|Albert Brooks (Reuters files)
Albert Brooks vividly remembers the day in '03 when he took his family to the Finding Nemo premiere.
"My son was turning four, and it just freaked him out. He ran out of the theatre after 30 minutes," the actor/filmmaker recalls.
"He was crying, he got all mixed up. The voice of his father was in the fish in this story where the mother was killed. He wasn't processing it well.
"So I'm going to take him to the 3D premiere and now I know if he leaves the theatre it's only to text someone. He's almost 14. He's not scared of anything anymore."
For his part, Brooks remembers, "I was just blown away by the visuals, the colours. Because you work with them for a long time, and you see snippets. And then you see it on this giant screen. I thought Pixar outdid themselves visually."
These days there's amazing and amazing 2.0 -- the 3D re-release. Brooks quips he's "got Lost In America 3D coming out next week, and Defending Your Life 3D and Modern Romance 3D," referencing the personal little slice-of-life comedies he wrote and directed, which first garnered him fame and devoted fans.
But these days, it's Albert Brooks the Actor who's taken center stage. The planned sequel to Finding Nemo aside (in which Brooks is expected to participate as the dad Marlin along with Ellen DeGeneres as Dory), he's fielding more acting offers than ever -- following his acclaimed debut as a "heavy" in Drive with Ryan Gosling.
The goodwill over his against-type performance was so intense, somebody recut one of those viral videos from the movie Downfall, whereby Hitler rants insanely in his bunker over the injustice of Brooks being overlooked for an Oscar nom.
"Somebody sent that to me, it was very funny. I'd heard Hitler had a soft spot (for me)," Brooks says.
Brooks' banner year was also marked by his debut as a best-selling author with the darkly comic sci-fi book 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America.
He downplays the accolades, however. "Listen, it's already a pretty good year because I'm talking to you, which means I have not passed on. That already is a good thing.
"I mean, it's nice. But in a long period in showbusiness, that's all it is, ebb and flow. As long as you get both, it's OK. You like the ebb ... wait a minute, which one is the good one? The flow ... you like the flow.
"But the chance as an actor to do something I thought I could do for a long time, that was satisfying."
All of which is bad news for fans of Albert Brooks the filmmaker.
"I never stop thinking about making another movie. The only thing is that if I decide to make another movie, then I take the next three years and that's what I do. After Drive I'm in Judd Apatow's movie that comes out at Christmas (the Knocked Up "sort of sequel" This Is 40).
"I could go through all the parts I turned down because I was making my own movies. All you can do is say no, because if you stop everything stops."
Meanwhile, he jokes that Pixar is welcome to animate all his old movies (they lured him into Nemo with a presentation putting his Defending Your Life character's voice into the mouth of Marlin).
"Microsoft employees must get jealous when they visit Pixar because it's the culmination of creative freedom," Brooks says. "They encourage people to be kids, to do the things that most businesses make you stop doing."