MARK RUFFALO had a criminal acquaintance to assist him in preparation for his role as a con artist in THE BROTHERS BLOOM, which is having its world premiere at the TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.

“I know a diamond thief,” the affable American actor, who plays lead grifter STEPHEN in the surreal globetrotting adventure, admitted with a grin at a roundtable interview yesterday.

“I’ve known him for a long time and a lot of Stephen is based on this guy. He’s a total con man. He’s not just a diamond thief. He was a complete con his whole life – a hustler and the most charming, fun, gregarious, fantastic, bigger than life person that I’ve ever come across – and so I oftentimes would think, how would he handle this situation?”

The film stars MARK RUFFALO and ADRIEN BRODY as charmingly rakish brothers of dubious morals who stage elaborate schemes all over the world.

British stunner RACHEL WEISZ plays PENELOPE, a socially awkward heir who possesses $2.5 million they’re dying to get their hands on.

PENELOPE has mastered a long list of hobbies – including card tricks, the unicycle and juggling – all of which RACHEL had to learn before filming.

“We had a two week rehearsal period in which I had to learn to simulate to be able to play piano, banjo, guitar, juggle, skateboard and I’d never been on a skateboard in my life,” said Ms. Weisz, who won the 2005 SUPPORTING ACTRESS OSCAR for her role in THE CONSTANT GARDENER.

ADRIEN BRODY, who helped her skateboard and rap for the film, said that the originality of the script is the kind of thing he’s been seeking out since he won the 2002 BEST ACTOR OSCAR for THE PIANIST.

“I really try to follow my heart, which may be instinct. It’s whatever I find inspirational at that point in my life,” he stated, sporting a bushy beard that he grew “for life” as opposed to a role.

“I want things to feel new for me and to try new adventures and different genres and take a risk with that.”

Scoring two Oscar winners (Mr. Brody and Ms. Weisz), an Oscar nominee (RINKO KIKUCHI) and an Oscar calibre performer (MARK RUFFALO) had writer/director RIAN JOHNSON initially “terrified”.

That’s because THE BROTHERS BLOOM is only his second feature (after 2005’s BRICK).

“I grew up making movies. But I grew up making them with my friends – making shorts – and working with actors was something I was new to coming into Brick,” he remarked.

“I thought coming out of Brick, ‘Oh, now I’ll be comfortable working with actors next time around’, and then I see all those Academy Awards at the end of their names and see all the magazine covers they’re on and I’m freaked out again.”

THE BROTHERS BLOOM is set for wide release on JANUARY 16.

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