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‘I Don’t Want to Always Drive in Second Gear to Feel Safe’

During a roundtable interview at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, where Daniel Brühl is being honored with the KVIFF President’s Award, the actor-director-producer revisited the “very bittersweet memories” of his directorial debut, the dark German comedy “Next Door.” The film was selected for competition at the 71st Berlin International Film Festival, held virtually due to the pandemic. Three years later, as part of KVIFF’s celebration of Brühl’s career, “Next Door” will be screened at the Grand Hall with an in-person audience.

Inspired by an idea that struck him while dining in Spain a decade ago, Brühl’s film is a mix of a meta take on movie stardom and a harsh critique of rampant gentrification. In the two-hander, Brühl plays an egotistical actor, also named Daniel, who enters a local Berlin bar on his way to a Hollywood audition. There, he faces off with a disgruntled neighbor named Bruno, played by Peter Kurth.

Producer Malte Grunert, who earned a best picture Oscar nomination for “All Quiet On The Western Front,” persuaded Brühl to step behind the camera and collaborate with Amusement Park Films for his debut directorial role. But it was fellow multi-hyphenate Julie Delpy who truly inspired him to explore this side of filmmaking. Brühl shared that while struggling in LA, Delpy, for whom Brühl has acted in several films including “My Zoe”—his first as a producer—encouraged him to try directing.

Brühl developed the concept with novelist and screenwriter Daniel Kehlmann into a two-character drama, suitable for a first-time director. In “Next Door,” Brühl portrays a heightened version of himself—a self-centered actor with a successful career hitting various industry milestones. From starring in a breakout “Stasi comedy” (akin to Brühl’s real-life breakout in “Good Bye, Lenin!”) to appearing in an Emmy- nominated TV series and heading to an audition for a superhero film, the character draws clear parallels to Brühl’s actual career trajectory.

A recurring joke in the film is Daniel’s longing to play Beethoven in a biopic—a role Brühl doesn’t aspire to in real life. Instead, he enjoys the absurdity of challenging roles. He recalled his initial hesitation when offered the role of Karl Lagerfeld in Disney+ series “Becoming Karl Lagerfeld” but eventually found the part intriguing.

In the series, Brühl plays the iconic fashion designer rising through 1970s Paris, navigating rivalries and complex relationships. He emphasized the uniqueness of acting in various languages, noting that it helps delineate character strengths and cultural backgrounds. For him, playing Lagerfeld in French was essential as it matched the designer’s love for French culture.

As Brühl approaches what he calls his “midlife crisis” following his recent 46th birthday, he remains eager to venture beyond his comfort zone. He seeks projects that are diverse and challenging, as they provide more excitement and gratification.

Among his upcoming projects is the HBO series “The Franchise,” created by Armando Iannucci, Sam Mendes, and Jon Brown. Although the series satirizes the superhero film industry, Brühl clarified that he isn’t drawing inspiration from his Marvel Cinematic Universe experience. Instead, he leverages feelings of despair and frustration from previous projects.

Brühl is also reuniting with “Rush” director Ron Howard for the survival thriller “Eden,” filmed last autumn in Queensland, Australia. Scripted by Noah Pink, the film follows a group attempting to create a new society on the Galápagos Islands. The ensemble cast includes Ana de Armas, Jude Law, Vanessa Kirby, Sydney Sweeney, and “All Quiet on the Western Front” breakout star Felix Kammerer.

Brühl’s second directorial venture, “Break,” will feature Kammerer as German tennis champion Gottfried von Cramm, whose opposition to the Nazi regime in the 1930s placed him in direct conflict with the government. Brühl expressed excitement for this endeavor, relishing the opportunity to take risks, even if it means potential failures.

Source: IndieWire