Dragon Blade's Adrien Brody says he's living a gongfu fantasy

Adrien Brody (above) plays ruthless Roman general Tiberius (left) in Dragon Blade, which also stars John Cusack and Jackie Chan (both right).
Adrien Brody (above) plays ruthless Roman general Tiberius (left) in Dragon Blade, which also stars John Cusack and Jackie Chan (both right).PHOTOS: ENCORE FILMS
Adrien Brody (above) plays ruthless Roman general Tiberius (left) in Dragon Blade, which also stars John Cusack and Jackie Chan (both right).
Adrien Brody (above) plays ruthless Roman general Tiberius (left) in Dragon Blade, which also stars John Cusack and Jackie Chan (both right).PHOTOS: ENCORE FILMS
Adrien Brody (above) plays ruthless Roman general Tiberius (left) in Dragon Blade, which also stars John Cusack and Jackie Chan (both right).
Adrien Brody (above) plays ruthless Roman general Tiberius (left) in Dragon Blade, which also stars John Cusack and Jackie Chan (both right).PHOTOS: ENCORE FILMS

Dragon Blade's cast Jackie Chan, Adrien Brody, John Cusack and Choi Si Won bond over the action and gruelling filming

Adrien Brody: Oscar-winning actor and... future action star?

If the 41-year-old had his way, he would have carved out a whole chunk of his career doing action films, he says.

"I would love to do more action movies and I hope I can do more martial arts films. It's like my adolescent fantasy," he tells Life! in an interview in Singapore.

He recounts how as a child, he would go to the cinemas in New York's Chinatown every weekend with his father to catch the latest gongfu flicks.

"I grew up being fed weekly the old gongfu movies of the 1970s and 1980s - the Run Run Shaw films, the Golden Harvest films, Bruce Lee films. We have a whole collection of these movies at home on VHS.

"They really influenced me, that's for sure. I love them. It would be really fun if I got to do some of my own," says Brody, who is the youngest Best Actor Oscar winner in history after winning the award for his moving portrayal of a Jewish-Polish musician in The Pianist (2002) at the age of 29.

He gets to indulge in his long-time "fantasy" somewhat in his latest movie, Dragon Blade, a Chinese period epic directed by Hong Kong film-maker Daniel Lee and co-starring Jackie Chan and American actor John Cusack. He was here recently to promote it.

In the film, Brody plays Tiberius, a jealous Roman general who stops at nothing to maintain power, even sabotaging his younger brother along the way. Towards the end of the film, there is a climactic fight scene between him and Chan where they attack each other using swords and knives.

"I am so grateful and honoured to have this role. I think it's important for action-oriented characters to have depth as well and my role in Dragon Blade definitely has that," says the actor, who is reportedly dating model Lara Lieto.

Dressed in a dark grey sweater and navy blue pants, he looks a little gaunt and tired after doing back-to-back media interviews on the Asian promotional tour that also took him to Shanghai, Bangkok and Taipei.

But he is also thoughtful and attentive, downing cups of hot tea and sucking on mints in between interview sessions to stay refreshed.

He is the first to acknowledge that the public may need some convincing before it can accept him as an action hero. "The interesting thing is, Hollywood doesn't necessarily embrace my ability to do martial arts or action the way China has embraced it."

This, despite him having delivered in the action- heavy lead role of a mercenary in the aliens-versus- humans movie Predators (2010), a role which he says he had "really campaigned for". Predators is the third instalment of a franchise that includes Predator (1987) and Predator 2 (1990). "When I first signed on, there was a lot of scepticism. I'm glad that some of the most hardcore fans of the series have since told me that they liked what I brought to it.

"But people will always typecast actors. Maybe not intentionally, but movie-making is a business. From the producer's point of view, they want the safe bet, rather than let you have roles that push you or surprise you."

After The Pianist, people had him pinned down as the ultra-sensitive drama actor - perhaps a little quirky, but also utterly serious.

"It goes against the journey of an artist," he laments. "I think I've had a lot of material come my way and with a lot of range, but if I had to generalise, it's true to say I wouldn't be the first in line to be considered perfect for certain roles."

Rather than wait around for dream projects, he decided to take matters in his own hands.

Besides his role in Dragon Blade, which he says he earned after making several telephone calls to Chan, he launched his own production company Fable House in May last year. He will reportedly produce all - and star in some - of the titles made by the company.

So far, the first project Manhattan Nocturne, a murder mystery based on Colin Harrison's 1996 novel, is already under way.

Brody stars in the film as a journalist who is asked by a sexy stranger (played by Yvonne Strahovski) to help solve the mystery behind her husband's murder. Shooting has completed and the movie is slated for release later this year.

It is not an action film, but the story and characters moved him enough for him to want to see it onscreen.

He says: "It's difficult to transition from my work as an actor to a producer, but this has given me the opportunity to develop material.

"I just thought that it was time to spearhead certain things that were more meaningful to me and not just somebody else's vision. Now I have that power to bring projects to fruition and that's just wonderful."

yipwy@sph.com.sg

Dragon Blade opens in Singapore cinemas tomorrow.