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Still, Warner Bros. is confident enough about Brody's image as a teen heartthrob that it is tricking people with trailers and posters that make a movie that's actually about an adulterous flirtation with a cancer-plagued Ryan look instead like a love story between him and Stewart, an actress who was 15 when it was filmed. "I don't know if it's going to work," Brody admits. "I have my doubts."
And while he waits to find out where the film--and small roles in two indie films coming out later this year, The Ten and Smiley Face--will place him in the film-actor hierarchy, he's getting anxious. He's worried about the fact that he hasn't worked since The O.C. wrapped. (Women was filmed in 2005.) "I feel like I haven't really tried hard in two years. I don't even know what I'm capable of," he says. Meanwhile, he's hanging out with his friends, writing songs and screenplays, seeing nearly every movie that comes out and avoiding malls and other places swoon-prone teenage girls hang out, since he finds being swarmed with cell-phone cameras incredibly embarrassing. These are things Urkel did not have to worry about.
And even though--in a moment of pretentiousness that he precedes with two minutes of apology--he says he has started to consider himself an artist, he seems like a pretty commercial one. Most of his movie ideas are action films, and his band plays the kind of pleasant, fake-disaffected pop that might appear on an episode of The O.C. "I wish I came from a more pure place," he says. "I don't have something to say from the bottom of my soul. I just know how to take stuff I like and repackage it in a slightly different way." In fact, he says when he has to hit a joke in a script, he decides whether to deliver it like Matthew Perry, Ben Stiller or Will Ferrell. "There were two years before The O.C. when I was doing a Vince Vaughn impersonation in everything I did. Luckily, I wasn't good enough that anyone caught me at it."
But however he's done it, he has made an impression, created that "Adam Brody type." And what he really wants to do is to take that type and put him in an action movie--something, he says, like Dustin Hoffman's character in Marathon Man. Or like the lead in the Wachowski brothers' Speed Racer, which he lost to Emile Hirsch. Or, and this is when his nerdiness does finally, yes, reveal itself, the kind of action comedies that Harrison Ford did. "Like when he's talking to Princess Leia--that Han Solo attitude!" he says. "Like 'Listen, sister: Stop bitching!'" I'm a little afraid he's going to wave a fake light saber at me. And, worse yet, that I'm going to wave one back.
But then I realize that quoting Star Wars hasn't been uncool for at least a decade. That the semiotics of dorkdom have become wonderfully unclear, and that the teenage social world might be a tiny bit less stratified than it used to be. That things are so mixed up, a cool guy can become a matinee idol by pretending to be a nerd. And if Adam Brody helped make that change, by appearing in the same media that cover Paris and Britney and Lindsay, then I hope he does become an action hero. That's got to help me somehow.