Albert Brooks took the part in “Drive” partially to cross something off his career bucket list.
“I’ve always wanted to play a real villain,” he confesses. “I knew it was something I could do, and it shows a different side than playing a character who’s supposed to get laughs from the first five minutes.”
Many of those roles have been of Brooks’ creation, of course, directing himself in comedies “Modern Romance,” “The Muse” and “Defending Your Life.”
As mob boss Bernie Rose in “Drive,” Brooks displays the same madness and intensity he brings to his comedy, refined to a razor-sharp edge like the knives Bernie’s so fond of.
Bernie is full of contradictions that Brooks was eager to embrace, much as he did when penning his satirical novel “2030” about a dystopian future — always dark to temper the light, and vice versa.
“It’s not even that Bernie is that violent a guy. He sees it as just business,” Brooks explaining, speaking to Bernie’s menacing habit of staring people down while slicing their wrists open. “He doesn’t want to have to do this; he’s angry about having to do this. There’s no joy. It’s more like, ‘Damn you for forcing me to kill you.’?”
Bernie meticulously executes his victims, which fits with the film’s measured pacing. “Drive,” directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, follows a stoic stunt driver (Ryan Gosling, fittingly without a character name) as he beats up hooligans to protect his new love, Irene (Carey Mulligan).
Set in Los Angeles, “Drive” spends time circling eerie cityscapes found in anytown USA. There isn’t much dialogue, as even the smallest glance speaks volumes.
“From the very beginning, it had a different rhythm to it. I like the silences. I could watch Carey and Ryan not saying anything for four minutes,” Brooks says.
Brooks says the trip outside his comedy comfort zone was worthwhile and would like to make it happen again.
“I want to continue with something that’s unexpected,” he says. “Funny is funny, but I like the mixture of the two: Characters who make you laugh and also make you piss out of fear.”