Interview: Rachel Weisz Creates Magic With ‘The Brothers Bloom’

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CHICAGO – Beautiful, brilliant and expressively talented, Rachel Weisz showcases a comedic side in her latest film, “The Brothers Bloom”, also featuring Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo and written/directed by the eclectic Rian Johnson (“Brick”). Oscarman Rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

Brody and Ruffalo play the brothers Bloom, two foster brothers who develop skills as con artists to survive their childhood. They grow into professional grifters, looking for the final score that will allow them to retire from the game.

Oscar winner Rachel Weisz portrays Penelope Stamp, a New Jersey oil heiress living alone in her deceased parent’s mansion, and who recently has discovered that a childhood immunity disease was misdiagnosed. Isolated while growing up, she filled her time learning multiple skill sets (from photography to unicycle juggling). She seems the perfect pigeon for the brothers Bloom to exploit.

Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz and Mark Ruffalo of ‘The Brothers Bloom’
Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz and Mark Ruffalo of ‘The Brothers Bloom’
Photo credit: Summit Entertainment interviewed Rachel Weisz during the Chicago International Film Festival in October. She talked about the Marx Brothers quality of the film and translating the unusual story into a fun, uplifting romp.

“I really wanted to do comedy and was obsessive about finding one, Weisz said “I read this and said ‘this is the one.’”

She added: “Penelope appealed to my sense of humor. She’s kooky and a little eccentric. Rian Johnson said he saw it like the Marx Brothers. There is a Harpo quality to her and a delicious innocence.”

The brothers use a matrix for the con job drawn up by Stephen (Ruffalo). Penelope is willingly primed for the “adventure” planned out because of her isolation. That quality touches the other brother, nicknamed Bloom (Brody).

Rachel Weisz, The Brothers Bloom, 2008 Chicago International Film Festival
Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz is photographed by on a Chicago red carpet on Oct. 16, 2008 for the film “The Brothers Bloom” as part of the 2008 Chicago International Film Festival.
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for

Traveling to several different international locales, the brothers hilariously try to finish the con, seeking help from their demolitions expert, Bang-Bang (a great Rinko Kikuchi) and other odd characters, including their arch rival Diamond Dog (Maximilian Schell).

“Whether she knows whether she’s being conned or not, I was never quite sure,” said Weisz. “But I was sure she didn’t care whether she was being conned, because it was a lot more fun than sitting at home with the hobbies.”

“It’s very unusual writing, it’s very good writing,” she also related. “The whole thing was so magical, a magical innocent world. It’s a place I wanted to be.”

Weisz described her working relationship with director and screenwriter Rian Johnson. This is his first “mainstream” movie, after his audacious debut film with the independent “Brick”. Weisz describes the delicate balance of keeping the characters in The Brothers Bloom from descending into parody.

Rachel Weisz and Patrick McDonald, in Chicago on October 16, 2008
Rachel Weisz and Patrick McDonald, in Chicago on October 16, 2008
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald,

“It’s instinct. You need a director who knows when you’ve gone too far, and will gently nudge you back. Rian is a really good director and he can read a performance. Some things you do in front of a director and they don’t realize it, but Rian knew, he knew when things were grounded.”

“This easily could have been parody,” she added. “The challenge was to make it natural, like a conversation in reality. It’s a magical potion.”

Johnson combines the mysterious dialogue of a 1940s Warner Brothers picture (think Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre) with the redemption of Penelope’s life. What occurs in the midst of the simple con is a life-affirming philosophy that creates a spiritual atmosphere.

“It wasn’t anything we talked about, Weisz said. “When you play the character you can’t really play the themes, it’s too abstract. But just by the fact that we created these hopefully believable, soulful and damaged characters, we told the story. And the philosophy is in the story.”

Penelope’s love interest in the film is the conflicted character of Bloom. Weisz described working with fellow Oscar winner Adrien Brody.

“They are both very sensitive and very damaged and they recognize that in each other. They’re both ‘missing a skin’ and they lack that tough skin to face the consequences. They have a real emotional need for each other,” she described.

On the chemistry between her and Brody: “You just get to know them. That stuff is very unconscious. You can’t make chemistry happen. It just have to happen. You’re playing a character and what happens between the characters is what happens. It’s fiction, but it’s real.”

In the wisdom of The Brothers Bloom, there is a philosophy that says, “when you’re done with something, blow it up.” Weisz commented on that particular axiom.

“Each to their own, I guess,” she reflected. “You have to be careful with that philosophy, though, because you think you might be done with something, but you’re not. I probably used to be like that, but I’m much more careful now.”

When asked about the next chapter in her own life, Weisz expressed that the one thing her character possessed that she thinks she lacks is the many skills that Penelope had collected in her isolation, which Weisz called “hobbies”. So within that essence, Rachel Weisz offered this request to the universe…

“I just hope to get meaningful work…and find the hobbies.”

’The Brothers Bloom’, featuring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi and Robbie Coltrane, directed by Rian Johnson, opens today, May 22, in Chicago and nationwide May 29, 2009. Check local theaters for film and showtimes. staff writer Patrick McDonald

Staff Writer

© 2009 Patrick McDonald,

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