The Brothers Bloom is a genre film with distinction. Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien
Brody) are orphaned brothers who scam their way through childhood, honing their skills to become the greatest con artists of their generation. Elder brother Stephen is the mastermind of the duo whose convoluted and meticulously executed “stories” revolve around his younger brother, who eventually tires of being the perpetual anti-hero and wants out of the game. In what is billed as their final con, the brothers set their sights on wealthy New Jersey heiress, Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz).
The structure of Bloom is as carefully planned as one of Stephen's capers. Says Johnson, “It was definitely a combination of wanting to do a 'con man' movie and also wanting to explore [the process of] storytelling and where [it] intersects with real life. It's a story about a story about a story… and when you're dealing with that many layers you have to be pretty precise, and you have to put a lot of thought into exactly what lines up with what.
“The big part about it for me was that it was a character-based movie. I had to make sure that the love story and the emotional connections really worked. That's where I think I ended up putting the most work into – making those connections genuine and making them really work on screen.”
The Brothers Bloom is Johnson's second feature. His first, Brick (2005) was an independently financed, styled film noir starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Winner of a Special Jury prize for originality of vision from the Sundance Film Festival, Brick was shot over 20 days on location at Johnson's own Californian high school and produced over a seven-year period. Johnson had a three-month rehearsal period for Brick and just one week for Bloom. While he contends that managed to achieve a connection with the actors on Bloom, he admits that his first studio film was an entirely different experience to his debut.
“With Brick, it was a lower budget thing. I think we were all more fused into it and we had such a long rehearsal process because they were a younger cast… whereas with Bloom these guys had families that they were out there with. It wasn't so much a summer camp experience. But at the same time with Bloom they were so good at what they do. That was the nice thing. Even though it was just a week, which I was a little nervous about — it ended up being fine. Also, with Brick there was a specific thing with the language, which took a long while for us to figure out. With Bloom it was a little bit more straight forward and so we were able to catch up with it on the fly a little bit more.”