According to Brody, who won an Oscar in 2003 for his role in The Pianist and has since starred in The Jacket and King Kong , Hollywoodland – which co-stars Ben Affleck as the troubled Reeves – is propelled along by the idea that the grass always seems greener on the other side.
“[It's the idea that] if they only had more of something, then that would fulfill them; [but] it's usually not the case,” says Brody about the film, which also explores the theme of happiness and to what extent people's perceptions affect one's choices and identities throughout life.
Hollywoodland is set in the 1950s, and the action begins after the death of Reeves, who was beloved on TV as Superman but, at the same time, held quite a few skeletons in his closet. When Reeves' mother is convinced that her son's death is the result of foul play, rather than suicide, she hires Brody's Simo to investigate the mystery.
From here, Brody's character seeks validation and fame paralleling the life led by Reeves before his untimely death. According to Coulter, the film truly examines “the beginning of the cult of celebrity.”
Much like Reeves, Brody has also enjoyed a level of fame and success in the film industry. He's no stranger to the lure of wealth and celebrity, factors that gave him an acute understanding of his character in the film. However, the actor says he now has a different perspective.
“The advantages of [being a celebrity] and the pitfalls that come with it – in knowing both sides – I feel I need … less now. It has nothing to do with my career or other people's perceptions. I have a better understanding of what I need and for that I'm grateful,” he says.
“I struggle less with certain things that I thought would make me happier. Within the story [in the film], Simo's life parallels George's in that he craves respect, money and success. That's what was fascinating to me. It shows that what may appear glamorous is rarely as glamorous as it appears.”
Even 50 years later, Reeves' life and death still attract much scrutiny and curiosity. Brody relates because of his own personal fascination with character exploration and in identifying any aspects of his character's personal life that he can cultivate and “flesh out.”
“There's obviously a fascination with people's private lives; but some people are fascinated about films, about the work that an actor does, with the transformation that that individual makes. And that's what continues to be my motivation and inspiration [as an actor],” he says.
Affleck echoes Brody's sentiment and emphasizes exactly how much the media has become such an integral part of society and how much celebrity obsession has permeated public life; how much it is gaining acceptance as “news.”
“I think [media scrutiny of celebrities is] an important part of the evolution of the media – to what extent they deal with and how they deal with celebrity dalliances. Today, the media reveal how much private lives being made public are accepted as news,” he says, before concluding with a thought on the film. “The media are a reflection of ourselves. The movie, I think, doesn't pass judgment on this.”
Hollywoodland releases in theaters Sept. 8.