We chatted to director-writer Paul Solet about his film Clean, starring and co-written by acclaimed actor Adrien Brody.
Paul Solet is an accomplished writer-director with projects including Bullet Head, Tread and Dark Summer. More recently, Paul directed and co-wrote Clean with Adrien Brody, who also stars in the lead role.
Read on below for Paul’s interview with Courageous Nerd. Or, alternatively check out the video version on YouTube, linked below.
We’re chatting today about Clean, a film you directed and co-wrote. Who or what first inspired you to pursue this creative career path?
Paul Solet: It’s all I ever wanted to do since I was a little kid. I’ve been movie obsessed and obsessed with all forms of storytelling. I persisted and it eventually, mercifully, blossomed into a reasonable career.
For anyone who is unfamiliar, how would you describe Clean? What was your inspiration behind making the film?
Paul Solet: Clean is about a very bad man trying to be a good one. What happens when you give a man like that a reason to be bad again, the beast that comes out of him? It stars Adrien Brody, who’s an absolute force of nature in this movie. You’ve seen Adrien do incredible things. No one questions that he is among our finest actors alive. We have not seen him do something like this before. This is new territory for him.
Adrien Brody plays the lead role and co-wrote Clean alongside yourself. How was working with this unusual dynamic of roles?
Paul Solet: I think it’s a somewhat unusual dynamic to wear that many hats. In an independent film, people tend to wear a lot of hats. It wasn’t our first movie together – we had done another movie called Bullet Head. By the time we were finished with that, we really trusted each other a lot. He had a very clear emotional vision for this character, a sense about him.
A sensitivity about him, the world and things that have been bothering him. Violence forms violence. So, following our experience on Bullet Head, we were excited to find something together. We got to talking and Clean was what resulted.
You assembled an impressive cast – including Glenn Fleshler and Mylkelti Williamson. Excluding Adrien Brody, had you worked with anyone previously?
Paul Solet: On the crew side, there were definitely some close partners involved. The DOP (Zoran Popovic) is my closest creative collaborator, he’s just a brilliant technician and artist. The cast was largely new to me, other than Adrien and Dinora Wolcott, who’s just wonderful. Man, we just had such a wonderful cast. That’s largely credited to our casting director in New York, who’s a phenomenon.
How different is directing something you wrote compared to bringing someone else’s story to life?
Paul Solet: It’s a good question. I tend to direct stuff that I’ve written or co-written. I have directed other people’s stuff. My experience – and I can safely speak for Adrien here, too – the writing, directing and producing, when you’ve had a hand in all that, they’re all in cohesion with each other. In an interesting way, an actor as gifted as Adrien is… his performance extends into writing, score and even the production.
A vision is a vision. An actor like Adrien studies and formulates a real vision for something. This is the one that’s impossible to really envision in that sense. It’s a ground floor thing, starting with us spitballing together.
We were in Manchester while he’s doing Peaky Blinders. Walking around the city and feeling the industrial history. Dreaming together and thinking about what it would be like. That was where it really started to formulate.
What overall theme or message were you trying to convey with Clean? Do you believe you achieved this objective?
Paul Solet: There’s the movie you intend to make and the movie that gets made. You sort of have to make peace that those two things are never going to be the same. If you do your job right and work with people as gifted [as those on Clean], the movie that gets made is generally better than what your vision of it is. I hope that’s the case.
As far as the core thematics of the film, for me, there’s a number of personal themes. Ideas of recovery, fate and fatherhood – and violence. I think all those themes are present and open to interpretation by an audience.
Lastly, what do you hope to accomplish with the rest of 2022?
Paul Solet: It’s been a really strange time, you know? It’s been a time of forced reflection for an entire planet. That’s sort of interesting to live through. I try to live my live in a way where I’m not making sweeping resolutions from one year to the next. I wanna keep doing my thing, spend time with my family. I’m a new father. Those things are very important to me and the work remains something I couldn’t let go if I wanted to.