good movies pretty much exclusively. So honestly, even before I read it, I was very interested. And I was surprised at how tense they were able to make it, given how silly it was. The scenes are so funny and the deaths are so goofy that I thought, ‘Will this be scary at all?’ Sure enough, it is, very much so."
Brody stars as Daniel, the brother of the groom, who partakes in the game while haunted by his memories of his first time playing as a child. It's a role to which Brody brings an equal measure of comic flourish and deep, searing pain. It's also the type of performance that will make you wonder why he isn't in every other movie out there right now.
But if you're looking closely, he's certainly around. This year alone, there was the superhero blockbuster Shazam!, a starring role on the British dystopian series Urban Myths, and a guest spot on his wife, Leighton Meester's, sitcom, Single Parents. They're all pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is Brody's lengthy, and very diverse resume. "It’s not by design," he said. "I’m not sitting here on a mountaintop dictating what my career arc will be. There’s no ten year plan. I set a certain bar for myself, and anything that reaches that bar, I’ll happily do. That bar moves over time, too. It’s gone up and down... I’m not DiCaprio."
Still, there is some method to the madness. "I look for a script to be clever," he said. "I don’t mind if it's archetypal. You can play into archetypes or cliches if you want, as long as you have a clever take on it." In fact, sometimes it will just take him twenty pages of a script to make a decision. And so far, that's worked out pretty nicely. "I’ve been pleasantly surprised many times, I’ll say," he said. "There have been things that I think were okay, and the finished product was more than the sum of its parts. But I’ve never thought anything was good that turned out to be bad, in those very simplistic terms. Never a total whiff."
With Shazam!, Brody checked off a piece of 2019 Hollywood bingo by entering the DC comic book universe (previously, he'd been attached to play The Flash in George Miller's scrapped Justice League film, providing something of a full circle moment.) "It was a thrill to be in something of that size," Brody said. " I had two people just working to get me in and out of the suit. Even to have your own pit crew was a very different experience and somewhat surreal." Next, he'd like to try his hand at some broad comedy. "I could do a project where I just fall down a lot and be very happy with it."
But first, he'll return to television—a medium he was reluctant to revisit post OC-mania—with the upcoming FX miniseries Mrs. America. "I didn’t want to be 25 and stuck on the same thing," he said of avoiding the small screen earlier in his career. "But I’m certainly much more open to that now. I’m also older and happy to work in one place. I have a family and it’s nice to be able to work in your hometown. It appeals to me much more. And obviously there is a whole other world now with streaming, and even networks, with shorter seasons. It’s pretty exciting, actually."
The highly anticipated series, which co-stars Cate Blanchett, will center around the true story of the movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. "I can say that I am playing the husband of Ari Gaynor’s character," Brody said. "She plays Brenda Feigen, I am Mark Feigen. We are both advocates of the feminist movement. It gets in our marriage a little bit, and we have to reconcile our ideals with our home life."
It was also just announced that Brody will star in The Kid Detective, an upcoming film written by Evan Morgan. "It’s a special script that we've been trying to make for five years, so hopefully we can make a special movie out of it," Brody said. He'll also executive produce. "It interests me a lot as a hobby," he said when asked if he'd ever move to a behind-the-scenes role. "Being an actor is a lovely, lovely job, and you get to be so creative and I don’t take it for granted, but there’s a fair amount of tedium that goes with it. Often times, you are getting to make a bunch of creative choices, and other times, you are just literally a warm body to stand in a corner for most of the day. That’s when I’m most jealous of the jobs behind the camera."
Still, two decades in, while he loves movie premieres, he loves making movies even more. "I mean, I can’t fucking believe that I do this for a living," he said. "It’s a thrill."