In his latest film Detachment, Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, 38, plays a subsitute teacher by the name of Henry Barthes, a man whose existential crisis leads him to drift in and out of other teachers' classrooms, never really settling on a permanent placement. While the movie's themes can seem dark and weighty — a trademark of director Tony Kaye (American History X) — Brody characterized his work on the film as a kind of tribute to educators and the challenges they face.

The issue is one that hits Brody close to home. "My father was a public school teacher for 30 years or more and was also a really wonderful parent and a very patient human being and very dissimilar to my character," he said in our exclusive interview. "However, what motivated me to make this movie was partially an homage to his contribution and how crucial it is that we take the time to nurture young minds, so that they can evolve and they can become more complete, whole human beings, rather than perpetuating the degree of broken quality that we’ve all taken on from things that have been inflicted upon us. I think it takes tremendous focus and generosity."

Such eloquence will not surprise Brody's many, devoted fans, who have admired his convincing acting talent, unconventional looks and gifted intelligence ever since he dark-horsed his way to a surprise Best Actor Oscar win in 2003, for The Pianist, at the age of 29 (the youngest ever to win the award). For his part, Brody seems to think he has come along way since his early start, suggesting that wisdom in dealing with complex emotions arrives with age. "Sure, we all experience plenty of things to overcome. I can relate to the character’s volatility," he said, adding that his tantrum days are over: "I am, fortunately, a bit more together than he is. I think a lot of young men react to frustrations with anger and it’s something that we learn at a young age."

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