There's many an actor who prefers to have as comfortable a ride as possible when they're making a movie, staying in their trailer while stunt doubles do the hard work or throwing hissy fits if they have even the hint of a twinge or headache. Adrien Brody is not one of these.
Having starved himself to the point of emaciation for his Oscar winning role in The Pianist, when it came to playing Jack Starks in The Jacket, Brody insisted on fully experiencing his character's discomfort of being tied into a straitjacket and shoved inside a morgue drawer isolation tank. Even when he wasn't filming!
"Those situations are very challenging, emotionally and psychologically, to find yourself in a confined space like that," he explains.
"It was very painful and I kind of encouraged that pain. I spent lots of time in the isolation tank. I would let them leave me in the jacket, leave me in the drawer for a while, you know like 'set up your shot and get back to me.' I'm strong enough to take it and the discomfort helps me be connected to the character. And if I feel connected, there's a better chance that the audience will too."
The film, set in both 1992 and 2007, is a complex psychological thriller in which Brody's character, a soldier who briefly died in the first Gulf War after being shot in the head, finds himself accused of murdering a police officer. Partly amnesiac, he has no recollection and is found guilty but insane and sent to a mental hospital where he's subjected to sadistic experimental therapy by the doctor in charge.
In the course of the isolation sessions he hallucinates, not only recalling the past but apparently travelling forward in time where he meets the grown up version of the little girl he encountered on the road shortly before his alleged crime.
Filmed in a mental institution in Glasgow with Brody rarely seeing daylight, it left the 32 year old New Yorker not only very appreciative of his own well being but also a lot more sensitive to recent events involving the treatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib
"I learned that no matter what you achieve and what you attain in life, if you don't have your health, mentally or physically, you don't have much," he says. "And it's given me a better understanding of what it might be like to be subjected to that kind of oppression and how we are powerless in the face of it.
"It shows how the captors sometimes feel justified in using certain methods and that's a very contemporary situation and relevant to what we are seeing now with soldiers involved in the conflict in Iraq. I think this has turned into a real war and an ongoing dilemma. I don't think people necessarily saw it coming like that!"
Complex metaphysical thriller, time travel love story, political allegory; it may be a flawed film but it's certainly not one that slots into simple pigeonholing.
"I know!" laughs Brody. "I really liked that about it. I find it's something that's very difficult to put a label on. And I've been thinking a lot about the way we need to categorise things. I've had it myself. I've had that where they've compared me to Al Pacino.
"Which is very nice, he's an actor I admire and I appreciate the comparison. But really, I'd rather be thought of as the first Adrien Brody rather than the new Al Pacino!"
Since winning the Oscar two years ago, Brody's been kept busy not only with the Jacket, The Village and The Singing Detective but also Peter Jackson's just wrapped remake of King Kong in which he plays Jack Driscoll, boyfriend to Ann Darrow, the object of the big ape's infatuation. 'Free time' is not, it seems, a phrase much used in the Brody vocabulary of late
"I haven't had a break for a long time, to be honest," he admits wearily. "I really would like to give myself that. I'm very much into driving racing cars and if I had some time off, that's what I'd be doing. But I have obligations.
"I'm not complaining because it's what I've worked towards and there are moments when we are all going to be overwhelmed by things and when we have a lot to accomplish.
"In all honesty, I would be happy to get more sleep and take nice vacations but I'm sure everybody would. And I'm inspired by the work and inspired by overcoming the obstacles."
Which, presumably includes keeping a personal life going?
"Well, it's give and take," he confesses. "I have less time for me. And that implies less time for a lot of things that are important to me, like catching up with my friends who I haven't seen for four months because I've been shooting an epic film in another country and (he laughs) there's a little less pressure.
"But it's good to have these problems, to be busy with this kind of work. I've been bored and that's no good either. The trick is balance. I think that comes with age. When you can sit back and say 'well, this is more important for me now, having a family.' and taking that time.
"But right now, I'm very passionate about work and being creatively involved so I don't look on it as too much of a burden. I like the responsibility." He pauses and smiles. "And I make sure I have time for my girlfriend and my pet dog!"
* The Jacket opens today