When Oscar-winner Adrien Brody finally found his dream home, it was in the form of a run-down castle in upstate New York. Despite the dilapidated appearance, Brody set out to restore the enchantment that he saw the structure held. He then decided to team up with filmmaker Kevin Ford to document the seven-year process, and the result is Stone Barn Castle.
Earlier this month, Brody was at SXSW for the premiere of the film, and afterwards, we had a chance to sit down with him for an exclusive interview. We discussed his motivation for this documentary, what he got from the process, how life changes post-Oscar, and much more.
Check out the full interview below, and enjoy!
Boyhood got a lot of hype for taking 12 years. You took what, seven?
Are you expecting the same kind of hype?
Brody: There’s no fictional element unfortunately. There is no fiction here. Seven years of long hard truth of my own journey I guess.
What was your original thought process behind making this?
Brody: I think it’s grown over time, which I would imagine Boyhood did too. I think it evolves. Ideas come to you and life happens. Life gave us the story. This is a narrative structure where I didn’t know what the end could be, because there were many possible endings to this. I think that’s what’s so fascinating about it. To be objective and to pull myself out of it as a filmmaker. And chronicle this massive undertaking for this one person who has no experience with home renovation and just a dream to fulfill that. Just a dream of renovating a home which was secondary. It was a necessity because I couldn’t buy something like that complete. I couldn’t afford that. It wouldn’t have all the creative elements that I would like to integrate into it.
The dream, the larger dream of having this place to retreat to that is what we all crave in a way. We all want something like that. Not necessarily that specific thing, but the picket fence and the house and the family. Whatever it is that we all dream will bring us fulfillment and happiness. I think that’s a remarkable thing to share, and to share as a somewhat public personality. Even though I’m not, but I guess I am in my work and the exposure that comes from the success that I’ve been fortunate enough to attain. I think it’s a nice balance of all of that.
There’s enough interest in all of that, plus it changes perceptions of how people may have a somewhat skewed perception of what someone in my position’s life is like and how easy things may be. If you just see a picture or hear an actor has a castle, we’ll all project a certain thing onto that. But you don’t know what the journey is or what the meaning is behind it. It’s really not much to do with having a big house, but really more of the creative thing and the appreciation of that architecture and the nature and all of the things I aspired for.
And having something that you fixed?
Brody: Eh, not so much that. Having something that speaks to me in a way. All the craftsmanship that went into it and the ingenuity. It was designed by this engineer at the turn of the century and there were tunnel systems and all these engineering feats that were ahead of their time. The guy was one of the engineers that built the Eerie Canal. It was his personal dairy barn project. The history behind it was fascinating. There were tunnels that extracted the smell of the cow manure. It’d extract up through these giant chimneys. It’s remarkable. It’s also interesting because it parallels my other dream which was to work and to become successful as an actor. Something I had attained. And that too is very complicated.
So at the same time in my life that I was in a way retreating from a bit of the fame to try to find something more pure and authentic to me, I was pursuing this other personal dream, and both of them were infinitely more complicated than I thought. So I think there are these parallels that exist in the film that illustrate that.
In the U.S. you can’t get much farther from LA than upstate New York. Is that why you chose that spot?
Brody: It might be. I guess so. Partially that and partially because I couldn’t afford a structure like that closer to New York City. I’m from New York, so I’ve always dreamt of having a country house in New York. I like the seasons, although this year the weather was horrific. But it’s very real, the shift in seasons and the emotional qualities of that. It’s profound. It was partially that that was the place that I found. I had been looking for a long time. I found a really wonderful house that I almost acquired that same summer, but it would have been a very different story. And I wouldn’t have done a documentary. It was a really beautiful Greek Revival home that I fell in love with but it had some elements that I didn’t really love and it was very exposed. But it was an hour and 45 minutes from home, from the city, and that would’ve been pretty easy. But that’s what’s interesting, taking the plunge into something that’s pretty extreme. Had to endure it.