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Adrien Brody plays an American political journalist in new movie, Back to 1942, directed by Feng Xiaogang. Provided to China Daily
Academy Award-winning actor Adrien Brody has developed a special affinity for the 1940s. His most famous works, The Pianist and The Thin Red Line, were set during that time period.
His latest work during that time period, Back to 1942, is about a Chinese famine that killed millions of people.
"There was a great deal of sadness, losses and tragedies at that time," he tells China Daily. "There was mass suffering on a universal level. I really had a great understanding of how fortunate we are now."
In Back to 1942, he plays Theodore H. White - an American political journalist known for his reporting from China during World War II. White was a real historical figure, who won the Pulitzer Prize for recording the events in Henan province in 1942, in which 3 million people lost their lives to hunger, corruption and war atrocities.
The film, by director Feng Xiaogang, has an ensemble cast of more than 10 veteran Chinese actors. Brody's White has only about six scenes, but he cherishes the opportunity to shape the role.
"This is not my character's story. It's a story of tremendous loss of the Chinese people. I want to help tell the story, which has a great deal of social relevance," he says.
He went through White's stories about the famine published in Time Magazine - the publication was subjected to censorship from the then Nationalist government.
On the set, he carried a notebook to jot down details he observed during filming. By doing so, he feels more connected to the character as an observer and recorder of the disaster.
He also turned to some war photographer friends of his mother, a noted photographer, to better approach the character. When he learned that White could speak Chinese, he discussed with scriptwriter Liu Zhenyun adding some Chinese lines for the character.
Brody, who has rich overseas working experiences in Australia, New Zealand, India and East Europe, says he is most taken by the "great deal of professionalism" on Feng's set.
"What impressed me most was how they were able to manage the enormous number of extra actors, the weather and locations being very extreme," he says.
"I was very impressed also by Feng's kindness toward the actors. The people are sometimes overlooked because there are other priorities for a director. That's a very generous thing to witness."
The film shares some similarities with The Pianist and The Thin Red Line with its reflection on humanity, which makes all his efforts worthwhile.
"A film like this is an opportunity to learn from mistakes of the past so that history does not repeat itself," Brody says.
"It is a beautiful and positive message to tell that humanity prevails and survives in the face of catastrophes. The story also reminds us not to take for granted the necessities of life, such as food, shelter and family."
The film premiered on Nov 29.
(China Daily 11/30/2012 page18)