I sat down with Josh Brolin about a week and a half ago to talk about No Country for Old Men, but since one of the things I wanted to talk about had to do with the film’s ending I decided to wait until it was finally released (even if it is only in 68 theaters) before I putting the interview online. I have made note of where the spoiler chatter is, but it really is the best part of the interview, so it is up to you whether you read that block or not.
If you have seen No Country for Old Men or read the book then you should be fine reading the entire interview as Brolin and I actually had a nice chat considering he was late and I was only given about 13 minutes, two minutes fewer than I was allotted dammit.
Before going in I scoured the Net for everything he had already talked about so as to cut the fat and hopefully bring a little something new to the table. Of course I had to talk to him briefly about his side venture MarketProbability.com and the fact that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez helped him make his audition tape during the filming of Planet Terror. Other than that I think it was a somewhat fresh chat with him, and the best part was he didn’t beat around the bush. He was straight-forward and I hope you enjoy it.
What prompted the Market Probability site? You weren’t interested in acting at the time…?
JB: No, no, no… I’ve always had my hand in several different jars. We also have a real estate business and we have our trading business, Market Probability… Market Probability came out of my partner and I just trading, real time trading. We were doing very well and we were coming up with different indicators beyond what trade station was providing and those indicators started to work pretty well and we realized there was no real way you can win in the market without having some kind of mathematical edge based on the history of the market and what it has done compared to now and all this kind of shit. So, I don’t know man, I liked it, we got into and we were making money, a lot more money than the pros that were telling us not to do certain things.
It is interesting, because the media always speculates on why an actor isn’t acting… but Paul Haggis even said that the reason you weren’t acting wasn’t because you weren’t being offered roles, it’s because you are picky. Is that the case? Were they lesser roles that you were being offered?
JB: It’s not lesser roles; it’s just that roles, for me, I respond to. I can respond to a role and look at the filmmaker and just because it’s a great filmmaker doesn’t mean it is going to be a great movie. A lot of great filmmakers make bad movies and a lot of great actors have parts that you go, “Wow, I can’t believe that they did that,” or, “Why did it turn out like that?” Including myself.
So, for me, I like the experience, I like the process. I like to research, working with people and the collaborative effort. I want to make sure I am working with people that I trust and like and will have a good time with. The Coens and I and Javier especially had such a good time making this movie.
People, obviously because of the nature of the film, go, “What was it like man? Were you in character the whole time?” No, the only time I was ever in character was when I was working. Otherwise I was nailing Javier’s shoes to the floor in his trailer or whatever I could do to make it fun.
I read Javier got his hair cut and came up to you and said, “I’m not gonna…
JB: …not gonna get laid for three months.” Yeah, he and I were out at a bar when that happened. “What do you think of my hair, it looks stupid?” I go, “It doesn’t look that bad.”
“Oh bullshit, I’m not going to get laid for three months man, this is awful. Fucking hate the Coens.” [laughing]
It seems like the Coens are just no nonsense kind of guys, but then I see the “Esquire” write up about you called “The Casting Mistake of the Year” and realize there is an obvious lighter side.
JB: Yeah, I was a part of that.
That was classic, and then I saw where you bullshit some reporter about Goonies 2 and said Meryl Streep was in the cast. Is this just you dealing with the boredom and how all these publicity tours get old?
JB: [Laughing] Of course it gets old, it gets too narcissistic. Taking yourself too seriously as an actor, I mean obviously there’s a craft, but when we do the work that’s when we focus on the work. You open and you listen, that’s the craft of it and you have an imagination, but when you are talking about it all the time it kind of demeans the whole process. What is it like? What is your process?
Yeah, and having to give the same answer over and over again…
JB: Well, it’s not the same answer, because you try to be fresh, but half the questions I am getting never even crossed my mind. You know? Do you feel there is a connection between Moss and… I guess… If you want there to be.
What do you think Cormac meant when he wrote the book? I don’t think he meant anything. I think he thought of a great story and then kind of riffed on it.
So all the metaphors and stuff like that come after, in order to fulfill an answer.
Was it written?
JB: No, and we talked about it before.
Why was that?
JB: Because it’s different than what you are used to, and that’s being loyal to the book. What Hollywood has done is this pandering that a lot of filmmakers have given in to, which allows you to grieve for the protagonist, which is okay. You put a song underneath, tears in your eyes, “Bye Moss,” [waving], “We loved you. We thought you were going to make it. Nooooooo…” [laughing]
With this it gives you a different perspective on another reality of violence, which is very similar to the way my mom died, [snaps his fingers] it just happens. I am talking to her one minute, the next minute she’s dead. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I didn’t go through the “process”, and I think it is a great homage to people that have experienced that kind of death.
People are angry about it, which I think it so appropriate and absolutely right, and if they weren’t angry about it we wouldn’t have done our jobs. I understand why people react [like that] because it’s a natural reaction. The way the [Coens] created that death, you don’t get to experience that often.
I enjoyed the movie much more last night, primarily because I think I was prepared for what was coming. That was really what I had a problem with the first time around, but once you know it’s coming you can absorb a lot more from the film.
I went with a friend last night, and he was already prepared for it, and he goes, “That’s why I like the Coen brothers.”
JB: …and Cormac McCarthy…
Well, I think any other director would have changed that aspect of the story. I also think if it had fallen into the hands of a major distributer it would have been changed.
JB: For sure, but, at the same time, you see how much people are seeing it. That’s what’s interesting.
[Studios tend to have the thought process like,] I am going to pander to the audience. I don’t want to deviate from what the audience is used to, which is to give the audience an opportunity to grieve while you are saying goodbye to the character.
Yet, you go against that and people like you get angry or get turned off by it, but then you go see the movie again. Roger Ebert sees the movie four times. The guy watches 4,000 movies a year but he goes to see No Country four frickin’ times! That’s unbelievable man, that is like the greatest compliment you could ever get. Critics seeing the movie more than one time.
So what was it recently? The fact that you would be working with Ridley Scott (American Gangster), the Coens, Paul Haggis (In the Valley of Elah) and so on that sparked your attention, or did you just want to get back into acting?
JB: I just ran into the right people at the right time and the Coens… I auditioned for the Coens with that [Tarantino and Rodriguez audition tape], and it wasn’t until way later that I was able to meet them, their last casting session and they said yes. The Ridley Scott movie I almost didn’t do because I was wondering if there was enough of a part there, is there enough of an arc there?
When I did Paul’s movie it was easy, it wasn’t a cameo, it was a character and it was a great character and I know that the filmmaker is going to make choices to back up the character and push the story along. Whereas some of these directors that I work with, and you work your ass off, and then you see the movie and you go, “Man, shit!”
So, with all these movies, this has got to put a huge hole in all your side projects.
JB: Yeah, I can’t trade every day, because I have to talk to you, but when I finish talking to you I’ll check my computer and see what’s happening.
Have you lined up your strike film yet, or are you even keeping up on this strike stuff?
JB: It’s happening and every ten years it happens. The only thing I have to watch out for is that they start pushing movies down your throat saying that you might not be able to work for a year, but I don’t have to worry about that because I have other means of income. So, that’s what I appreciate, I have a kid in college and two kids in high school and I don’t have to take Porky’s whatever…
I actually wanted to ask you about your audition that Tarantino and Rodriguez filmed. Did your performance change much from that audition?
JB: Oh, massively.
I was just curious, because they turned you down the first time and then it seems like after meeting with them they were automatically convinced.
JB: Well, meeting with them it’s here [gesturing one-on-one]. There you just get to see one little square of who that person is. I think it was less the scenes than it was the conversation that we had. It was more about the conversation and who I was and how I held myself and dealt with them. The fact that I never felt nervous, and I didn’t feel nervous because I never thought I would get it.
Yeah, wasn’t Heath Ledger up for the role?
JB: He was offered it and he turned it down, which I can’t wait to see him. I know him very loosely, but since this whole process, I will give him a grand handshake and a big smile.
For more on No Country for Old Men click here, the film is already in theaters and set to expand throughout the month.