The older brother in “Goonies” is probably the most popular role Josh Brolin has ever played. After more than 20 years as an actor on stage and the big screen, that might be changing. Brolin starred in “Grindhouse,” “American Gangster,” “Into the Valley of Elah,” and his biggest role of the year in the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men.” Before we sat down to begin the interview, Brolin looked out the window and said, “ I actually slept well for the first time in about a year last night.” It’s easy to understand why, considering he was getting roles in films like “Into the Blue” and now he’s working with Denzel Washington, Tommy Lee Jones and Russell Crowe. And if you’re curious, even though he looks like a black coffee kind of guy, he drinks hot tea.
Bayer: On whether this is the best year of his life … Brolin: Personally, I’ve always been pretty happy. So I’m pretty much the same. I do know that most actors, when something like this happens they’re like, “Yes! Thank you! Finally!” I don’t really feel that way. I’m so happy to have worked with amazing people. That’s what I have always wanted to do. I was always pretty happy just working. To me, I’m really happy because I’m working with people who are brilliant storytellers. That makes the work easier because there is a lot less arguing. … Do I feel really fortunate? Am I smiling? Yes.
Bayer: On some previous roles … Brolin: You can work with the greatest people and the movies can still turn out awful. I’ve done that quite a bit. The last movie I did that I really loved was “Flirting with Disaster” with David O. Russell. And then I started working with people like Woody Allen. When I watch “Melinda & Melinda,” it was a good movie but I was happy with the character. And then I started saying if I can’t be in great movies, I at least want to pull off a good character. “Into the Blue” is another one where I was happy with the character. I didn’t think it was the greatest movie.
Bayer: On some really old roles … Brolin: I did a movie – some people actually liked the movie – I did a movie called “Thrashin’” a long time ago after I did “Goonies.” I went to the premiere of “Thrashin’” and I cried. People look back on it now and tell me they loved that movie. I couldn’t stand myself. I just thought it was awful. So I thought, OK, go to theater and figure out how to do this. Go travel, go learn, get experience and see if you can do this. And if you can’t, go do something else, because (“Thrashin’”) is unacceptable. I was completely spoiled working for six months on (“Goonies”). I thought that’s what it was. And it wasn’t, at all.
Bayer: On the odd facial hair of the characters he plays … Brolin: It’s true. That’s weird. I saw Ridley (Scott) at the premiere of “American Gangster” just a couple days ago and I hadn’t seen him since (the filming). And he goes, grow the ’stache back. ... What do you say from there? Facial hair is fun, man, and I can’t grow a full beard. At least for me, facial hair gives me 10 years. Long hair gives me age, too. I can mess with the age that way.
Bayer: On co-starring with Tommy Lee Jones, but never sharing the screen with him … Brolin: I think it was probably better for me at that point. Tommy’s tough. He’s very challenging with having a relationship with anybody. The good thing for me and Tommy is that I grew up with people like Tommy. Older gentlemen, older country folk like Tommy. I understood what was happening. Now doing a movie with Tommy would be great because I’ve hung out with him. I actually like hanging out with him. After he saw “No Country,” he gave the best compliment I’ve gotten so far. He called and left me a full-blown long message of how original he thought it was and how real he thought it was. He kept going, “Good job, young man.” I don’t know if he was drinking or what. “Extended moments of originality” is what he kept saying.
Bayer: On Brolin’s favorite big-screen duels (Javier Bardem and Brolin have a great duel in “No Country”) … Brolin: “Heat,” that is great because they don’t really cross paths until they actually do. “American Gangster” is another one when you see that, it’s a great meeting of opposites. Javier and I don’t have a great scene (of dialogue) together, which I think would have been really funny. To me they are very similar characters, they’re just on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Bayer: On his audition reel for “No Country for Old Men” … Brolin: I was making “Grindhouse” and I couldn’t leave. I had read the book, and then Skeet Ulrich called me and thought I would be great. So I came up to Robert (Rodriguez) and asked if he’d film me. And he said, “Why don’t we just use the video camera we have, which is a $950,000 camera.” So we did the nicest-looking audition tape in history. And Quentin (Tarantino) was doing one of the scenes, and Quentin was trying to direct me. Everybody was giving their two cents. But I didn’t get the part from that. It wasn’t until my agent was very persistent.
Bayer: On why more people didn’t fall in love with “Grindhouse” … Brolin: It kills me. I really loved that movie. Quentin, Robert and I would all watch movies at Quentin’s house. Quentin would get up and give these 30-minute drunken introductions to all these movies. He just loves to talk. We would watch these movies and just crack up. Quentin would be serious about these introductions even though they were funny to me. I just guess “Grindhouse” was too film-geeky. I don’t know. I think maybe separate will be a smart thing to do (on DVD). It kind of defies the whole purpose to me. That, to me, was going to be a huge film.
(Spoiler Question) Bayer: On whether or not Brolin was sad that his character didn’t get much of a send-off in “No Country for Old Men” … Brolin: No. Not at all. Quite the opposite. I had read the book and I was taken with the book. I loved how it happened. I don’t know if it was just from my mom, who was killed 12 years ago in a car accident. I remember talking to her one second and the next second that was it, there was no talking anymore. For me, I was so pleased to see death represented that was true to life.