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The Surprising Inspiration Behind Adrien Brody's Clean - Exclusive

If you ever wanted to see Adrien Brody deliver vigilante justice with an industrial pipe wrench and a flare gun, then "Clean" is the film for you. Set in modern-day New York, Brody plays a garbageman nicknamed Clean who's trying to make peace with his ultra-violent, drug-addled past. When a young neighborhood girl who reminds him of his daughter gets caught up in the wrong crowd, he must embrace his inner demons to save her.

It's a project that's very personal to Brody, who co-wrote, produced, and even scored "Clean," but don't call it a "passion project" in front of the Oscar-winning actor. "It's an understatement to say that," he told Looper during an exclusive interview, adding, "For me, 'Clean' is representative of many creative yearnings in my lifetime and many influences that have affected me as an artist."

It's a subject he discussed at length during the one-on-one chat, where he spoke about the surprisingly personal inspiration behind "Clean."

Clean represents 'the reality of the world around us'

On a basic level, Brody calls "Clean" a "classic story of redemption and retribution." Throughout his career he has found it hard to land a role in more action-oriented films, because he's mostly known for fare like "The Pianist" and various appearances in Wes Anderson films. However, he has dipped his big toe in the pool before, with roles in "Predators" and "King Kong."

Beyond that, Brody says it's also been hard to find a role he's actually wanted to take. "As an actor," he says, "I've found it hard to find a role within that [genre] that speaks to me on a truthful level, with nuances in human behavior, and [a role] that references, to a degree, the reality of the world around us and the tragedy and the oppressive forces that are around us and so difficult, for young people in particular, to escape, to blossom, and have a full life, especially in impoverished communities."

Brody tries to tackle those issues in "Clean" by following the single, solitary sanitation worker through his day-to-day life in a hard-knocks area of New York State. It's a life Brody had a brush with while growing up in Queens: "I've seen a lot through the years, especially the '70s, '80s, and '90s."

He found it 'cathartic' to release his 'rage' in Clean

Brody feels a deep connection with this character Clean, admitting that he has "yearned to play a complex, flawed protagonist [with an inner] strength." Within the character, he was able to express how he feels about society and the world.

"It represents my own, I would say, rage at our collective helplessness against all of these oppressive forces that are dominating us, that are destructive to our communities, and the vast chasm between the impoverished people in this country, and the world, for that matter," he says. "In our great nation, people are feeling very helpless and isolated — and this is pre-pandemic that it plagued me. So, to purge that in a fictional sense is very cathartic."

Despite the ultraviolence, Brody thinks the film will be "relatable" to audiences because he's touched on such a raw nerve. "I don't think I'm the only person that feels like they're so done with feeling crushed by these things, or witnessing these things crushing people we love," he says. "What we tried to accomplish is to make that a relatable, exciting, accessible action-oriented [film], but with a lot of sensitivity."

"Clean" is now playing in select theaters and is available for digital rental or purchase.