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Exclusive Shirly Brener Interview

1. Where are you from and how did you get started in acting?

I was born on Israel and raised in Israel, England and US. My mom was a famous Film and Theater actor in Israel, I was exposed to it from a very young age. I did my first commercial with her when I was 2, it was actually a campaign for the french chocolate- MERCI, it was all over Europe. But my parents never wanted me to be a child actor , so i had to wait some years. Then when I was in high school, I joined the theater arts department at Beverly Hills High and by the time I was 20 I booked my first major film with Henry Thomas (kid from ET) called “Highjacking Hollywood”.

2. You’ve played in many film and television roles, which character has been your favorite?

I really enjoyed playing Natalya in Righteous Kill starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. First of all working with those two cinematic legends, then the Russian/Eastern European accent, also playing a hooker. I’m very drawn to dark roles. This year I also shot a lead in an indie starring Bokeem Woodbin, Christopher Knight and Sam Golzari titled “Letting Go”. I play April, a girl who is hooked on Anti Depressants. I just wrapped on a film with Val Kilmer and Sharon Stone titled Streets of Blood – Selina a crack addict , white girl in a black and Latin ghetto post Hurricane Katrina. I loved changing my look (had my hair in African like braids) and working on the Louisiana black dialect with renowned accent coach – Robert Easton. I really enjoy transforming my look, voice, behavior for each character. I specifically enjoy playing dark girls with a shady life-very opposite of my sunny disposition.

3. How did you prepare for the role?

I do a lot of research on line, I rent movies. For Streets of Blood I rented the Spike Lee Documentary “When the Levees Broke”. I work with dialect and voice coaches and I study regularly at the The Beverly Hills Playhouse with Richard Lawsone, Alen Barton and of course Milton Katsalas. So I’m constantly work on my craft. Its so important to have teachers that lead you in a great path that are your mentors and that guide you. I also look at photographs to get a look that I want. I interview people who were in similar situations if I’m playing a drug addict I watch movies on that particular drug and interview people. With today’s technology and Youtube and the internet, one can find information. I put a lot of work into research but much more with script analysis and working on my specific choices for the character.

4. Tell us about your role in “Righteous Kill” with Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and 50 Cent.

I play Natalya a Eastern European prostitute. My pimp played by skateboarding champ- Rob Drydek gets murdered early on and I’m the first suspect. I got to act with both De Niro and Pacino. It was the best most exciting acting opportunity I’ve had. They were great, really giving actors, you could tell they were rooting for me. De Niro gave me the best compliment- he thought I was really Russian, when I told him I’m not of Russian descent, he asked “well, how do you do the accent so well” and I thought, holly molly, Robert De Niro is asking Shirly Brener how she does an accent well….crazy. The director Jon Avnet was amazing and precise and great too. One of the producers is Lati Grobman, she is also originally from Israel, we are now great friends. She is another powerhouse woman in this biz, I loved working with her.

5. You also had a small role in “War, Inc.” with John Cusack, can you tell us about that?

We shot in Eastern Europe, it was freezing. I liked being part of a political satire, especially since I really liked the original script the writer wrote BullWorth. I thought Hillary Duff really did a great job and very different than what she played thus far again, I’m so blessed to have worked these guys on this production, another great little gem on my resume.

6. Your both producing and acting in a few films now as well, tell us about “Session” and “Unraveled”.

Session is a psychological suspense drama that we shot in New York- Syricuse. It was directed by one of the most successful and amazing and award winning Israeli directors- Haim Bouzaglo. I worked with him as an actress a few months before on the Israeli crime drama- Honor, it was then that we totally hit it off and decided that we are collaborating. We cast Steven Bacollaborating (Traffic) – who is a dear friend of mine as the lead and also Bar Refaeli (Leonardo De Caprio girlfriend) as the female lead, they did a fantastic job, I am one of the supporting cast, I play Bar’s best friend. The film is now in post production and will be doing the festival circuit early 2009. We are expecting a release in spring 2009.

Unraveled is another suspense thriller but this time with horror elements, we are getting ready to shoot it in Louisiana early 2009. I found the script and director and attached a couple of up and coming actors and collaborated with Richard Salvatore, a great producer and a dear friend. I’m really looking forward to this one as I play Amy- the Lead, the one that saves the day.

I’m currently putting together a few other projects both in film and tv. I love putting talented people together. I get super excited when I read a great piece of material and then means to get it made. Its a whole exciting journey of its own. I come from a biz background. My father and Grandfather were both very prominent businessman. I have the same passion for the business side of things.

7. Any other upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

Yes! I just wrapped on the new Lindsay Lohan comedy “Labor Pains”- its very funny, sort of Devil Wears Prada meets Knocked Up, my role is hilarious, I play Brittney a 9 mhilariousers girl who has every pregnancy issue- kanckels, acne, lbs gain, mood swings. I got to act with Lindsay and she was very sweet and so talented! I also just wrapped on my guest stint on Criminal Minds (my episode airing Nov 12th). That show was the best experience. Loved the cast and crew and esp the writer- Jay Beattie and dir Guy Norman Bee, two of the coolest people I worked with in a while. Its so great to come to sets where everybody is happy and loves their jobs I feel lucky and blessed everyday im working in this industry and I’m happiest when I’m on set. Its so great to work with passionate people who feel the same. After all we are in the “entertainment” industry right?

Thanks!!

Thank you- all my love to you and the readers
xo
Shir

Shirly Brener Photograph

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