In a new interview with the Sunday Times, Brody claims that, ahead of the 2003 Oscars, About Schmidt star Nicholson requested that all the other Best Actor nominees convene beforehand to discuss potentially boycotting the ceremony in light of it falling just four days after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Brody, nominated for The Pianist, joined fellow nominees Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine and Daniel Day-Lewis as they gathered at Nicholson's house over scotch and cigars.
As the only man in the group to have not already won an Oscar, Brody was reluctant to skip the show.
“I said, ‘I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going,’” Brody, 48, told the U.K. newspaper. “I said, ‘I kind of have to show up. My parents are coming. This doesn’t come around too often. I know you guys are all winners. You can sit it out. But I can’t.’”
Ultimately, the actors chose to attend the ceremony, where a 29-year-old Brody became the youngest Best Actor winner in history, a record he holds to this day. However, some stars did choose to not show up out of respect for the Iraq War, including Elizabeth Taylor, Will Smith, Angelina Jolie, Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise, according to the Guardian.
When Brody took the podium to receive his unexpected honor, he delivered a swooping kiss on presenter Halle Berry. However, he changed the lighthearted tone of the moment when he shared a poignant message about the war.
"I'm filled with a lot of sadness tonight because I'm accepting an award at such a strange time. My experience of making this film made me very aware of the sadness and the dehumanization of people at the times of war, and the repercussions of war," he shared, mentioning a friend from Queens who was stationed in Kuwait at the time. "Whomever you believe in, if it's God or Allah, may he watch over you, and let's pray for a peaceful and swift resolution."
Despite the tremendous acclaim Brody received as a result of The Pianist, he admitted he can't bring himself to view it these days.
"I can’t even watch the film. I can’t. I kind of cry when I talk about it," said Brody, who shared that he sold his car, disconnected his phones and gave up his home to fully immerse himself in the role of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jewish musician forced into the overcrowded Warsaw Ghetto. Brody even broke up with his girlfriend, lost a dramatic amount of weight and learned how to play Chopin on the piano.