Josh Brolin on Cable, Thanos, TJ Miller, X-Force, and being 'scared' to do 'Deadpool 2'

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Brolin’s duel Marvel roles have made him a busy boy this summer (Fox/Disney)

Josh Brolin was already deep into his commitment to play Thanos for Disney and Marvel Studios, when the opportunity to play another huge Marvel comics character landed on his lap.

The producers of Deadpool 2 had failed to secure the man they were hoping to play iconic X-Men character Cable (Brad Pitt, Michael Shannon, and Kyle Chandler had been linked), and they needed a decision fast.

It was a huge role, even for the Oscar-nominated actor, as they were looking to nail the actor down to a 4-picture deal, and Brolin took some convincing.

“I was in the middle of doing Avengers, and I got this script, and it was kind of like a decision that had to be made in either a day, or hours, or something like that. They said ‘Look, it was supposed to be somebody else, and that’s not working out, and there’s a problem with that, so you have to read this and decide’,” explains Brolin to Yahoo Movies.

“And I was really reticent at first. I didn’t get told ‘this is going to be huge’ kinda thing – and I hate that – I’m not going to do something just because it’s going to be huge. And then my wife was the one who said ‘Why? Just read it. It’s pretty simple. You don’t have to think through this, just read it and if you don’t like it, don’t do it, and you do, do it.’

“And she was absolutely right, and I read it. And I laughed for however long it took me to read it, and that was it. I was in.”

Comparing his duel Marvel roles, the mad Titan Thanos and the time-travelling gun-toting Cable, is like comparing chalk and cheese, but Brolin admits he was more terrified of playing his role in Deadpool 2 than he was in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers 4.

“Cable was much more practical,” he explains. “You’re stuck in the nucleus – all these crosshairs of comedians, stand up comedians – it’s all very new to me, so it’s a great muscle to work out.

“It scared the s*** out of me, but you start liking things, you like the challenge, you like to be confronted with fear, and I look forward to continuing with it.”

Read on to find out what Josh Brolin had to say about Avengers 4, working with TJ Miller, Jonah HexX-Force, and a whole lot more…

(L-R) Cast members Ryan Reynolds, Zazie Beetz and Josh Brolin pose for a picture during a photo call for the movie “Deadpool 2” ahead of the premiere in Berlin, Germany May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Yahoo Movies UK: It must be quite an exciting time for you right now with Deadpool 2, Avengers: Infinity War, and Sicario 2: Soldado all coming out in close proximity?

Josh Brolin: It is. I have to remind myself that it’s ok to enjoy it… not that I’m like a stick in the mud, but to enjoy this time and quote unquote “success”, because I’m always looking at… I don’t know, maybe I’ve had enough fluctuation in my career where I don’t kind of believe it at any moment. If it’s a massive failure, I don’t take it as this awful damning, for the rest of my life, I’ll never work again.

And if there’s something that’s a massive success – even though i’ve never experienced a success like Avengers: Infinity War – I’ll go ‘OK, that’s what it is and i’m really happy for everybody, and we’ll see about next year’.

How was Cable initially sold to you?

He wasn’t. Simon Kinberg [the producer], I had a conversation with. I had a conversation with David Leitch [the director]. I sent an email that was kind of, more of a test, to Ryan [Reynolds] to see if he was as fun as I thought he would be, and he responded actually brilliantly. I loved the way he responded.

Had you seen the first film at that point?

I did. I loved it. I enjoyed it because it was unique, it was original, it was irreverent, it was satirical, it was great parody.

Ryan says it, and I love it, it’s so accurate when he says it [in Deadpool 2], it’s “pain through the prism of humour”. And I get that. When I did Inherent Vice with Paul Thomas Anderson, it’s a version of that, so I get that kind of absurdist humour.

That kind of Ricky Gervais type of right on the edge, who are you gonna insult, and who are you going to win over, by the fact that you were willing to say it in the first place, and willing to fall flat on your face? I like those kinds of stakes.

And it really pulls no punches in who it pokes fun at, including Avengers: Infinity War, the DC movies…

And my stepmother [Barbra Streisand], everybody.

Do you get a chance to improvise any of the jokes on set?

This image released by 20th Century Fox shows a scene from “Deadpool 2”. (20th Century Fox via AP)

Initially it’s written down, and then you get to come up with an idea, and Ryan comes up with an idea, and you kind of riff on the idea, and then something works and something doesn’t work.

The thing about it is, that I’m not used to, is that you put everything out on the table, you feel like an asshole when you’re doing it, and you see the finished product. The finished product has to do with Ryan overseeing it and David Leitch being able to pick the magic out of the pony s***, and you go ‘oh, that worked’.

Like, I didn’t see that movie while I was doing it. That’s a movie that’s been better than I could have imagined working. That’s always a nice feeling.

I’ve felt the opposite too. When you think you’ve done something brilliant and you see it and go ‘Woah! What happened? No! God!’

Any film in particular?

Josh Brolin’s 2010 comic book adaptation Jonah Hex was savaged by critics and flopped at the box office (WB)

A specific movie? Jonah Hex was that movie. I mean, that was one of them. But, I remember there was a guy who left during the credits and I thought I was getting out of there earlier than anybody, but I wasn’t, there was a guy in front of us and he said ‘98 minutes of a waste of f***ing life’.

And I was like ‘Oh my god’. I actually started laughing because I thought ‘That’s a genius quote’. Hopefully I’ll never have to hear something like that again, but I definitely heard it.

Wow, that’s something to not aspire to.

Yeah. It’s something to avoid like the plague. You want to entertain, you want to at least entertain.

How did your interpretation of Cable develop, was he inspired by anything in particular?

He’s based on the comic books. But there were so many. I talked to Rob Liefeld, he’s such an energetic guy – too energetic for some people – but for me, I really enjoyed him, I enjoyed his enthusiasm, he was happy that I was playing him, which made it easier, so I didn’t feel like we had to go through that initial thing of trusting each other and all of that.

Cable, as drawn by Rob Liefeld (Marvel Comics)

But there’s so many different versions of Cable, throughout the years, that the look of it was really hard, because we had to ask where do we take what exists, and how do we make it our own, how do we personalise it? And I think we absolutely did personalise it.

We got a reaction from people and now that people are seeing the film. I think as long as there’s a character to be able to invest in, I think people are very forgiving in that sense. The true fans.

I think it takes a while to warm to him, for various reasons…

He’s presented as one thing, and then you kind of get to know him.

How much is it this Ryan’s movie, and how much is it David Leitch’s?

You get a director to bring in a tone. Well, that’s not entirely true. You bring in a director to bring in a palette. If you look at the first movie, I think it’s really great and it’s an anomaly, and what he brought in, he had the confidence after 8 years of trying to get it financed, he knew there was something there, Ryan did.

Whereas when Tim Miller did it, the CGI was amazing – because that’s his background – but it’s a very flat looking movie. Do you know what I mean? Then you see this movie and it’s got a richness, it’s a little darker, it’s a little different, the scope is a little different, and that’s all Leitch.

If you look at the history of Leitch, that’s what he brings. I know Ryan wanted to freshen it up and not do a carbon copy of what had been quote unquote “worked”, or what was profitable, so I think that, but ultimately Ryan understands the tone of it better than anybody.

I think he likes to have the challenge of somebody saying ‘why does that work?’ Or ‘what if we do this?’ I think he likes input. From me, from Leitch, from whoever else. But I think Ryan understands the tone better than the studio, better than the director, better than everybody.

To me it’s even more nihilistic than the first one.

That’s good, I like it. I like it because, again, the anomaly of Deadpool has already happened.

I think that was my worry going into it – how can you strike gold again?

Are we going to go through the same thing again? Yeah. In this one he’s in a lot more pain. In this one you have a new character, several new characters in fact, Cable and Domino, and all that stuff, so I just think it takes a lot of courage to do something like that. It could have not worked, but I think in the responses that we’re getting so far in the test screenings have been great.

It’s been amazing.

There were reports that the reshoots took place after test screenings revealed people wanted to see more of Cable and Domino – is that true, what was changed in the reshoots?

Ryan Reynolds, Zazie Beetz, and Josh Brolin attend a Deadpool 2 fan screening (20th Century Fox)

There was so much emphasis on Cable that you forgot that it was an introductory movie for Cable. We go into X-Force and Cable’s a massive presence in X-Force, he’s the leader of X-Force, and Deadpool’s a part of X-Force, so it’s a very introductory film for him.

There was so much emphasis put on him, that when you go ‘we gotta do reshoots because test screenings loved that character’, but having done True Grit with 7 minutes of screen time, but you’re talking about him the whole time, he feels like he’s in the entire movie.

This, you’re talking about Cable so much, you feel like he’s in more of the movie than he is. But I think we just needed a little more, and we needed to tighten up a few things. There were a couple of fight scenes that we just made more complete.

And maybe a little bit more of Domino added too? She’s brilliant by the way.

It was four days of reshoots, something like that. And also it’s about personalising the character, and about how loyal you stay to the comic books. It’s a different look for Domino, and people were very reactive. But now, when people see it, they love her.

And you signed a four picture deal?

Yeah. That’s apparently what I signed.

That’s a big commitment, how will it pan out for you? What’s next?

I don’t know. I’ll let you know at the end of the fourth one! Look, that was how it was presented to me. It’s not something that I would have created. I like things that are finite. I think finite is good. I think wanting more is good.

But, like I said, I had a confidence in Ryan creating things that were fresh. I liked the differences between the second one and the first one. I liked his ideas, I do like his ideas for X-Force, and who’s going to come in and direct it, and who’s going to write it with Ryan and with Rhett [Reese] and Paul [Wernick].

(Editor’s note: It’s believed The A-Team’s Joe Carnahan will co-write the X-Force script.)

I have a lot of respect for Drew Goddard. So, listen man, I like new things. So I’ve done… i’ve been doing this 34 years, and this is something new for me, so why not?

I wasn’t looking for a 4-picture deal by the way.

Particularly when you have other big commitments rumbling away. You have another Avengers picture on the way…

Yeah, but i’ve done most of that.

You’re pretty much done with Avengers 4 now then?

Hmm. Close.

TJ Miller is in Deadpool 2. Allegations arose against him after you had shot the film, and people questioned whether he should be removed from the film. What’s your take on that?

My thoughts are so much more of an umbrella, than anything that you or I could specify. Because the truth of the matter is, my life is very personal. I’m not as globally educated as most people, I would say, which is my own fault.

Miller has been accused of sexual assault and was recently arrested for calling in a bomb threat.

But I look on my phone in the morning, and look at the news and it’s 3 more people, so I can’t keep tabs on how many people have allegations toward them. But I do say, which is the proper thing to say, which is anybody who forcefully victimised [anyone] – I have no compassion for whatsoever. But I also know that these things get messy.

Do you know what I mean? Of who’s actually guilty and who’s not.

There’s some people who I found out are absolutely 1000% guilty and shouldn’t have any career in any profession and be around any people, other than maybe a cell, but TJ Miller in my experience – my experience with TJ Miller is in a movie called Deadpool 2. And that’s the only experience I have of him.

With two Marvel characters on the go, and the Fox-Disney merger possibly on the horizon, if you had to choose either Thanos or Cable to continue on with, do you have a preference?

I never have a preference of character. I also have never had a character that I didn’t want to play. I really enjoyed playing Thanos. It was one of the most fun experiences of my life. It was the most collectively I think I’ve worked with a group of people to create a thing that I think we’re all very, very happy with.

With Cable, Cable was much more practical. You’re stuck in the nucleus – all these crosshairs of comedians, stand up comedians – it’s all very new to me, so it’s a great muscle to work out.

It scared the s*** out of me, but you start liking things, you like the challenge, you like to be confronted with fear, and I look forward to continuing with it.

Deadpool 2 is coming to cinemas on 15 May.

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