For his award-winning 2006 debut Brick, writer-director Rian Johnson placed a vintage detective story in a teen-movie setting. With his follow-up, The Brothers Bloom, Johnson cast a wider net for influence and took his cast and crew around the world.

For his award-winning 2006 debut Brick, writer-director Rian Johnson placed a vintage detective story in a teen-movie setting. With his follow-up, The Brothers Bloom, Johnson cast a wider net for influence and took his cast and crew around the world.

Shot in Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and the Czech Republic, The Brothers Bloom tells the life story of brothers Stephen and Bloom, played by Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody. Grifting since youth, Stephen has set up meticulous cons while younger brother Bloom, increasingly reluctant and confused about his identity, plays them out to a tee.

Before Bloom retires, Stephen talks him into meeting one last mark: isolated, multi-talented heiress Penelope, played by Rachel Weisz. She joins the brothers and their nearly mute explosives expert Bang Bang (a terrific Rinko Kikuchi) on a globetrotting adventure, and presents Bloom with a chance to find himself through true love.

Talking with a roundtable of reporters at the Toronto International Film Festival, Johnson brought up films such as Fellini's 8 1/2, John Huston's The Man Who Would Be King and Bergman's Fanny and Alexander as some that came to mind while making his latest. One in particular set off its tone, a unique mix of fantastical, sweet, savvy, funny and somewhat melancholy.

"Tonally, Paper Moon is the movie that got me feeling about taking this fairy tale approach to it," he said.

"What got me interested in doing a con man movie in the start is the con artist as storyteller, to use [the genre] to create this kind of fable that explores the different aspects of storytelling in our lives," Johnson continued.

"And not just for writers or filmmakers or actors, but for everybody, just as human beings. That's a big part of our lives, taking the world around you, framing it in a great narrative and telling it back to yourself."

Brody, Ruffalo and Weisz were all drawn in by Johnson's sharply melodic writing style, and each was given the personal adventure of taking on a character unique to their respective resumes.

Ruffalo originally read for the part of Bloom and was concerned he wasn't the right fit for Stephen, the consummate, cynical scam artist.

"I wasn't confident I could pull it off and I told Rian that," he said. "This kind of confidence, roguishness, I was a little nervous about it."

Johnson ultimately charmed Ruffalo into the part, and the actor looked to an old friend he described as "a diamond-thief-ex-con-writer-director-producer-furrier" for inspiration.

"I didn't plan to use him, but at some point I found he was all over [my performance] in a weird way," Ruffalo said. "It just seeped in."

Weisz had to appear a master of the many hobbies Penelope has picked up to amuse herself, including skateboarding, rapping and chainsaw juggling, and had to actually master a difficult card trick for a single-take shot.

"I had to learn banjo, violin, piano, breakdancing, and I'd never been on a skateboard in my life," she said. "We had a two-week rehearsal period where I had to learn all the skills and do that card trick."

With Bloom, Brody gets closer than ever to a romantic leading role, but he explained that it's new challenges of all kinds that keep him going as an actor.

"That's what I look for, something that takes me down a path I haven't gone down, and something that's fresh and unique," he said. "This is something that my parents could relate to and my girlfriend's younger brother can relate to, and that's rare. I was like, wow, there's so much to do with a role like that and a story like that. I want to be a part of it."

Check out the Bad and the Beautiful blog at ColumbusAlive.com for more with the crew from "The Brothers Bloom."